Wednesday 23 July 2014

Griffin Elementary Parents Accuse School Board of Buckling to Pressure from Kilpatrick Elementary on Rezoning

Monday’s Katy ISD school board meeting had little on the agenda that appeared to be contentious, but that didn’t mean there would be an absence of controversy.

More than 30 parents representing Griffin Elementary took trustees to task over their recent decision to change the attendance boundaries of the school.

Speakers lined up during the public comments portion of the board meeting to challenge the board’s decision and ask trustees to reconsider.

Parents said a last-minute change made by the board to the staff’s rezoning recommendation was “damaging to Griffin, is financially irresponsible and violates the pact made with Katy ISD taxpayers in the (most recent) bond package.”

They also said the board violated its own criteria and procedures in making attendance boundary decisions.

The speakers accused trustees of buckling in to the complaints of a small number of Kilpatrick Elementary parents at the expense of Griffin, which parents said had been “continuously splintered” since the school opened six years ago.

“You, the board of trustees, made a decision to favor a small group of people by leaving them at Kilpatrick without being aware of the splintering situation that has existed at Griffin since we opened our doors in 2006. Approximately 15 – 30 students splinter off from Griffin to Cinco Ranch Junior High each year without having the peer group that you suddenly deemed as an essential need,” one speaker noted. “Somehow, you claimed not to be aware of this fact. It should be a requirement of every board member to know important issues such as these about every school affected by rezoning; you need to look at every situation as a whole and follow your own rules.”

The parents also said trustees refused their request to put their concerns on the board agenda for formal discussion.

“Griffin has attempted to get the required three board members to put this issue back on the agenda, but you were either too afraid of upsetting (Land Use Zone) 75B or 68A, or afraid of what other board members may think and how they would use it to their advantage. As a board, it is your responsibility to make decisions that benefit our children,” another parent said. “By our children, we mean all the children of Katy ISD. You, as the board, cannot make decisions that affect an entire school based on the satisfaction of one LUZ. If you had followed your own rules, we would not have to be standing before you here today.”

One parent also suggested the board of making the last-minute zoning change in response to a “secret” request from residents of the affected land use zones.

“No school should get preferential treatment or be able to secretly request exclusion from rezoning,” the Griffin parent said.

Following the meeting, several Griffin parents told media representatives they “no longer trust” board members to treat the school fairly or make decisions based on criteria trustees themselves establish.

Since the comments were made during the public comments portion of the meeting, board members did not respond to the parents’ comments; however, several trustees met informally with a number of the Griffin representatives to discuss their concerns.

It is unknown whether trustees will reconsider their rezoning decision at a future meeting.

31 Comments

  1. Just Wondering2 says:

    How do you crave up a school district and make everyone happy?

    Answer: You don’t.

    How do you make it fair and get the most from every campus built?

    Answer: Rezone the entire district.

    How do you do this?

    Answer: Start on the eastern edge, roughly Highway 6 and move to the west filling each school to its recommended load and then move to the next one and duplicate the process until you get out west where the problem is.

    Play no favorites, just fill the bucket with those closest to the campus first, then spread out and rest assured someone will be upset. At least the community will know there were on backroom deals, no special treatment given, and no reason why they can’t support the process in general.

    If these parents believe what is quoted above, they won’t have a problem with this.

    Kids will not be harmed if they don’t go with 100% of the same kids from grades K-12. Big deal if they venture to other neighborhood schools. Out here with so many schools, I would be surprised if the travel distance to see their former closest buddy in the whole wide world would be more than a mile, two tops.

    More likely their BFF will have moved anyway.

    • westsidebill says:

      JW:

      You KNOW that THAT kind of common sense is what makes up good (mostly) legal BOT members……just sayin’!

  2. tbd says:

    The Griffin parents are totally on target.

    The school board should reconsider this atrocious decision.

    What was the thinking process involved in approving a plan that left Griffin at about 700 students and Kilpatrick at 1200?

    The school board was given two opportunities to approve a reasonable, if not perfect rezoning plan, but they chose to buckle under the pressure of special interests who had anecdotal complaints with a 5-1 decision!

    Surely three of the board members (Mr. Adams, Mr. Dibrell, Ms. Fox, Mr. Howard, Mr. Huckaby, Mr. Proctor, Mr. Shaw) would agree to put this issue on the agenda so that it can be revisited and corrected. At the very least, those who voted for this seemingly ridiculous plan can have a chance to explain their decision to the public.

    Is this even a tough call?

