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The school lines are drawn

It was arguably the largest attendance seen in recent memory at a meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education. An estimated 900 people attended the Jan. 28 meeting at Sams Auditorium to voice their opinions on the potential closure of three elementary schools and one middle school beginning in August.

School system officials presented preliminary maps showing proposed school attendance zones that would result from the closure of Tyrone Elementary School, Brooks Elementary School, Fayette Middle School and Fayetteville Intermediate School (FIS), which includes grades 3-5. FIS would merge into the physically adjacent Hood Avenue Primary School (grades K-2).
The closures would affect at a minimum 1,536 students.
In terms of student movement resulting from the closures, the large bulk of Fayette Middle’s 712 students would be reassigned to Bennett’s Mill Middle School that, as of November, had an enrollment of 599 and a capacity of 1,200.
The reconfiguration of the attendance lines could result in some students from Bennett’s Mill or Fayette Middle being reassigned to Whitewater Middle School, which has an enrollment of 747 and a capacity of 1,088.
A significant number of FIS/Hood Avenue Primary students, perhaps as many as 250, could be reassigned to North Fayette Elementary and Spring Hill Elementary. As of November, FIS had a student enrollment of 405 and Hood Avenue had an enrollment of 378.
As for the potential receiving schools, North Fayette Elementary shows an enrollment of 486 with a capacity of 563 while Spring Hill has an enrollment of 518 and a capacity of 738.
As for Brooks Elementary, the large majority of students could be reassigned to Minter Elementary. Brooks enrollment is 240 while Minter has an enrollment of 588 with a capacity of 763. A smaller number of Brooks students could be reassigned to Inman Elementary that has an enrollment of 472 and a capacity of 663.
And for Tyrone Elementary, a significant number of students could be reassigned to Crabapple Elementary. Tyrone has an enrollment of 334 while Crabapple has an enrollment of 532 and a capacity of 688.  
It should be noted that the school attendance zones listed above are not the only ones being considered for adjustment. Any adjustment could potentially impact the number of students currently assigned to a given school if the lines are redrawn even slightly. Facilities Director Mike Satterfield noted that the redistricting committee will be examining the need to straighten out any existing problems with any or all school attendance lines.
The potential closures were the only item that drew most of the mass of people to the meeting. In that regard, 37 people signed up for the public comments portion of the meeting and, of those, a majority was opposed to the closures. But perhaps as unexpected as anything at the meeting were the comments from a handful of speakers.
One of the those was longtime developer and south Fayette resident Brent Scarbrough who said if Brooks Elementary closed he would move his business to Coweta County. Scarbrough said he pays approximately $1 million in various business-related and property taxes in Fayette County, excluding sales taxes.
Another speaker issuing a surprise statement was Tyrone Mayor Eric Dial. While the needed sewer system upgrade to Tyrone Elementary has long been a discussion, and though the Tyrone Town Council to date has indicated it would allow the school system right-of-way access to run sewer lines to the school at school system expense, Dial added a new component to the issue.
Dial said though it would require a vote by the council, he believed council members would consider the town’s participation in installing the sewer line from Southampton subdivision to the school on Senoia Road as an investment in Tyrone and its future. The price of running the sewer line to replace the school’s aging septic system is expected to cost between $200,000 and $300,000 or more.
