Parents vocal at schools' rightsizing hearing

Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 11:41 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 1:44 AM
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The idea of closing Murphey Middle School and merging those students into Josey High School invoked parents’ worst fears Monday at the first town hall meeting held to discuss proposed rightsizing scenarios.

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Cynthia Harris speaks out about her concerns about closing Murphey Middle School and merging it with T.W. Josey High School during a town hall meeting with the Richmond County school board at T.W. Josey High School.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Cynthia Harris speaks out about her concerns about closing Murphey Middle School and merging it with T.W. Josey High School during a town hall meeting with the Richmond County school board at T.W. Josey High School.

Their concerns revolved mostly around mixing young sixth-grade students with 12th-graders potentially as old as 20. They foresaw teen pregnancy, fighting on buses and worse.

“These are children who should be allowed to remain innocent and unblemished as long as possible, and putting them with adolescent population is not rational,” said Azelia Goldenberg, who has a daughter at Murphey and a son at Josey. “It’s a dangerous and volatile situation where we may end up with more Planned Parenthood issues, pregnancies, our black men in prison. We don’t want this. There has to be, and we know that there is, a better option.”

About 150 parents and community members attended Monday’s meeting at Josey, which focused on the Murphey/Josey merger. The majority of the roughly 20 who stepped to a microphone to comment were opposed to the idea, with a handful pushing the crowd to have an open mind.

Last month, Philadelphia-based education consultants proposed six reorganization scenarios to solve facilities issues in the district: close Collins Elementary; reconfigure T.W. Josey High into a 6-12 school to take in Murphey Middle students; reconfigure Butler High into a 6-12 school to absorb Sego Middle students; relocate Rollins Elementary to the Sego building; consolidate National Hills and Garrett elementary schools; and build a new K-8 school for west Augusta.

After three more community meetings, the Board of Education will use information gathered to approve or deny the proposals.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Debbie Alexander said the two 6-12 mergers will be a way to offer more academic programs to middle school students, like college preparation, dual enrollment and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs that they wouldn’t have in their middle schools.

“I can assure you as a former middle school teacher and a principal and parent that middle school students and whether they transition there safely and that they’re receiving the best education is a vital part (of this),” Alexander said.

Benton Starks, senior director of facilities and maintenance, said if the proposals are approved, the district would build a new middle school wing onto Josey and Butler to house those incoming middle school students, keeping the age groups separated.

However, Monique Braswell, who is running for a seat on the Board of Education this fall, said parents who have met on the issue say a K-4, 5-8 and 9-12 configuration would make more sense.

“We say leave our 9th through 12th grade alone,” she said. “When they come to high school, there’s a whole lot more pressure.”

She also questioned how building a new middle school wing would help solve under-enrollment issues in the existing high school buildings. After accusing district staff of not spending time in the schools, questioning Josey’s low graduation rate of 50 percent and implying that Principal Ronald Wiggins’ job is at risk, Superintendent Frank Roberson tried to talk her away from the microphone, causing a roar from the audience.

“This parent is not going to consume the time of other parents,” Roberson said.

While Josey has had serious issues with student achievement over the years, Wiggins said parents must look at the positive improvements it has accomplished recently.

It has dual enrollment partnerships with Augusta Technical and Paine colleges, a STEM program, and back-to-back Richmond County Teacher of the Year finalists.

A three-year federal School Improvement Grant that ended in 2013 put more than $2 million of technology and training into the school.

In 2012 it had the second-highest College and Career Readiness Index score among the district’s intervention schools and received more points for closing the achievement gap than any school in Richmond County. Its chronic absentee rate has also improved – with 96 students missing 15 days or more in 2013, compared to 219 in 2011.

“Anytime that you are going to merge separate grade levels, there is going to be a level of concern for parents and children,” Wiggins said. “Over the last three to four years, the number of instructional improvements, as well as the school culture, places us in a situation where parents should be less concerned than maybe in the past. But as a parent myself of three daughters, I do understand the concerns.”

However, Lanie Kennedy said she opted to send two of her children to a magnet school because she didn’t see much educational hope in Josey. She also said blending young middle school students with older teenagers could not help the academics.