    • dissappointedparent says:

      tbd

      This is a response to your earlier comments. Had you read my comments completely, I stated the right decision is to make those neighborhoods closets to Griffin to attend Griffin it’s that simple. I do not agree with the allocation of headcount in either school nor did I imply that in any way. I also do not beleive pulling from OKE is the only option. There are other neighborhoods closer to Griffin that attend BH that should be looked at. My comments were simply stating my disaapointment in the manner in which our neighborhood was handled. I completely agree dicisions should not be made on emotions nor should those agruments be presented to the board, that is where my disappointment resides. We were impacted due to another neighborhood’s agrument on safety, loyalty, and parental involvement to OKE. Hard to beleive that impacted the board’s decision. The rezoning should be revisited and corrected to ensure capacity at all schools in accurate.

      • tbd says:

        dissappointedparent,

        We agree that the rezoning needs to be revisited.

        Let’s review the facts. Here are approximate future enrollments with the current plan: Griffin 760, OKE 1200, BH 1031. All the schools are within 2.5 miles of each other. The approximate capacity of each school is 1030. You can’t move students from BH without putting it undercapacity and the only way to move other students into BH would be to take them from Griffin which is undercapacity. Therefore the most sensible thing to do would be to move students from OKE which is overcapacity to Griffin which is undercapacity. Besides, it would be foolish to make changes at three schools when making changes at two schools would get the job done. Why would you even change the BH plan under these circumstances when it is not undercapacity or overcapacity and no growth is expected? Is this too complicated?

        The arguments about safety, loyalty and parental involvement are without merit no matter how passionately presented. What is left is to ensure that schools are properly utilized to the greatest extent possible. Proper utilization of a school is important because it affects the overall education environment. In addition, it is irresponsible to leave OKE overcrowded when an alternative exists. These schools are all close together and they are all good schools.

        The school board should reconsider and adopt one of the more responsible plans that has already been presented to them.

  3. Bill Proctor says:

    Mr. Huckaby and I have already signed a request to put this item on an agenda. We have sent it to a third member in hopes of getting another signature. It is difficult to get items on our agenda because there is a requirement that three board members make the request. If four members discuss an issue, that could be construed as a walking quorum and a violation of the open meetings act. I consulted the Texas Association of School Boards about our policy and I was told “informally” that this is not a good policy. They could issue a statement on our policy if we could get the matter on an agenda. That appears to be a Catch 22.

  4. katywestsider says:

    It is shocking that a public school system would ever consider parent input in the fair rezoning of our KatyISD schools. No parent can be objective when it comes to their own child. That is why there should be zero parent input in the rezoning question, and we need to do what is fair for all of the children.

    • Seeker says:

      Shocking? Really, so the powers that be should ignore more than half its constituency and all of its customers to hear their perspectives? The world would be nice for these board members if they never could hear from parents…after all, they’re the ones that do all the complaining. Wait, here’s an idea…let’s also exclude any taxpayer since we can’t be reasonable about how our money is spent.

      Would you ever make a decision without first questioning the people who would be affected by the decision? Parents should be the first and last to contribute in decisions like these as they have the most at risk.

      Another point…what is “fair” for all kids does not equate to what is “best” for all kids.

  5. Bill Proctor says:

    katywestsider your comment sounds like you believe in a very dictatorial style of government, where the leaders know best. The fact remains that the demographic projections for Griffin show a steady continue to decline. It would be not be prudent to let this school decline to a point to where we consider closing the school in the future. The parents of Griffin did a good job in pointing out the flaws in the process used for their school. Any elected official in the US that is not willing to listen and consider the thoughts of taxpayers should be replaced. I am not saying that the elected official has to agree with the comments but I believe that they have a responsibility to listen. Socialist countries and those run by dictators do not listen to the people.

    You are probably the publisher a blog that constantly berates the new members of the board I would expect no less of you than the comment above.

    Integrity means that when you make a mistake you are willing to admit the mistake. I believe that a mistake was made on the ABM decision on Griffin.

    • Mary McGarr says:

      More of us would sign your petition if those putting it out there would identify themselves. Would YOU sign a petition if you didn’t know who was backing it?

      There are lots of parents who are supporting the Griffin parents. If you ALL vote to throw out the incumbents and/or their handpicked replacements in the May school board election, perhaps this fear of retaliation will go away! Parents shouldn’t be afraid to complain about decisions of the Superintendent or the School Board. They all work for you!

