3/24/2017 7:03:00 AM School Board Holds Meeting On New Attendance Lines
Fourteen people who had signed up spoke at the meeting Thursday evening...a few who had signed up chose not to speak.
School Board member Heather Rhyne took the floor after the public comments, asking the crowd, "Let's work together. I think what we all want is the best education for our children."
(Lincoln Herald Staff Photos)
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
Not including members of the School Board, school personnel and the news media, there were 115 people who attended a meeting held by the Lincoln County Board of Education Thursday at Kiser Intermediate School's gymnasium to discuss new attendance lines approved by the Board at a special meeting February 22nd.
Fourteen people who had signed up to speak to the Board all made their anger over the decision apparent. As each concluded remarks, most of the 115 applauded loudly.
Comments varied but all were negative toward the decision. "Moving from the best high school to the worst..." "we moved here because we wanted our kids to attend North Lincoln..." "I've got nothing good to say about Lincolnton..." "What you're doing is wrong--you've had a campaign to stop bullying; I think that's exactly what this School Board is doing, bullying these people...." "after I heard about this, I asked two School Board members and they were confused..." "how can you make such a huge decision without our involvement?" "you're asking these parents to risk their kids' formative years for this experiment...." "we work in Charlotte; to take our kids to school in Lincolnton will add another 45 minutes to our commute time..." "only 20% of those graduating from Lincoln County Schools are ready for college--that's what you should address instead of how many hens to put in which henhouse..." "my son went to Battleground and Lincolnton and now he's in prison..." "why did we get only two days notice about this meeting?"
After all those who had signed up to speak had their say, one woman sitting high in the stands stood to proclaim, "I'm a proud parent of a student at Battleground School and my child is doing just fine, thank you!"
This is far from the first time that school attendance lines changes have brought angry responses from parents and grandparents of children whose districts changed.
There was a smaller and perhaps less vocal expression of distaste for the decision when the Board made the decision two years ago to move the lines between Pumpkin Center and Rock Springs. According to Board Member Ed Hatley, now mayor of Lincolnton, that decision to move nearly 150 students from the Rock Springs district to the Pumpkin Center district, a decision not popular with many parents, was an absolute necessity to avoid overcrowding but was a stop-gap measure not meant to solve the problem long-term. Hatley said, "We knew it was a 'band-aid' approach, but we had to do something. The original discussion included the possibility of moving even more students from the overcrowded Rock Springs district to Pumpkin Center.
Years ago, many parents were upset when they learned that district lines would send their children to West Lincoln High School instead of Lincolnton. One of those who spoke Thursday night noted that "Pumpkin Center is only five minutes from my house; it will take me more than twenty minutes to get to Battleground." When the lines were redrawn years ago, students from Long Shoals and Startown Road passed through Lincolnton on their way to West Lincoln.
The decision to move the attendance lines for an area near Buffalo Shoals Road came at a special called meeting February 22nd. At that meeting, the School Board reviewed a commissioned study of elementary schools, continuing a discussion of many months in committee meetings. The Board decided to change three schools--G.E. Massey, Kiser, and S. Ray Lowder to K-5 enrollments. Currently, Massey and Lowder have students in K-3, while Kiser Intermediate serves grade 4 and 5. A part of the plan would also be to eliminate Battleground School from regular classes--possibly using that facility for pre-K or other special programs.
The study recommended five options for instrumenting the changes. At the meeting it was decided that option E--a two-year changeover--would be used, but the change in attendance lines for the area east of Lincolnton was approved for next school year.
Transportation Director Eric Eaker told the Board he has buses passing each other going to different schools for students in the same grades. Eaker said currently some students start at G.E. Massey, then go to Kiser, then North Lincoln Middle School and then North Lincoln High. Others start at Massey, then attend Kiser, then Lincolnton Middle School and then North Lincoln High. Yet another group start at Pumpkin Center, then go to Lincolnton Middle School and then North Lincoln High. The change will now put all those students in the Lincolnton High School district. The change will keep students in the same high school district from kindergarten through elementary, middle and high school years rather than having some "flip-flop" from one district to another as is now the case.
The protesting comments at the Thursday meeting made one thing evident: those who objected don't like the schools in Lincolnton. It is true that Battleground, which will only be used for one more year under the February decision, has more economically and culturally disadvantaged students (as a percentage of the whole) than any other school in the district. It is also true that Lincolnton High School has the most culturally diverse enrollment of any of the high schools. While ethnicity and race weren't directly referenced by those who spoke, of the 115 who attended the meeting, only seven were African-American, and none of them spoke. While most of those in the bleachers applauded each speaker, there was a smaller group sitting on one end that appeared not to agree.
After those who had signed up to speak had their say, School Board member Heather Rhyne took the microphone from chairman Mark Mullen and stood to address the crowd. "I'm extremely proud of all our Lincoln County Schools," she said, "We have some phenomenal things happening at all our schools. We have some outstanding teachers at every school. I know. I have two children in our schools--one at Lincolnton Middle and one at Kiser. I've been to these schools. I would invite any of you to join me and we'll go to the schools and let you see for yourself....I am excited that we have parents who are here to advocate for their children. We need more of that."
One of the speakers protested what he termed "only two days notice" about the meeting Thursday. He was apparently referencing a letter sent out to tell about the attendance line changes. The meeting had been advertised on the Lincoln County Schools website for several weeks and the Lincoln Herald and other news outlets reported the February 22nd decision shortly after the meeting and also told about the meeting scheduled for Thursday.
One of the speakers protesting the decision remarked, "my kids won't go to Lincolnton. We'll send them to charter school or home school them."
The next meeting of the School Board will be held (as it is each month) on the second Tuesday (April 11th) at 6:30 PM at the School Administration Building on Generals Boulevard. As always, those who wish to speak at the meeting need to sign up at least 24 hours in advance, although the Board can vote to allow speakers who have not registered in advance if it chooses.
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Posted: Saturday, March 25, 2017
Article comment by:
I graduated from West Lincoln High School in 2009, and I graduated from North Carolina State University with my bachelor's degree in plant biology in 2016. During my time at West Lincoln High School, I received little to no college prep nor support. Most of the AP courses taught were not taken seriously by teachers. However, some of the teachers I had were very inspirational and really tried to help their students. I know of at least six students from the Lincoln County School System that has withdrew from NC State without returning to finish their degree I blame this on the lack of study skills, challenges, and guidance they did not obtain while in grade school. The amount of Lincoln County School System students that do not attend college after gradation is very high. If I were a parent, I would never send my children to a public school in Lincoln County.