“I feel like honestly you’re setting up our kids for failure,” Kennedy said. “You’re not giving them a chance because it’s not going to work. It doesn’t matter how you’ll say you’ll separate them here, here and there. It’s like you’re forcing the kids that want to learn into an environment where they won’t learn. This is not a good idea.”

BE HEARD

Three more public meetings will be held for parents to voice concerns:

TIMES, LOCATIONS:

• Tuesday, 6 p.m.: Craig Houghton Elementary School, 1001 4th St.

• Feb. 10, 6 p.m.: Butler High School, 2011 Lumpkin Road

• Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m.: Garrett Elementary School, 1100 Eisenhower Drive

PROPOSED CHANGES

• Close Collins Elementary

• Reconfigure T.W. Josey High into a 6-12 school to take in Murphey Middle students (Murphey would close)

• Reconfigure Butler High into a 6-12 school to absorb Sego Middle students (Close Sego)

• Relocate Rollins Elementary to the Sego building

• Consolidate National Hills and Garrett elementary schools (close National Hills)

• Build a new K-8 school for west Augusta

Comments (17)

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Augz79
887
Points
Augz79 02/04/14 - 01:54 am
6
1

Shotgun wedding fail

"After accusing district staff of not spending time in the schools, questioning Josey’s low graduation rate of 50 percent and implying that Principal Ronald Wiggins’ job is at risk, Superintendent Frank Roberson tried to talk her away from the microphone, causing a roar from the audience."

This lady hit the nail on the head. Josey is a failing school. Merging the middle schools back into their feeder K-5 schools would make more sense.

Augz79
887
Points
Augz79 02/04/14 - 02:00 am
1
0

Josey report card

http://reportcard2011.gaosa.org/(S(vnlkr3krfze1gfqy5qmur2tx))/k12/reports.aspX?ID=721:3756&TestKey=EOCT&TestType=qcc

Augz79
887
Points
Augz79 02/04/14 - 02:01 am
1
0
corgimom
19793
Points
corgimom 02/04/14 - 02:43 am
4
1

All the kids would be on the

All the kids would be on the buses, unsupervised, together.

That's frightening.

scoobynews
3707
Points
scoobynews 02/04/14 - 06:16 am
11
1

I rode the bus with k-12.

I rode the bus with k-12. Elementary sat up front and then high school in the back. It was never a problem because we had parents who taught their kids how to act back then. I also attended a 4-12 school without any major issues. We never really saw the high school or middle school kids during school hours. Times have changed because parents have changed and I have to say not for the better.

Graymare
2051
Points
Graymare 02/04/14 - 06:53 am
9
1

A 21 year old adult can still

A 21 year old adult can still attend high school with children? If a student is over 18 and still cannot complete graduation requirements perhaps they need adult education night classes or another alternative so they can move on. If there is not much "educational opportunity" at Josey, why isn't someone doing something about it? What in the world in going on at that school? Get the troublemakers and adults out of there.

seenitB4
73291
Points
seenitB4 02/04/14 - 08:16 am
3
2

Oh how I feel your pain

History repeating itself....aahhhhh what memories I have.

So you want your neighborhood schools to stay intact..so you don't want busing down to Josey....yeh, I understand, believe me I do.

Cry me a river...I went to the Board meetings too...I was told to put my kids in private schools because it was going to happen.... I do believe kids will be influenced by older students & it won't always be pretty...your children will pay a price, just like mine did, welcome to the new USA...

Dudeness
1513
Points
Dudeness 02/04/14 - 09:50 am
6
0

Choose C, D, or E

My child is zoned for both Murphey and Josey, but we have plans and back-up plans with back-up plans to ensure that she attends neither.

Mr. Thackeray
766
Points
Mr. Thackeray 02/04/14 - 10:06 am
2
1

Save money or save

Save money or save kids...which would you choose? Which should the Board choose?

dizzy dictator
87
Points
dizzy dictator 02/04/14 - 10:40 am
6
1

Teen Pregnancy...huh?

Already blaming, saying it will be the schools fault for their child's pregnancy. Seriously? If parents will stop being their child friends and start to be all up in their business all the time, you won't have to face a teen pregnancy. When the child begs you to leave them alone and stay out of their business, DON'T. When the child retaliates become even harder.

