DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- Some DeKalb County parents have hired a high-powered attorney and tell Channel 2 Action News they plan to sue the school board if part of a redistricting plan is approved Monday night.
Attorney Lee Parks told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik he's representing a large group of Dunwoody parents who are concerned the board will redraw attendance lines to segregate two schools, Vanderlyn and Austin Elementary. And, Parks alleges that DeKalb School Board member Nancy Jester wants it that way.
"When you peel back the curtain, it’s creating two white schools," said Parks. "I think the new board member, Ms. Jester, thinks that’s some sort of political mandate that she got when she was elected.”A decentralized plan presented by an outside consultant earlier this year removed children living in apartment complexes along Ashford-Dunwoody Road from Vanderlyn and Austin, moving them instead to Dunwoody Elementary School.
Parks and others said that would allow only children living in single-family homes to attend the highly-coveted schools. Last month, interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson tweaked the plan and moved students from one apartment complex back into Vanderlyn. But, Parks said he fears Jester will reverse the lines.
"I think they (the school board) ought to stop, step back, take a deep breath and say 'wait a minute,'" said Parks. "We have a school board member that’s become way too involved for all the wrong reasons in this redistricting process."
Parks said he filed open records requests with the district to see Jester's board-related e-mails. He showed Petchenik one in which Jester asked Tyson to leave one particular neighborhood, The Branches, at Austin Elementary.
The e-mail also told Tyson that Dunwoody parents were "almost universally" behind the decentralized plan. Parks showed Petchenik a petition signed by more than 1,200 parents opposing decentralization and resolutions from several school councils expressing the same sentiment.
“This is a board whose accreditation is hanging by a thread, people are off getting indicted," he said. "Their plate’s full. And if they hear that four out of the five schools impacted are ok with it, it takes the tension level down. Well, no one’s ok with it.”
Petchenik confronted Jester about the allegations. She admitted to reaching out to the interim superintendent, but said all board members were encouraged to give feedback. “I certainly provided input, but that’s not meddling," Jester said.
Jester told Petchenik that she believed the consensus in the community was to support some form of the decentralized plan. She said she never took race, socio-economic status or housing into consideration during the process. She said she's only considering geography and school capacity in making decisions about redistricting.
“I simply want the most efficient use of resources for our school system," she said. "We have got to redistrict and consolidate and it’s not going to be perfect for everybody.”
Jester also denied ever intervening on behalf of friends or supporters in an effort to protect them from the process.
"That's simply not the case," she told Petchenik.