2 Carroll mothers fight redistricting plan Their appeal on student moves to be heard by Board of Education

September 15, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Unhappy with a school boundary change made in the spring by the Carroll County school board, two Union Bridge parents have taken the unusual step of appealing the decision to the state Board of Education.

Debbie Doxzon and Kim White argue that the board's approval of the transfer of about 50 students from New Windsor Middle School to Northwest Middle School in Taneytown was inconsistent with its other decisions on redistricting. The transfer became effective this school year.

"We feel like we have a legitimate case," Doxzon said.

Their case is scheduled to be heard tomorrow before an administrative law judge in Hunt Valley.

Vernon Smith, Carroll's assistant superintendent of administration, said that in his experience it's rare for citizens to appeal a school board redistricting decision.

"This is the first appeal that I have participated in about a boundary adjustment since I became director of school support services in 1987," said Smith, who was promoted to assistant superintendent in July.

After hearing the appeal, Smith said, the administrative law judge will make a recommendation to the State Board of Education, which will then vote on the matter.

Doxzon and Smith filed their appeal on April 17, a day after the school board voted 3-2 to move students from New Windsor Middle School to Northwest Middle School.

C. Scott Stone, Joseph Mish and Gary Bauer voted in favor of the measure. Carolyn Scott and Ann Ballard opposed it.

The boundary adjustment, developed by the school facilities staff, was an attempt to lower enrollment at crowded West Middle School in Westminster by sending some students to New Windsor Middle School, Smith said.

As a result, some New Windsor Middle School students were transferred to Northwest Middle School, where enrollment is under capacity.

"The board wanted us to consider a plan that would more efficiently utilize the Northwest Middle facility," Smith said. "In this particular case we had a building that was 60 percent occupied, and West Middle was extremely overcrowded."

Doxzon argues that the redistricting penalizes students at New Windsor Middle School.

"It appears as if we have been bumped out to make room for them [West Middle students]," she said. "We do not feel we should be the area that has to solve the problems for other areas of the county."

At public hearings on redistricting in the spring, Doxzon and other parents opposed moving students from New Windsor Middle School, which opened in 1995, to Northwest Middle, which was built in 1976.

"It was extremely frustrating," Doxzon said. "We had fought for the new middle school, and it was taken away from us."

Doxzon said about half of the 50 students who were to transfer from New Windsor Middle to Northwest Middle received out-of-district approvals to remain at New Windsor. Smith said most of the waivers were given because of child-care conflicts.

Requests for out-of-district placements typically increase following a boundary adjustment, but tend to level off in the long run.

Doxzon said that her children were not affected by the boundary adjustment. White, meanwhile, obtained a waiver for her son to attend New Windsor Middle School.

Nevertheless, the two women -- who have not hired a lawyer to represent them at the appeal -- said they have spent the summer preparing their arguments.

At tomorrow's hearing, Doxzon said, they plan to question school board members and members of the central office staff about redistricting issues.

"Normally, the school board members listen to parents' input, jTC but we can't have an ongoing dialogue," Doxzon said. "This gives us an opportunity to ask board members why they voted the way they did."

Pub Date: 9/15/98

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