It seemed like everyone was on board with a proposed annexation of Emory University and surrounding acreage into the city of Atlanta.
The city of Atlanta wasn’t taking DeKalb County Schools students, leading the school district to reassure parents that the annexation wouldn’t affect them.
The city and DeKalb County reached a settlement regarding the potential zoning issues created by the annexation proposal. DeKalb County had challenged the 744 acre annexation proposal that also includes petitions from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Power, Villa International, Synod of South Atlantic & Presbyterian Church (USA) Inc. and the Centers for Disease Control.
The annexation area includes about nine or 10 students, but also would remove about $2.5 million in revenue from the county school district if the annexation expanded Atlanta Public School boundaries.
But the city reconsidered that decision and will consider expanding APS boundaries as it votes on Emory’s annexation petition at its Dec. 4 meeting. DeKalb County School officials plan to speak against the proposal during public comments.
DeKalb Superintendent Stephen Green called it “an unfettered overreach” by the city.
“The expansion is irrelevant and unnecessary: it was not included in the original plan and was shoehorned in at the 11th hour,” Green said in a press release. “The expansion is about money: the change in boundaries impacts just 10 students yet will strip $2.5 million in vital resources from DCSD. The expansion is about power: APS’ legislative agenda is to use annexations as a springboard to slice swaths of resources from its eastern neighbors.”
School Board member Marshall Orson said the decision to expand APS boundaries isn’t about students.
“This is completely opposite of what was represented to the community,” he said in a Facebook post. “This change not only impinges on the mission of the DeKalb County School District (with the risk of destabilizing the District) but it represents a significant transfer of wealth form DeKalb to what is one of the wealthiest school districts in Georgia – APS. This change is not about the best interests of students but an out-and-out land and money grab by APS which is neither legally mandated nor even carefully considered. In fact, APS has not decided what will happen to the students directly impacted – one would think that would be first and foremost for any school system that puts children first.”
Here is Superintendent Green’s full statement:
“The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) will always and emphatically stand against the placement of political considerations over the welfare and education of children. The decision to include the unchecked expansion of the Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) boundaries as part of the proposed annexation of Emory University by the City of Atlanta is a clear example of such an action.
The desire of the families in the Druid Hills community is clear; to maintain the 100-year alignment with DCSD. The inclusion of the APS boundaries in the proposed annexation ignores that while establishing a dangerous precedent where one of Georgia’s most affluent school systems, one with a large political power base, can prey upon their neighbors and chip away at a less affluent school district’s ability to serve its children.
The facts in this unfettered overreach and deal-making are clear. The expansion is irrelevant and unnecessary: it was not included in the original plan and was shoehorned in at the 11th hour. The expansion is about money: the change in boundaries impacts just 10 students yet will strip $2.5 million in vital resources from DCSD. The expansion is about power: APS’ legislative agenda is to use annexations as a springboard to slice swaths of resources from its eastern neighbors.
The expansion is not about education or children.
There is no clear, thoughtful rationale of how this school district boundary change can positively impact children. DCSD is prepared to face down the challenge to its ability to educate its students in every available and appropriate forum. When faced with the choice between politics and the welfare of children, this particular district will always choose children.
Beyond the selfish stripping of resources from disadvantaged students, we are also disappointed in the lack of engagement and partnership with APS on this issue. We reached out in writing and through intermediaries at the highest levels, seeking to share our position and engage in productive dialogue with our neighbor and long-time collaborators. Those requests went unanswered and ignored. When it comes to the issue of educating our children, all governmental entities have a duty and responsibility to work collaboratively for the mutual benefit and success of all students, regardless of school district.
When one district is allowed to operate in a manner that clearly and unambiguously harms students in another district, all of our children, as well as our communities, will suffer, and the economic prosperity and growth of our region will be endangered. Yet the legislative agenda of APS clearly shows a commitment to a blueprint for future annexations without concern for who is harmed.
The DeKalb County School District soundly rejects this overreach and its implications for the future. We recognize that the desires of the Druid Hills community have been ignored. We face the reality that precious resources will be forcibly taken from our students. And, most importantly, we are dismayed that the promise not to change school district boundaries as part of the Emory annexation was broken.”