By Monroe Roark
After considering two
controversial proposed new district maps over the past two months,
the Henry County Board of Education approved one with several
changes and scheduled a pair of public hearings to continue
reviewing the other.
A plan that would have moved
more than 200 middle and high school students in several
subdivisions along Hwy. 42 and Brannan Road from Union Grove to
Eagle’s Landing received the largest amount of resistance at the
October and November board meetings, and two alternate proposals
were presented at last week’s work session.
One new proposal was for any
affected student to have the option of staying at Union Grove until
completing the highest grade level at his or her prospective school.
Students currently in grades 9-12 could choose to stay, those in
eighth grade would have to move to Eagle’s Landing next fall, and
those in grades 6-7 could finish middle school at Union Grove before
transferring. That proposal was not approved.
The third option, presented
by board member Mike Griffin at last week’s work session, kept
residents in the Brannan Walk and St. Andrews subdivisions in the
Union Grove districts. Those are the only neighborhoods in the
original proposal that do not open directly onto Hwy. 42.
Also under this plan,
students currently in the orchestra and/or German programs at Union
Grove could stay there as long as they remain in those programs,
were responsible for their own transportation, and the courses were
not offered at Eagle’s Landing. Rising juniors and seniors would
have the option to stay at Union Grove regardless of their course of
Griffin made the motion to
approve that plan and it passed 3-2, with Ryan Davis also voting in
favor. With Erik Charles and Josh Hinton voting in opposition, board
chairman Dr. Pam Nutt broke the tie with a yes vote.
Griffin spoke at length about
his reasons for the plan as well as the budgetary issues the board
continues to face. He said he considers several factors when looking
at any such issue, including fiscal responsibility, accreditation,
academic performance, and other areas of community impact.
A considerable amount of
public comment was heard on the issue earlier in the meeting, and
there were several outbursts from the audience during Griffin’s
remarks, prompting him at one point to remind them that “I didn’t
interrupt when you were speaking.”
The only other public comment
from the board came from Charles, who reiterated his position from
last month that he would not be in favor of any change to the
district map in that area.
The other proposal that has
generated controversy was the suggested closing of Smith-Barnes
Elementary School to make room for Patrick Henry Academy on its Tye
Street campus, since Patrick Henry’s current site (the old
Stockbridge High School campus) is the oldest facility in the school
system currently housing students. Students from Smith-Barnes would
be dispersed to Stockbridge Elementary and Cotton Indian Elementary
under that plan.
Many residents since October
have expressed their opposition to closing Smith-Barnes, and the
board elected to study that matter further next month. Two public
meetings were set for January, the first of which will be Jan. 8 in
the board’s auditorium to coincide with the regular work session.
When considering the second
date, Griffin suggested that the hearing be at Smith-Barnes or
somewhere in the community so more affected residents can attend.
Charles took it one step further, saying that the Jan. 13 regular
board meeting could take place there. That recommendation was
The third map approved Monday
night was to set district lines for Hampton High School, which is
set to open next fall. It will mirror the district map for Hampton
Middle School. There was no public comment at any of the board
meetings this fall regarding this map, and it was approved
The final item of business at
the meeting was the appointment of Rodney Bowler, currently the
assistant superintendent for administrative services, to succeed Dr.
Ethan Hildreth as the school system’s next superintendent. Hildreth
announced in October that he plans to retire at the end of March.
A separate story about Bowler will appear in
next week’s edition of the Times.