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School board members and parents frustrated by lack of information at spot-rezoning meeting

School board member Kay Abbitt express her frustration with the spot-rezoning process

BY AMBER THIBODAUX

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Alachua County School Board held a workshop on March 8 to discuss the proposed elementary school spot rezoning, which will go into effect for the 2023-2024 school year. The agenda posted on the Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) website indicated that a presentation would be given regarding the rezoning, followed by citizen input, but no presentation was given other than a timeline provided by Superintendent Shane Andrew on future meetings to discuss the topic. Board Chair Tina Certain began the meeting by asking Andrew which staff member would be presenting, at which point Andrew indicated that his staff hadn’t put together a presentation yet because they were waiting to collect citizen input. The following graphic, which explains the vision behind the rezoning, can be found on the ACPS website

The “spot rezoning” is intended to address capacity issues at four elementary schools: Chiles, Hidden Oak, Meadowbrook, and Terwilliger. The first three are over capacity, and Terwilliger has “significant space available.” The graphic says that no maps will be developed until the public has had an opportunity to provide input.

Certain said the rezoning was necessitated for several reasons: “We have several schools county-wide that are over capacity, we have several schools that we’ve redeveloped as part of our capital campaign that’s being funded by the half-cent sales tax.” 

Specifically, Certain was referencing the new elementary school constructed in 2021 on SW 122nd Street (Parker Road), which she calls the “new Terwilliger.” The original Terwilliger Elementary was located on NW 62nd Street but closed at the end of 2020. 

Seven parents provided input at the meeting; each parent voiced concerns over the spot rezoning, including the rushed timeline and the stress it would put on students and families. 

Jen Garrett, whose child attends kindergarten at Meadowbrook, argued that the district needs a full rezoning rather than just partial: “We need a full rezoning, we’re many years overdue for the rezoning. That should have already happened, and I really want it to happen the right way… we’re just a few weeks away from kindergarten roundup, parents deserve to know where their kindergarteners are going to go next year.” She also mentioned that there are “terrible overcrowding problems” at other schools, including Newberry Elementary, that aren’t being addressed. 

Chelsey Clements, who also has a kindergartener at Meadowbrook, said her primary concern was that “there is no plan, and there is no time” to finalize the rezoning before the end of the school year. Clements said she was hoping to be presented with some information during the meeting and pointed out that “it’s hard to make comments when I’m not even sure what’s on the table.” She also said there is “panic” among parents who are happy with their child’s school but don’t know whether they will be affected by the rezoning.

“I personally felt, as soon as I read this, that it was very ripe for corruption and abuse. It kind of feels like the big claw coming down and just picking out random people in random neighborhoods, and I don’t think anyone wants to be a part of that,” Clements said.

Blair DeLaet told the board that she chose to remove her son from Wiles and bought a new home across town so that her son would be zoned for Meadowbrook. “My family decided and did not gauge lightly that we were moving to a zone that we were going to have a good school system for our son, and what would work best for him.”

DeLaet then voiced her concern over Terwilliger being a D-rated school: “How do we take kids from schools that are doing well, and kids that are thriving, to a school that’s not doing great, and expect them to stay on their level and not fall back?” 

Paige May, who has an incoming kindergartener zoned for Hidden Oak, pointed out that parents won’t have any other options if their children are chosen for rezoning because the deadline to apply for magnet schools has passed: “That would be my concern–those of us who are happy with our originally-zoned schools, should we get spot-rezoned, we then will essentially not have the options that we would have had, had we known in time.”

Board members Kay Abbitt and Sarah Rockwell shared the parents’ frustration regarding the lack of information presented. Abbitt said she had come to the meeting expecting to hear the justification for why those four schools were chosen while leaving out others that are way over capacity.

“I’m confused also, and I’m a board member – and so I can understand why the parents are a little concerned about this,” Abbitt said. She said she didn’t want to wait another month to “find out where we’re going with this.”

Rockwell acknowledged the “very tight timeline” and mentioned that Hillsborough County is conducting a similar partial rezoning of 15,000 students that began in November of 2022 but won’t go into effect until a year from August – highlighting the differing approaches between the two school districts. 

Referencing some of the parents’ hesitation to send their children to Terwilliger, Rockwell stated that because the students currently enrolled there don’t live in that neighborhood, there is no pool of parent volunteers available to serve at the school: “Right now it’s not a neighborhood school, we’re using it like a swing school, and that’s impacting their ability to have a volunteer base and an active PTA – all of those kinds of things that most of our neighborhood schools have.”

Rockwell addressed the superintendent’s staff and asked if it would be possible to reopen the magnet applications for students who may be impacted by the rezoning, but she got no immediate answer.

