South Charleston Mayor Speaks Out on School Redistricting Proposal

By: Jennifer Rizzi Email
By: Jennifer Rizzi Email

UPDATE 11/15/2012@11:25 p.m.

KANAWHA COUNTY (WSAZ) -- The Mayor of South Charleston spoke out about a proposal to redistrict Kanawha County schools at Thursday night's City Council meeting.

The plan - meant to address overcrowding problems at John Adams Middle School - was put on hold last week, following a push by parents for another option. School Board members announced they're considering expanding John Adams as an alternative using privately-raised funds.

But Mayor Frank Mullens says parents' attempts to avoid redistricting aren't giving his schools in South Charleston enough credit.

"I started hearing some negative comments about South Charleston High School, and it became a little bit offensive," he said. "I don't think the decision should be made to expand one school in our county based on the fact that we have some folks that have the means to pay for it."

Mullens says he believes expanding John Adams would be a temporary, band-aid style approach to the problem.

"We need to look at the issue as a whole and say 'is this best for us 10 or 15 years down the road?'" he said. "I think the school board just needs to look at it without any bias and without any pressure...they don't kneed to be bullied into making a decision."

School Board President Pete Thaw talked with over the phone and says he sees the expansion as a good, permanent solution. He denies that he would make any decision based on external pressure and says he wants to avoid redrawing district lines to save students the stress of changing schools.

Mullens says South Charleston High School is an award-winning school with an excellent staff, and that parents should take that into account. Thaw agreed.

Keep clicking on for updates.

UPDATE 11/08/2012
KANAWHA COUNTY (WSAZ) -- A plan to redraw school district lines in Kanawha County has now been put on hold. School board members are stalling a proposal meant to fix an overcrowding program at certain schools.

Yogesh Patel came to the Local School Improvement Council (LSIC) meeting Thursday night at George Washington High School with the redistricting issue on his mind.

"It was very upsetting," he said. "If [necessary,] I was planning to move."

Patel has two kids at Ruthlawn Elementary, and says he bought his home just so they could eventually go to John Adams Middle School and George Washington High School. He came prepared to fight on their behalf, but realized at the meeting that he didn't have to.

Board members announced that they're exploring alternatives to the plan, including expanding the John Adams building. Right now, a series of portable classrooms handle the overflow. They say they're working with private contractors and donors to try and come up with the funds.

"I prefer to enlarge the facility rather than dividing up the district," School Board president Pete Thaw said.

Parents like Patel felt relieved. "I was very stressed when I got here, and when I heard it's on hold I was very happy," he said.

But others like Jennifer Gorrell feel it's too early to claim victory.

"I feel like there are too many questions left to be answered," she said. "I don't think it's a time to celebrate. I think it's time to continue to push for the efforts that we started in the fall and not to let them lapse."

School board members say it could cost around $1.5 million to expand the John Adams building. But they say none of that money will come from taxpayer dollars, and that they won't proceed until they've secured all of it from other sources.

KANAWHA COUNTY (WSAZ) -- The Board of Education meeting room was filled to capacity Thursday night as parents lined up for a chance to speak out against plans to change their children's schools.

"I want to be able to have a voice in the process," parent Howard Mize said.

School board members say they plan to fix an overcrowding problem at county schools through redistricting. They say John Adams Middle School is one of the most crowded and will be affected by the new plan.

"We have half-a-dozen portables at John Adams right now, and it's just not acceptable," school board president Pete Thaw said.

The plan would switch some students at Ruthlawn and Alum Creek Elementary Schools - who would normally go to John Adams - to different schools.

But the idea isn't sitting well with parents who say they want to keep their kids on track to go to John Adams at all costs.

"I feel that John Adams is a better school as far as test scores go," Mize said.

Some parents at the meeting even claimed they will move if the process goes forward, which school board members call a drastic reaction.

"For some reason, people seem to think that John Adams is the only middle school," Thaw said. "South Charleston is an excellent middle school and it's very underpopulated."

But parents like Karen McElhenny say they're prepared to fundraise to keep their homes and kids in the John Adams district.

"It's a no brainer for us," she said. "Not only do we stand to lose property value, we stand to have to pay private school tuition if necessary to give our kids the education they need to be able to get into a good college."

Board members say as of now, the plan is going forward, but they're not sure right now what the redistricting will involve. But they say they won't switch any students in the middle of the school year.

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