Yet another speaker approached the upcoming budget cuts from a different perspective. A bus driver employed by the school system, her comments were a response to calls by some in the community that school system employees take additional cuts of 2 percent to offset the need for the school closures. Noting that she has not received a raise in the years she has been with the school system, the bus driver said her salary is $942 per month, of which $665 goes for family healthcare benefits while another $107 goes for taxes. That leaves her with a take-home pay of approximately $169 per month. 
“I’m not giving another 2 percent,” she said. “Don’t ask us for more. We have nothing to give.”
Also taking a completely different approach from all the other speakers in her comment to the school board was Fayette Middle School seventh-grader Samantha Frazier. 
“I know that there are gonna be a lot of people here tonight that are gonna come up here, stand where I am standing, thank you for all that you do and tell you how much they would hate to make your decisions, and then ask you to keep THEIR school open,” Samantha said.
“Honestly, I was gonna do the same thing. But then I did my homework. After all of that, if I were to stand up here tonight and beg you not to close MY school, I would feel like the most selfish person in the world. All I can say is that I hope you don’t close my school but I will understand if you do. If FMS closes, it won’t be easy but we will pull through. And like I said, I would feel selfish if I asked you to keep my school open just to close someone else’s. So, I am here to be a voice for the students and pass on what we have to say.
“We love FMS. We are not going to cheer with joy if it closes,” Samantha continued. “To us, this is our home and we are being evicted. We understand why it might happen though and we will be okay. What we want you to know, what we want the district, the administration and everyone in the community to know, is that the teachers at FMS have changed our lives. We are better people, stronger people because of them. I can stand up here today because of what they have taught me. If nothing else happens as a result of everything I have said, I at least want those teachers to know that they made a difference. They made our lives better and helped us grow into strong people. They are the reason that we will get through it if our school closes. Because they did such a good job that even if they aren’t with us wherever we go, we will still succeed because they gave us what we needed to make it happen.”
Though no board vote on the redistricting issue was taken, board member Mary Kay Bacallao later in the meeting stated her lack of support for the school closure and redistricting initiative. Bacallao referenced 10 cost-saving alternatives that can be found on her website at http://marykaybacallao.jimdo.com.
The school closure topic is part of a much larger set of cost-saving measures being considered for the coming school year. Those cuts, estimated to total approximately $15 million, are needed so that the school board can adopt a balanced budget. Several million dollars in personnel cuts have already been made and additional cuts in personnel are guaranteed since approximately 90 percent of the school system’s general fund budget is personnel.
Redistricting committee representatives noted that the maps as presented are preliminary and that further revisions will likely be made as the full redistricting committee continues its work. It was also noted later in the meeting that two public hearings will be held in February to continue to community discussion on the potential closures.
Interim Superintendent Dan Colwell on Tuesday said current plans call for detailed maps of the school attendance zones to be produced soon and located at the Lafayette Education Center so that those interested can view the potential attendance area for specific schools. Details will be provided once the maps are available. Meanwhile the preliminary map for elementary school districts and the preliminary map for middle and high school districts are viewable within this article.
By clicking on the "Attachments" link following this story, you may view two additional documents provided by the board: One detailing the student capacity of each school and a second document outlining the parameters observed by the redistricting committee.


