Panel Defends Its Study Of School Boundary Changes

Redistricting Probe Is Bypassing Some Controversial Areas

April 14, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

A committee studying the impact of redistricting on county families is omitting some controversial school boundary changes, but says the study is intended to be representative, not all-inclusive.

The Citizens Advisory Committee to the Board of Education sent notices to newspapers and school newsletters 2 1/2 weeks ago, inviting families affected by eight selected boundary line changes to join focus discussions.

The list of changes included a 1988 boundary change that was controversial at the time. But the list omitted the hard-fought 1990 redistricting of children from The Fairways, Pine Orchard Meadows and OakLea subdivisions from Centennial Lane to Waverly Elementary School. It also left out Clemens Crossing neighborhood residents who joined forces last winter to fight the transfer of their children from Clarksville to Wilde Lake Middle School. That redistricting, ordered by theschool board last month, takes effect in September.

"The idea of the focus groups was to take representative situations to study," said John S. Morgan, who chaired the advisory committee when planning for the study began two years ago.

"You have to look at it as a research study rather than anything else," Morgan said. Still on the committee, the Republican left the leadership post last year to wage a successful campaign for the House of Delegates from District 13B, Howard and Prince George's counties.

Advisory Committee Chairman Ann Triantafillos said the group wanted the study limited to families who had been through the entire redistricting process.

That criterion leaves out the Clemens Crossing residents. Theirchildren will switch to Wilde Lake Middle School in September.

However, Triantafillos cited the same reason for excluding families whose children were transferred from Centennial Lane to Waverly Elementary in September 1990. Asked if it was not correct that the Waverly redistricting occurred inthe same year as the 1990 Worthington-to-Waterloo Elementary transfer that was selected for the study, Triantafillos said it could be, but "If so, I'm not aware of it."

Residents involved in the most recent redistrictings said they are still hearing comments from parents interested in school boundary line changes.

"There are a lot of disaffected groups. I've had calls from people who have been affected over the last several years and are just very unhappy," said Thomas F.Cowley, a member of the Clemens Crossing Walkers. The group opposed the transfer from Clarksville Middle to Wilde Lake Middle School, which will be effective in September.

Some parents in the Fairways, whose children were moved in 1990 from Centennial Lane to Waverly Elementary School, still harbor strong feelings against the change.

Lisa F. Brierley, a leader of the petition drive against the Waverly boundary change, said she knew of one neighborhood parent who had learned of the redistricting study from a newspaper article and planned torequest membership on a focus group, despite not being from one of the boundary line groups specifically named.

Another Fairways parent, Mary Catherine Koontz, said she hadn't heard about the redistricting study, but would be interested if the redistricting study is open to families affected by the Centennial Lane redistricting.

"I surewould. I have a lot of ideas on how to make the redistricting process better for everyone, the board and the parents," she said.

Whilethe study group seeks Dickinson neighborhood parents whose children were shifted from Atholton to Guilford Elementary School in 1988, it apparently has drawn little response there.

Dickinson parents fought the transfer of 220 children. Two parents, James Hart and Steven Beck, had appealed the Guilford redistricting to the State Board of Education, which upheld the local board. Hart and his family have sincemoved to Florida, and Beck could not be reached.

Dickinson resident James Clark, now president of the Guilford Elementary School PTA, said he had heard nothing from parents about the redistricting study.

"I was interested that they were doing it, but I haven't gotten involved in it. Maybe I should," he said. "Nobody likes disruption, but we're active in the community, and we take steps to adjust."

Susan Tyng, a Dickinson parent who is now first vice president of the Guilford PTA, said people were very upset at the time, but "I think once we all got in (to Guilford), people realized it's the parents who make the school, so everyone pitched in."

Guilford parents have been lobbying for portable classrooms for several years, and will receive three next fall. The school is "so overcrowded we can't move. They redistricted us into a bad situation," Tyng said.

Patti P. Vierkant, school system spokesman and staff liaison to the advisory committee, said that although the study group tried to balance elementary, middle and high schools; numbers of students moved; and length of time since the redistricting, she believed families from schools not on the list may still participate.

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