According to the ACPS website, the upcoming public meetings on spot rezoning are as follows:

  • March 23 @ 5:30 p.m.
    Community Input Meeting
    Terwilliger Elementary School, 3990 SW 122 Street
  • April 6 @ 1 p.m.
    Board Workshop including presentation of proposed revisions to attendance zones
    District Office Boardroom, 620 East University Avenue
  • April 11 @ 10 a.m.
    Special Board Meeting with first reading for revised school attendance zones
    District Office Boardroom, 620 East University Avenue
  • May 2 @ 5 p.m.
    Public Hearing on revised school attendance zones
    District Office Boardroom, 620 East University Avenue
  • May 16 @ 6 p.m.
    School Board Meeting including second reading/vote on revised school attendance zones
    District Office Boardroom, 620 East University Avenue 

The workshop can be found in its entirety here.

  • Well, the other two loud mouths on the SBAC didn’t have anything to say? Where were they?

    Where is the plan to take care of the criminals coming to the school for meals, not an education?

    Certain and the other two “distinguished” SBAC members are NOT going to attempt to solve any problems other than bussing more kids to put the criminals in with kids who actually want to learn!

    They should be bussing the criminals to a State Penitentiary, or at the very least the Alachua County Jail!

    That should be their number one priority, not rezoning. Give the students there to learn, the teachers who want to teach, administrators, bus drivers, lunch room support team, a safe place to teach and nurture children in school for the right reason!

    Certain, McGraw, and McNealy should resign and really help save the children! They are the Democratic poster children for all promise and no action (especially on the criminals in our schools)!

    • I think you’re way out of line referring to children as criminals…I too may have disagreement with some board members on certain issues, but your blatant racist remarks show you missed some learning /education yourself.

      • I didn’t read anything about race in the prior comment.
        Some of the children are criminals. It doesn’t help when the schools don’t receive the support from either the district or the parents. That’s not a racist’ comment, that’s a fact. Simply hiding something under the rug for “equity” sake doesn’t benefit anyone. The teachers don’t feel they have support, the administrative staff have their hands tied; all so a student doesn’t get their feelings hurt? Cry me a river.
        They’re there to learn. Not to put other children at risk. Not to detract from another child’s opportunity to learn. If they can’t follow the rules, get them out and put them somewhere they’ll be held accountable for not following the rules.

      • No mention was made of race. Seems like you are deflecting your issues onto someone else.

          • I guess some people can find a racist interpretation in anything if they look hard enough.

            I was bussed to my school years ago as well. Sure beat walking in the rain and cold.

          • So was I, and nobody complained. We were all white. Don’t pretend you don’t know what “Teach Your Children” meant.

          • Everyone wasn’t black or white on the bus I rode. Children should be taught, ALL children. All children should have a safe environment to be taught as well. When those who don’t want to learn impede those who have a desire to, they should be removed. When children, due to their behaviors create an unsafe environment, they should be removed as well.

            Some board members have chosen to ignore and blame others for the discipline issues in the local schools rather than where it can at least be addressed by the individuals who have the power to curb such behaviors. Statistics provide support to the demographics of those who are commiting the most behavioral issues but some will argue the statistics are racist as well.

            It starts at home…period.

          • Are you a mind reader? I really don’t care what you think. I look at data and yes, if I wanted, I could regurgitate the numbers by race and/or gender, but it isn’t necessary. The number of behavioral problems are so bad, one doesn’t need to add other variables to them to make a point.

            I meant exactly what I wrote! Nothing more, and for sure nothing less. There are 3 SBAC Members, as I named, who have been on the board for years, not months as the 2 newest members. The most senior board member is in denial, and wants to call the ALL offenses (even the criminal ones which are in fact Assault) “incidences!”

            All smoke and mirrors, and of course laying the blame on everyone but themselves as the decision makers! I would say that is typical of the majority of today’s politicians regardless of party! You elected them, and keep electing them, so deal with it!

            Every few months they come with a bunch of charts and lay out their “vision” for addressing the violence, intimidation, classroom disruption, cell phone use in class (might as well be playing Nintendo Switch), and on and on!

            Their answer is to shuffle the deck and redistribute the criminals. I don’t care what color they are, if they commit a criminal offense, they are a Criminal and they deserve to be treated like one.

            The parents of these criminals need to step up and be a parent and start correcting the unacceptable behavior in the home!

            We need to make our buses, classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, and anywhere else in school, a safe place for students, teachers, support staff, drivers, and lunch room workers now! That is SBAC’s responsibility, make policy that have teeth and back up Teachers and Administrative Staff.

      • i didnt see anything about what race the student criminals are, did you ?or are you trying to start a different dialogue? criminal records and behavior make that classification, not skin color

    • Whoa, talking elementary level here, you’se gots those criminals ID pretty early, eh.

