The AJC is reporting that "After four hours of arguing, accusations of racism and one member storming out, the Citizens Planning Task Force voted Thursday night that no school should close."
The DeKalb school board appointed the task force to review data and recommend the closure of four elementary schools at the end of the school year. The closings, which had to be approved by the board, were needed to help offset an anticipated $115 million deficit, board members said.
Instead, the task force took several votes Thursday night and decided to give the job to the school board.
“We’re considering closing schools in areas that involve very high-risk students, students from high-risk situations, single parents, some living with grandparents and a lot on free lunch programs,” task force member Charles Hill said. “I don’t feel right. I’m not comfortable with that. It just don’t feel right in my heart.”
While the majority of the 20 task force members said they wanted no schools closed, they also decided to send the board the list of 10 schools that were under consideration.
“If any board member has forced any citizen to do their work in hurting our children and to hide behind our task force, that person is unfit to serve on our school board,” task force member Bruce McMillian said. “Here board, you decide which four schools should close.”
Last month, board member H. Paul Womack said as many as a dozen schools need to be closed over the next two years to save money and get rid of empty seats. State funding formulas favor schools with at least 450 students.
“If you all can’t do it, this committee will make the recommendation,” Womack said to the task force last month. “We’ve tried to be transparent by involving citizens of DeKalb County.”
Task force member Don Broussard agreed. He and one or two other members spent Thursday night encouraging the task force to close the four schools. At one point, he stormed off.
“I want to thank the task force for making the last two months a colossal waste of time,” he said after the vote.
For More: Maureen Downey at the AJC Get Schooled blog has an excellent blog post on the subject.