    • VSOM says:

      You really need to update the HISTORY page of your website http://www.concernedparentsandtaxpayersofkatyisd.org/history.html You start with November 2, 2010 then jump to October 2011 and completely leave out all of November and DECEMBER 2011 and only give the January ABM recommendations. You are NOT giving a complete history of the ABM recommendations such as the “FINAL draft recommendation” that was presented to the BOT on December 12th which was the MOST BALANCED over the next 10 years. For example 5 years out, which is numbers they look at, student numbers would be… MGE: 1057, OKE: 1032, and ES33: 1098

      If the group from MGE wants their school to be balanced then they owe it to all Concerned Parents and Tax Payers of Katy ISD to give a COMPLETE history of the ABM recommendations.

      • tbd says:

        VSOM,

        I am at a loss as to why you think the onus is on the parents of MGE to provide the documents necessary for the board to make the correct decision to ensure that OKE and MGE are properly balanced.

        Here is a link to the information you are demanding so that the board can do what it should have done initially.

        http://www.katyisd.org/facilities/Pages/ABM.aspx

        We all seem to agree that this rezoning needs to be revisited as 1200 at OKE while there are only 700 at MGE about 1.5 miles away makes no sense. We can go over all the history, but we still have one school that is overcapacity and one that is undercapacity. There is a way to fix this and the board ought to act to correct it.

  6. katywestsider says:

    I am so sorry that I did not explain my comments and they were misunderstood. I not only voted for the new board members, I applaud them for trying to reverse the Griffin rezoning decision. My comments were about that fact that, three years ago a very small group of parents influenced the KatyISD board to change a rezoning plan that was in the best interest and safety of the majority of the students. I think that parents and taxpyers should be partners with the schools, as long as a few parents with influence do not make decisions for majority of the students. The new board members and candidates are a welcome change for KatyISD.

  7. David says:

    I do understand that no one is ever happy with the all (or any) of the ABM recommendations but where were the parents of Griffin during the last three public workshops and the final meeting. For those of us who not only attended but participated in all 3 workshops and in the final recommendation meeting seems you folks missed your opportunity to help figure this out. Mr Protter – I am amazed that would even consider a change after all of the work you, the other board members and the all of the hundreds of parents have done over the last 4 to 5 months.
    As far as a “small” group of parents – Try over 500… both 75B and 68A all have signed and submitted their petitions.

    • ktparent2 says:

      David it is not a matter of just being unhappy. I will agree that there is always someone unhappy in a rezoning decision. They have purposely left Griffin under capacity. Are you aware of what that means to a school? I would have to guess that you do not understand the full scope of this as most people do not.

      Griffin parents were suprised that the board made the decsion they did that went against admin’s recommendations when they went back to a previous scenario that had been proposed that left Griffin under capacity. The board had rejected that proposal.

    • tbd says:

      David,

      It does not matter if you have one million petitions. The result of your efforts is bad for kids and bad for KISD. We have 1200 students at OKE and only about 700 at MGE which is 1.5 miles away. This is mismanagement and we elect the board to make the right decisions for the whole community instead of bowing to pressure tactics.

      How were the parents of Griffin to know that their elected board would allow their neighbors in 75B and 68A to force such a bad rezoning through political intimidation?

    • divided house says:

      Yes, shame on all those Griffin parents who didn’t show up at the earlier ABM meetings. Shame on all the other Kilpatrick parents whose future zoning was not “in play” and also didn’t show up for the meetings. Shame on KISD tax payers throughout the area who didn’t show up for the meetings. Shame on all of us who didn’t have the foresight to know that the Board was incapable of carrying out their fiduciary obligations with tax payer dollars and responsibilities to optimize KISD assets. This topic has received relatively little publicity until now. However, I suspect that as more parents at directly impacted schools (as well as all KISD tax payers) become aware of it that this will be quite the embarrassment for the Board. As more of our Kilpatrick parents realize that the portables (and resulting chaos associated with overcrowded schools) are here to stay forever, despite the fact that the new elementary schools have been completed and other under utilized schools are in close proximity, we’ll all be forced to wonder how such poor decision making could even be possible.

      It appears sufficient Board members have committed to be one of the three to put this issue back on the agenda for more objective discussion. Yet, I don’t believe that this has actually happened and suspect that the Board members will continue to attempt to appear blameless by saying that procedural requirements prohibited their ability to revisit. So it would seem that we have all “missed out on the opportunity to help figure this thing out” – shame on us all for putting our trust in the Board to do what is right.

      • tbd says:

        It is the board’s responsibility to make the best decision for the community regardless of who shows up to give input. This is a representative government and we have elected board members to act in our stead. They are supposed to make the most responsible decisions, not the most popular.