  • Are any middle and high schools under-crowded, for some reason? Maybe one middle school could be converted to an elementary school, if nearby elementary schools are crowded?
    That’s what they did in my home boomtown near Jax in the ‘70s, they converted one school type to another.

  • There is a massive nationwide school voucher program in the works that will result in a new crop of Charter Schools. If they allow the parents that participate by upgrading their kids to these opportunities to send their school property taxes into the voucher program we can solve a problem this
    school board and other school boards seem to struggle with. Either theses boards are stuck on ignorance, in the wrong occupation or have a silently mandated agenda. They have no real solutions. They do nothing in the interest of kids wanting to really learn.

    • Have you really done your homework on Charter schools? Often they are not held to the same standards nor have teachers with similar credentials required by public schools and they can get rid of or deny access to students who they don’t want to serve. And they they may close their doors(if the profits aren’t there). Honestly, encouraging all these charters is the state’s way of defunding/abolishing public schools. It’s beginning to happen.

      • Is this acceptable?Alachua County, FL public schools have an average math proficiency score of 50% (versus the Florida public school average of 48%), and reading proficiency score of 54% (versus the 52% statewide average). Schools in Alachua County have an average ranking of 7/10, which is in the top 50% of Florida public schools.
        How Shameful Public Woke Schools have become.Alachua County Public Schools spends $10,237 per student each year. If your school is hooked up to GRU add 23% . Have you seen how efficient charter schools are that demand 100% attendance and 100% parent support?

      • So they can deny access to a disruptive child(ren) and a parent(s) who don’t want to follow the guidelines and rules? Maybe that’s what some parents want in their children’s lives…a higher standard.

        You did see the student who knocked out the teacher in Central Florida recently didn’t you? Didn’t just knock her out, he pounded on her. Just the type student I want my kids to be in class with. All because he didn’t agree with her taking away a video game.

        No wonder some teachers are moving to charter/private schools. No wonder parents want their children to go there as well.

        • Yes, a shocking video, but the “student” has mental problems – pre-established -, which is why he was at that “special” school.

          • Still Jazzy. So it’s okay? How’s that problem looking back at you in the mirror every morning.

            If it were my daughter, my wife, my mother – not okay. Maybe you care less for your family.

          • Of course it’s not OK, but there is hopefully a difference in reacting to the acts of the mentally ill. Like “an act of God”, there is a limited number of things we can do about it.

          • You need to get your school attacks right!

            There WAS an ATTACK of a Teacher at a school in Osceola County (which “tries to provide instruction” to many “special needs students”)

            The ATTACK mentioned above was in Daytona Beach and that individual is now to be tried as an adult!

            I guess it can be confusing since there are so many ATTACKS to keep track of!

            In fact, if you review the ACPS ABC Report for August 22 – February 23, you will see there have been a very large number of Physical Attacks/Battery in ACPS; Grades K-5 had 46, Grades 6-8 had 167, and Grades 9-12 had 45.

            The above numbers are just those Attacks/Battery that were reported/acknowledge by ACPS Administrators! I certainly believe it entirely possible MANY such attacks do not get reported due to intimidation by the CRIMINALS committing these crimes against others! In fact, there is a separate set of data for just that, Threat/Intimidation, and the total for all grades in the same period was 130!

            In fact, here is the link to the latest ABC Report for ACPS: https://go.boarddocs.com/fl/alaco/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=CABTQ37702E8

            It is unbelievable any teachers want to continue in such an environment, no one wants to drive the bus, or serve meals, with numbers like these! As a parent, I make sacrifices to place my child in a school where I can only HOPE they will be safe and able to learn!

            It is way past time for the SBAC to quit blowing smoke up parents pant legs and take the required action to rid the schools of these criminals, yes, Criminals! If they have committed a crime, that is what they are!

          • That link goes to a page with a list of meetings. Can you please send the correct one? I’m interested and I agree that teachers and students should be protected from physical attacks in our schools. Who doesn’t?

      • So, I hear you say that charter schools are more free to educate the children in a manner mor eon line with there customer base? That would be parents, of course. And the teachers haven’t been fully indoctrinated onto the woke culture mob you belong to? Sounds like a win win to me.

      • In Florida, charter schools are public schools, and have to meet the same standards as any other public school. Charter school teachers are required to be certified. Florida charter schools are not for profit. They are usually run better since there is a higher motivation to stay solvent. Interestingly, ACPS has quite a few elementary and middle school classrooms without certified teachers. For example, there are kids who have not had a teachers at Rawlings all year. The problems at these schools existed before charter schools existed.

  • Yep…. typical liberal decision making. How could anyone expect this change being planned, organized, and effectively communicated by that group.

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