And just in case all that fails, its duly noted that it will be the schools fault.

Bizkit
22195
Points
Bizkit 02/04/14 - 11:18 am
5
1

Why would having different

Why would having different age kids on a bus be terrifying? For decades that was the case I rode with older kids-buses served areas so all the kids rode the same bus. I guess the implication is this population is out of control with violence and sexual promiscuity. Yikes! Data supports the posit too-fighting, low grad rates, high pregnancy rates, high STD rates. Wow. Amazing the changes within several decades. So the bus is not different but the people are. The problem isn't riding on the bus but ignoring and doing nothing about the conditions that create such a population you fear will ride the bus. Isn't that racial profiling or just socioeconomic profiling? Gosh sounds like war and these older kids are the enemy. Why suddenly now are the parents so upset that their kids "remain innocent"-and then treat the older kids like a pariah. The older kids are theirs too and did preserving their innocence prevent them from said problems? Hmmmm. Houston we have a problem!

corgimom
19793
Points
corgimom 02/04/14 - 11:39 am
4
1

No, Bizkit, it's about how

No, Bizkit, it's about how disturbed, violent children are now in our schools thanks to mainstreaming. And then those disturbed, violent children are put onto school buses with a driver who has to pay attention to their driving. And then there are the criminals that now attend school, because of their right to an education.

You can thank Federal mainstreaming laws.

Bizkit
22195
Points
Bizkit 02/04/14 - 11:44 am
2
1

I agree corgi violence in our

I agree corgi violence in our youth is an epidemic, and there are things we can do about it-but I doubt it will happen for political reasons.

GiantsAllDay
8219
Points
GiantsAllDay 02/04/14 - 11:47 am
1
1

6th graders attending school

6th graders attending school with 12th graders? Nope, don't see any problem here.

lgr
119
Points
lgr 02/04/14 - 12:04 pm
9
1

buses and schools

my nephew not only rides the bus with pre k-12 he also goes to school with them. small town only has one school, they are all in the same building. teach your kids how to behave and this would not be a problem.

Dixieman
10474
Points
Dixieman 02/04/14 - 01:50 pm
3
0

Told ya' so

Here is what I posted last Friday, January 31:
----------------------------------------------
Transcript (in advance) of school closing hearings:

"Don't close my kid's school!"
"Don't close MY kid's school!"
"You want to close MY kid's school? Never!"
"Close that other school over there!"
"You don't agree with me? Racist!!"
-------------------
Now you know what will be said, you can skip the meetings.

lifelongresident
1311
Points
lifelongresident 02/04/14 - 02:59 pm
0
0

well murphey "aint not a too

Unpublished

well murphey "aint not a too guud schuul anyway" so its not a big deal that parents are upset, they are not upset that the school is failing, they are upset they may have to get out of bed earlier to take their children to the bus stop..i do feel for the 6 grade girls because there is no doubt there will be rapes and pregnancies due to those young girls being exposed to the animals at josey...the right and proper thing to do is the merge josey and laney and let the apes/gorillas/monkeys from laney and josey rob, kill, rape, and assault one another

redfish
290
Points
redfish 02/04/14 - 03:27 pm
4
2

school boards are stupid...

All school boards are run by idiots. Every time they want to redistrict, close a school, open a new school or make any kind of change, they have a public meeting. All the public meeting does is bring out the wackos who are against any and all change.

School boards should make the changes and announce them, period. Tell parents, "here is where your child goes to school next year", end of discussion. If govt waited until there was full public support for any change, we would not have any new schools, roads, bridges, lakes, power lines, etc.

YeCats
8972
Points
YeCats 02/05/14 - 09:56 am
0
1

Close Collins?

My dear 6 and 7th grade alma mater. First time I ever saw the robot and the runaway mine train. What an education!

jimmymac
23421
Points
jimmymac 02/04/14 - 11:43 pm
0
0

SOLUTION

Unpublished

VOUCHERS! This is the only thing that will give parents control of their children's education. Failing schools will fail and close and the kids that want an education will get one. take control of your child's life away from Boards of Ed.

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