DNCA Opposes Austin Redistricting Proposals

You may have seen some information in the summer and fall of 2019 regarding the Dekalb County School Board's redistricting efforts which are designed to target elementary school overcrowding.  All current redistricting proposals include splitting Dunwoody North along the Tilly Mill Road corridor, and sending the homes east of Tilly Mill to Kingsley Elementary School (they currently attend Chesnut Elementary School).

You can read more about the effort here: https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/operations/planning/redistricting/
The maps noted in the text below are also available in this PDF.
Registered DNCA members can download the signed PDF version of the letter here.

Your DNCA board voted to voice opposition to these plans and accompanied by several affected neighborhood group representatives, drafted a letter to the DeKalb County school leadership.

Dunwoody North Civic Association President Thomas O’Brien was joined in signing this letter by:

  • John Heneghan, Dunwoody City Council Post 6 (District 3 at Large)
  • Gil Wood, Vice President of the DNCA
  • Daren Boaz, HOA President of Madison Subdivisions
  • Angela Renals, Neighborhood Representative of Briers North
  • Mark Stephenson, HOA President of Brafferton Subdivision
  • Phil Boudewyns, HOA President of Chestnut Landing Subdivision

Below is the position statement sent to school board leadership October 31, 2019.


To:

Dr. R. Stephen Green, District Superintendent
Mr. Daniel Drake, Interim Chief Operations Officer
Dr. Sherry Johnson, Regional Superintendent, Region I
Dr. Michael Erwin, District 3 (Board Chair)
Mr. Marshall Orson, District 2 (Vice Chair)
Mr. Stan Jester, District 1
Ms. Allyson Gevertz, District 4
Mrs. Vickie Turner, District 5
Mr. Diijon DaCosta, District 6
Dr. Joyce Morley, District 7
Dekalb County School District
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
Stone Mountain, GA 30083

RE: 2019 Dunwoody Cluster Elementary School Redistricting

Dear Esteemed Superintendent, Regional Superintendent, Board Members, and School Leadership:
My name is Thomas C. O’Brien, and I am writing you in my official capacity as president of the Dunwoody North Civic Association (DNCA). The DNCA represents a community of nearly 1,100 homes in neighborhoods that include Dunwoody North, Andover Estates, Laurelwood Farms, Dunwoody Trails, Brafferton Square, Briers North, The Madisons, and Chestnut Landing.

When matters arise such as the current Austin Redistricting effort, the DNCA examines the available information, and the board adopts a position. Upon reviewing the three detailed maps available at: https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/operations/planning/redistricting/, the DNCA board voted overwhelmingly against any of the options that have been drafted. The primary reason behind the DNCA’s concern is the splitting of the Dunwoody North Community along the Tilly Mill corridor (labeled “D” on the Option 1 map, page 19/29 of the PowerPoint presentation).

All three of the current options include splitting the current Chesnut Elementary attendance area along the Tilly Mill Corridor, and sending those on the eastern side of Tilly Mill to Kingsley Elementary. This dividing line separates a cohesive neighborhood, and does not appear to adhere to several of the Dekalb County School District criteria used when evaluating a redistricting effort.

The DNCA is aware that there are several criteria that inform redistricting proposals, and would suggest that the three plans being presented do not serve those criteria. Primary among these criteria are geographic proximity, instructional capacity, and projected enrollment. Of secondary importance are safety and traffic patterns, previous redistricting, balancing of special programs, school feeder alignment, intact neighborhoods, and efficient operations.

Geographic Proximity

Redistricting homes on the east side of Tilly Mill from Chesnut to Kingsley actually increases the distance that these families must travel to attend school by 20% to 40%. Additionally, the significantly increased dangers on those roads to the school requires transport by car, eliminating walking or bicycling.

Instructional Capacity and Projected Enrollment

Overcrowding in area schools is the reason for this redistricting effort. Pursuing the best interests of the attending children is certainly at the heart of this effort, and an overcrowded school is arguably less effective. Chesnut’s current enrollment is 473 children. Despite being arguably at or over capacity, school leadership has managed to achieve a CCRPI of 94.9%. This level of capacity is projected to change over the next two years by only 10-15 students, but by all appearances, the mix of Chesnut attendees is being successfully served by the teaching and leadership team. Therefore, it would be the recommendation of the DNCA to cause as few disruptions to this academic institution as possible.

Traffic Patterns

Redistricting the homes on the east side of Tilly Mill Road will also result in increased usage of already congested thoroughfares. Under the new proposals, these families will travel longer distances on already congested routes (Tilly Mill and North Peachtree), making congestion worse. Presently, these students travel on Safe Routes to School (many on foot or bicycle) through the neighborhoods on the West Side of Tilly Mill. Any change is likely to result in fewer children walking and biking to their school, and more automobile traffic using already crowded roads.

Intact Neighborhoods

While intact neighborhoods represent a secondary interest to be considered in a redistricting effort, the current proposals will have a profound impact on the Dunwoody North community. Not only would this change cause 40+ children to be removed from a wellperforming school near their homes, but it would also potentially disrupt social relationships, and would seriously interrupt parental involvement in the Chesnut community. Approximately 40% of the PAC (Parent Advisory Council) volunteers live in the portion of the neighborhood east of Tilly Mill, and it is clear that active and engaged parental partners are a hallmark of academic success.

There are a multitude of reasons for not splitting the current Chesnut attendance area along the Tilly Mill corridor. It is my earnest hope that the Dekalb County School Board and leadership team considers the substantial negative impact that the current models would create, and instead works toward a solution that does not damage a neighborhood and a well-performing elementary school.

Very truly yours,

Thomas C. O’Brien
President, Dunwoody North Civic Association
John Heneghan, Dunwoody City Council Post 6 (District 3 at Large)
Gil Wood, Vice President of the DNCA
Daren Boaz, HOA President of Madison Subdivisions
Angela Renals, Neighborhood Representative of Briers North
Mark Stephenson, HOA President of Brafferton Subdivision
Phil Boudewyns, HOA President of Chestnut Landing Subdivision

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