Has this woman actually been in a Fayette County school or talked to the staff? I am a department chair, I do not, nor have I ever, taught one less class than anyone else. I have the same class load plus the extra duties. I am paid an extra pittance for this which keeps getting smaller each year.
We can not simply "expand" gifted. Gifted students are supposed to be the top 5 to 10% of the population. Fayette has many children who are "fixin' to be gifted" - not sure how they got in as they do not meet the criteria. These children defeat the purpose of gifted classes when their parents demand extended time and tutoring. Please, for the sake of the truly gifted children, don't dilute these classes.
Mary Kay, you should be ashamed of yourself for making promises you can't keep in order to be elected.
Samantha, your maturity is astounding! Many adults should pay attention to your common sense. This county is in no financial position to pander to sentimentality and special interests.
And school board members, this teacher can't afford another pay cut and still pay my mortgage. Take more money from me and you'll be minus a hard-working teacher and plus another empty house with no one paying property taxes.


, , , and a little child shall lead them

Yo's picture

Much too mature for the citizen


You are raising a fine young lady and you should be proud.

She has shown wisdom beyond her years.

Only wish the adults would have realized that Mary Kay is not the right person for the job. Her pandering to the good people losing their schools only reinforces what many felt during elections. She may be a good educator, but she lacks the fiscal common sense to manage our tax dollars. I predict it now, should she make it thru her term, her next election platform will read, "I voted against the closing of schools". It's all a political game.

mudcat's picture

God knows you need one to be your public face and voice. You need to stay home and out of these meetings. What does an elementary school have to do with where you park your bulldozer? Is there a business reason for what you said or were you just trying to intimidate. If it is the latter, don't let the door hit you on the way out.


Your information reported in your article gives some very different capacity numbers than the FCBOE is reporting in the PDF file you attached. Might want to look into the discrepancies......BMMS has a capacity of 1475 & apparently has never been at 50% capacity. Not much notice of that in the past years by taxpayers....

BMMS capacity was changed by the State just recently to 1475. Until then, the capacity was in fact just shy of 1200. So, Ben was more right than wrong; since it opened, BMMS has had a population of just more than half capacity..

NUK_1's picture

Samantha Frazier, I wish you were older because you show a hell of a lot more maturity and wisdom than a lot of our adults we elected to "lead" us.

Concur with Nuk & MLC cmts on Samantha--and shame on Brent Scarbrough with his threat to move--I say 'Start Packing Brent!

7th grader Samantha, you are a bright light to the future. You are so right. Make yourself a promise to keep your positive attitude and you will be able to accomplish more than most as you grow up. Your friends that you mention should feel the same way.

Is this developer who spoke the same one who just got every approval possible to build The Gates thru an annexation in a record amount of time? Your business life is so bad? A million dollars in taxes. As we all know, there surely is no hefty income or quality of life that has been had by paying so much in taxes. Such a problem, such a sacrifice. Cry me a river.

suggarfoot's picture

The child has more backbone than any that spoke.

Scarbrough gonna take his bussiness someplace else? Wow, I hardly know where to begin. If the developers hadn't decided they needed the road to no where to open up their properties, or the schools in the middle of the cowpastures (Rivers) to peddle their new subdivisons they never built....I doubt we would be n this mess. Unless he has sold it....he owns large tracts of land right around the school/s and would have gained $greatly.

If he makes so much money off deals in Fayette county and is that ungratefull for his millions he made off us....all I can say is don't let the door knob hit.

As far the sewer statements, I've never heard of the schools paying to run sewer to their own schools. The point is...we don't have enough kids for the schools we have due to overbuilding for developers that never built. There was a ton of speculation done by the previous 3/2 block vote on both the BOE and the County commisioners. The taxpayers lost. EVERYONE wants small schools for the little ones. No one gets it. The speculators took our CHOICE of smaller schools from us when all the overbuilding was done. The taxpayers and the BOE now have to pick up the pieces and pay the price for it. Not fair, but as someone put it...'the train has left the station' We have some good people who stepped forward to pick up the pieces when no one else would. Please help them do the job.

Pogo's picture

I reviewed the posted redistricting maps and school capacities. The point that really sticks out is Peeples with a capacity of 860 and a population of 423 adjacent to Minter with a capacity of 840 and a population of 720. I do not see how this is justified especially when you look at the relatively large north-south transportation routes for both Minter and Harp. I do not have access to the geographic population data but I would expect the density for both these schools would be in the top two thirds of their respective district. It seems to me that the bottom third of these districts should feed into Peeples. This makes the school population and transportation more equitable.

ginga1414's picture

No truer words have EVER been spoken!!!

The developers certainly did very well for themselves!!

However, they developed the rest of us right into the poor house. The former commissioners and the developers have practically destroyed Fayette County!!

I hope Scarbrough and the rest of the developers do take their business somewhere else!!

By the way, I just heard that the folks in Henry County aren't real pleased with Lee Hearn and Scott Bennett, either.

<cite>Noting that she has not received a raise in the years she has been with the school system, the bus driver said her salary is $942 per month, of which $665 goes for family healthcare benefits while another $107 goes for taxes. That leaves her with a take-home pay of approximately $169 per month.</cite>

Some people undoubtedly "use" the school system to secure healthcare benefits for family members, especially where some family members suffer from some kind of chronic condition that is very expensive to manage.

