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Augustine community meeting 3/19: completely caught off-guard by redistricting options

About 85 people showed up at the Augustine North annual community meeting tonight, most of whom were there to hear Wendy Maurer and Patricia Healy, Rockhill Reps on the BoS and SB respectively, discuss the Forge redistricting issue. BTW has been surprised by the lack of involvement at the various meetings from this large community, which is listed to be moved to Mountain View in 2 of the 7 options (although it's only really 6 options, since options 2 and 5 are identical.) Neither the Rockhill Town meeting nor the public hearing had many from the neighborhood step up to voice their opinions while neighborhoods like Embrey Mill, Amyclae and Berkshire had excellent representation. It seemed very strange indeed that so few people from Augustine were interested in this potentially huge change to their community. Why would they not care?

If the reaction from those in attendance at tonight's meeting is any indication, they absolutely DO care. To understand why this community is only now getting involved in the redistricting issue, we have to go back to the beginning. As you may recall, on January 26th there was a community meeting at Colonial Forge (pictured below) to get input from parents about the redistricting issue. This meeting was the first of it's kind for Stafford. During previous redistricting initiatives, the School Board would typically assemble committees of school administrators, community leaders and parents to determine what options should be considered. This new approach brought the discussion out from behind closed doors and involved the community in a more direct way, something BTW is all in favor of. BTW has access to the information that was gathered at the meeting, which consist of notes from each "Table" of people at the meeting and a spreadsheet that breaks down what neighborhoods each table thought should move. To access these documents, click the links HERE and HERE.

However, it seems that some confusion happened, at least within the Augustine North community. The meeting was an information gathering session only and did not eliminate any neighborhoods from being considered. Apparently, many Augustine residents in attendance left that meeting with the feeling that their neighborhood would not be considered as part of this redistricting. BTW was not at that meeting so it's a little unclear how these lines got crossed. We discussed this with Ms. Healy and she stated that when the SB got the information back from the various tables, many participants had gone outside the directions they were given as to what neighborhoods and schools to consider. This indicates that the participants might not have been really clear on why they were there in the first place. Regardless, Augustine North residents got a false sense of security from the meeting and as a result, they did not feel it was necessary to attend the latter meetings about the issue. Even after the SB Options were announced on February 24th, Augustine remained relatively silent and inadvertently gave the impression that they were fine with being moved to MVHS.

They are not, not at all. A lot of anger was vented at the meeting regarding what those in attendance felt was a blatant disregard of the input they spent so much time cultivating for the SB on January 26th. Many raised the question as to why such a session existed in the first place, if the SB was just going to ignore the participants recommendations. Again and again, people expressed their frustration about being included in any of the options when they had the clear impression that they would not be. Patricia Healy took a lot of heat for that tonight but she did make it explicitly clear that she would not endorse any option that would move Augustine North, Amyclae or Berkshire.

For those keeping track, that means Ms. Healy will not support Options 1, 3, 4 or 6. Since Options 2 and 5 are exactly the same, Ms. Healy will recommend either 2/5 or 7 to the SB for approval. Even though Ms. Healy stressed she is only one vote on the board, her opinion will likely carry more water with the SB since she is one of the 3 SB Reps who has constituents affected by the redistricting, the others being Chairwoman Hazard in the Hartwood District and Mr. Connelly in the Garrisonville district. When SB Falmouth Rep Scott Hirons answered some questions submitted by BTW, he indicated that he would give more weight to the reps from affected areas and rely on them to help guide his decision. It's only logical that the rest of the reps would feel the same way. This should make the folks at the Augustine North meeting tonight feel a bit better, especially since Garrisonville Rep Connelly indicated a willingness to allow Embrey Mill North (EMN) to head to NSHS, at least at the last work session. It is in 6 of the 7 options, after all. It's unclear whether that attitude will change now that the EMN community has mobilized against a move.

The Augustine North community is now forced to try to play catch up to make sure their voices are heard by the SB. Based on the mobilization of those at the meeting tonight, the SB should expect a rather large petition from the Augustine residents asking the SB to remove the neighborhood from consideration. We also expect quite a few Augustine residents to speak at the meeting on Tuesday night.

If you have an opinion about the CFHS redistricting, please contact the SB right away. Find all the contact info for the SB HERE. BTW will be at both the SB work session at 5PM March 21st, this upcoming Tuesday and the following SB meeting at 7PM. Both meetings will be at the Bandy complex, otherwise known as the SCPS Central Office. There are no comments from the public at the work session but comments are taken at the meeting, keep that in mind if you are planning on attending the sessions. If you plan of attending either meeting and would like to share your feelings on BTW, please come find me. I will be the one with the blue laptop, tapping furiously away.