School rezoning discussion devolves into arguments

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 8:30 PM
Last updated Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 5:06 PM
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A forum to discuss school rezoning devolved into a series of cross-neighborhood arguments over potential gang violence and a years-old deal among school board members.

The Richmond County school system held today's forum specifically to address the rezoning of schools for the proposed merger of Milledge and Lamar elementary schools and the pending restructuring of Tubman Middle School as an alternative education center.

A special school board meeting has been called for 1:45 p.m. next Tuesday for the board to consider approving the rezoning proposals. Under the first proposal, seventh-graders who would have gone to Tubman would go to East Augusta, Murphey and Langford middle schools and some Langford students would be rezoned for Tutt Middle School. Other neighboring schools are also affected.

Under the second proposal, Milledge Elementary pupils would be sent to Lamar Elementary and half of Lamar would go to Craig-Houghton Elementary. When a new Milledge is created, all of the Lamar and Milledge pupils would move there.

But much of the discussion focussed on long-standing arguments among various Augusta neighborhoods.

In 2006, board members agreed to keep Garrett and National Hills elementary schools open as a way to get voters to approve a list of sales tax projects. Both west Augusta schools are small and located less than a mile from each other.

Questions were raised today, though, about the wisdom of keeping both open and building a new Garrett, while closing Lamar.

Even school board members were split by the issue.

“I don’t see the growth to justify putting $10 million into Garrett,” board member Joe Scott said.

Fellow board member Helen Minchew said voters approved the list of projects and the board must honor its word to build them.

Garrett and National Hills were included on the list, as were football stadiums and other projects, as a way to sweeten the sales tax proposal and ensure its passing.

Another parent raised concerns about mixing children from Harrisburg and downtown through rezoning, saying that the move creates a potentially dangerous situation because the two neighborhoods have never gotten along.

But Dr. Bedden said children shouldn’t be labeled, adding that he has experience working in large urban school systems divided by neighborhood violence.

“What we expect from our kids, we get from our kids,” the superintendent said. “This doesn’t come close to what I’ve seen.”

Dr. Bedden referred to consoling school children after a classmate was decapitated, burned and stuffed in a barrel, but also spoke of communities coming together when given the chance.

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humbleopinion 05/05/09 - 09:18 pm
It's Obamas fault.

It's Obamas fault.

mad_max 05/05/09 - 10:48 pm
What is all this crap about

What is all this crap about the board "making deals" to get voters to approve stuff, keeping schools open that should be closed, paying for football stadiums and other projects to sweeten the sales tax proposal. No wonder the taxpayers of Richmond County are slowly being screwed to death. We are doling out money to sweeten deals and doling out money to pay off Betty Beard. This crap has got to stop. It's time the taxpayers stood up to all of these back room deals. We need to bring this entire county to a screeching halt and not approve another project, another school, another SPLOST or any other tax or tax increase. We need to clean out the school board and the county commission. We need to quit being blackmailed by the likes of Betty Beard. No wonder Augusta is the laughing stock of two states. Look at the crew of clowns, cowards, idiots and senile old leftovers we have running the place. Hey Deke, did you and Fred get a new ransom note for the TEE center vote from Betty yet? Whatever she wants, just give it to her because none of you pieces of milk toast down there have the courage to oppose her and take back the $750K per year you have let her steal from the rest of the county.

Whatthetruth 05/06/09 - 01:40 am
Disgusta is dysfunctional,

Disgusta is dysfunctional, but are we as citizens doing about it? Not only is the good old boy system alive in well in the school system, but it is alive and well in the governmental office as well. But we can't complain if we keep allowing it. I don't think it can all fall on Betty Beards shoulders.

justus4 05/06/09 - 05:09 am
It all based on race. Everone

It all based on race. Everone knows that "they" are trying to keep those schools in white areas. Wow! However, there is no justification based on criteria to keep them open, but "they" will come up with something like, oh an "agreement" given over three yrs ago, and say, "you promised" but what about the economical conditions of today? Next, "they" will have some legal point to hold up and say, "see, we can't do it legally" Again, a racial issue being discussed but the underlying problem sits quietly in the room.

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