Paying $665 a month is a lot, but it covers more than one person. How much money does this bus driver cost the school system beyond her official salary? That's the key point for the taxpayers. Beyond healthcare benefits (which may be worth a lot more than the official premium for some people), there's the employer portion of Social Security taxes, workers' comp insurance, and most likely a pension of some sort.

Is it possible we are looking at an employee who does not realize and appreciate the value (and cost) of her fringe benefits?

This bus driver should be thankful she works for the FCBOE and has $169 left each month to provide food, shelter, and clothing to her family. She should offer up another 2% of her big salary so that less than 3% of the school population or 4% of the county can have their school buildings remain open.

G35 Dude's picture

[quote]Paying $665 a month is a lot, but it covers more than one person. How much money does this bus driver cost the school system beyond her official salary? That's the key point for the taxpayers. Beyond healthcare benefits (which may be worth a lot more than the official premium for some people), there's the employer portion of Social Security taxes, workers' comp insurance, and most likely a pension of some sort.[/quote]

I guess you're saying that bus drivers are overpaid for what they do? Then why do we have a shortage of drivers? You want to run down there and get one of these highly paid positions? I wonder how much that bus driver that was shot in Alabama was being paid? I wonder if his family feels that he was overpaid? Don't think for one minute that Fayette drivers don't come up against irate parents from time to time. Mostly for reasons beyond the drivers control. At least we've had no gun play. (Yet) Are you aware that Fayette County drivers are the lowest paid in the Metro Atlanta area?

Is it possible we are looking at a loanarranger that does not have a clue about the value of this position?

Cyclist's picture

shape of things to come.

Since bus drivers they are not considered full time employees, the district could elect not to provide healthcare and through the magic of the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (aka Obama Care) we could all pick up the tab.

I feel her plight but, those drawing a minimal salary will not welcome an economy that is affected by massive and unsustainable "guv" borrowing.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

angeldawn80's picture

I was at the meeting last Monday. In fact, Samantha is my daughter. What people don't know is that she was willing to go to war to keep her school open until she did all of her research...and it was a lot of research...hours a day over weeks. So for her to get up there, and say that she understood was something much bigger than anybody could know. She was horrified by the behavior of the "adults" at the meeting.

This is what she asked me to write here:

People keep taking the kids out of this. They say that they aren't but they are. This is going to happen. It needs to happen and anyone who has looked at the numbers knows that. No one child is more important than another regardless of money, race, disability, or ability. We are one county, one community. I'm sorry if your property values go down or you don't like how your tax money gets spent. That doesn't matter to the kids though. What people...adults need to realize is that if they want the kids to be okay and want to make this easy on us...stop telling us how much it's gonna suck. Help us get through it.

The time for fighting is over. It's time to focus on recovery. Parents get mad...and that's okay. But there comes a point to stop being mad and start making it okay. The kids are what is important. We weren't asked if we wanted our schools closed. Those people up there yelling and threatening aren't helping us. They are hurting us. I love my school. I'm gonna cry when it closes...probably a lot. The kids are the ones who have that right. I'm just asking the adults to be there for us and help us get through it. If you keep acting like this, it just...it hurts the kids....it's time to stop fighting and help us make it okay.

I'm sorry if this offends anybody but I'm 12. My little sister is 7. If it was her school, I would be telling her that it'll be okay. But like I said, I'm 12...I'm just glad my parents told me that it'll be okay.

suggarfoot's picture

You are a very gutsy little girl with a lot of insite. You are right, it is about the children. It... should... have ALWAYS been. The big people lost their way.

The elementary school maps posted on the fcboe's website are different from the ones shown at the Januaey 28 meeting. When were they changed?

ginga1414's picture

I couldn't be more proud of Samantha if she were my very own.

Many, many thanks to Samantha and her Mom for sharing her thoughts with all of us.

I dare say that she is one child who will be ready to face the world when she is grown.

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