        It would seem that Mr. Huckaby and Dr. Proctor have committed to renewing the discussion on this matter. If any of the other board members are willing, then it shoud be possible to bring this matter up for discussion. There is no excuse for not correcting this terrible mistake before the election.

    • westsidebill says:

      David, I’ll be blunt. I could care less if you got every single resident in your attendance zones to sign your petition. It’s a petition for a BAD idea that wastes money, resources and facilities. Period. It’s great you want to be involved, but this issue is NOT hard to figure out AT ALL as to which plan should have been recommended. If you’re unhappy with the “fluidity” of students being moved around, you need to live in a static community and not a growing one.

      Again, just because people agree with you doesn’t make your solution a good one for the district overall. Sorry, there’s just no logical reason to keep OKE over capacity and Griffin under – educationally or financially.

  8. David says:

    Sorry I meant Mr. Proctor.

  9. Lynn says:

    I completely understand where the parents of Griffin are coming from. But as a previous commenter stated, where were they are all the meetings???

    Also, what happened to Gunnel looking for a way to use the the open space at Griffin? What about moving or starting an new Immersion Program? Special Ed? ESL? Aren’t there ways to preserve the funds going to Griffin?

    I keep seeing the ABM recommendation from January 23rd being the *go to* recommendation. It looked to me, that the December ABM recommendation actually had the schools more balanced. What about that?

    • ktparent2 says:

      The parents of Griffin were not at the meetings because they agreed that the neighborhoods that were zoned to #33 were a logical move and that they would be given enough students from OKE and that the board would leave the schools balanced. They were not represented because there was not any particular neighborhood they were requesting. They only wanted students for their school.

      As for special programs they have been told by KISD that there will not be any new programs added.

    • westsidebill says:

      Why should they have to go support the idea the administration had already recommended to a BOT that does what they’re told (a majority of members, anyway) by Big Al 99.9% of the time? The original recommendation was the only logical choice educationally and fiscally – yet a bunch other failed to look outside their tiny attendance bubbles and enough BOT members pandered to them that now it’s a mess.

  10. Lynn says:

    In any case, I don’t agree with Griffin being put under capacity. I still think they should have represented themselves at the meetings, but that is neither here nor there now. I was just looking at the recommendations from all the workshops. Is it just me or is the December recommendation the most balanced??? Why is no one going back to that one and seeing it but me?
    http://www.katyisd.org/facilities/Documents/2011/121211_BOARD_ABM.pdf

    • tbd says:

      Lynn,

      It is all well and good for people to represent themselves at meetings, but the community expects the board to make the best decision for the whole community while listening to the input. I do not believe that anyone at any of those meetings told the board to gut the enrollment at Griffin. Since the board previously rejected such a plan according to reports, it would have been reasonable for citizens to assume that this plan was no longer on the table. If I vote for a school board member, then I do not expect to have to attend every planning meeting to make sure they are doing the job we elected them to do.

      I have reviewed both the December recommendation which moves 75B to Griffin and the January recommendation which moves 68A to Griffin. I do not think that one recommendation is obviously better than the other. Either one would do as both restore Griffin to a proper enrollment and provide appropriate relief to Kilpatrick.

      The board ought to correct its error at the next available opportunity.

  11. ktparent2 says:

    The Griffin parents have fought hard to bring to light this bad Board decision, bad on account of it (a) decreasing Griffin to permanently severely under-capacity numbers (if you don’t know about ‘severe’ under-capacity enrollment and the problems it poses, check it out on the web; there are entire school districts across the nation fighting this issue right now, and yet your Board created this on purpose) and damaging the students, parents and teachers that attend Griffin unnecessarily (if you’re not familiar with all the ways this low enrollment (as compared to capacity — and this is the entire point; it’s 1/3 below the built capacity of the school and 1/3 below that of every neighboring school), then check out our website or attend one of our meetings; (b) violating Katy ISD’s own requirements, which is not only the reason why no Griffin parent was — or frankly should have been — involved but should also be repugnant to every taxpayer and parent in Katy, and (c) being a fiscally irresponsible decision and acting as a complete hypocrite to (A) the very premise of the Bond referendum (“we don’t have schools to house your kids, and we need to borrow half a BILLION DOLLARS secured by YOUR TAX MONEY to build more schools….but we won’t use IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT schools that we’ve already built, using prior DEBT secured by your current TAX MONEY, to their fullest….in fact, WE WILL UNDER-ENROLL THEM BY ONE-THIRD to appease a small community complaining about IRRELEVANT PUBLIC CRITERIA) and (B) the lawsuit filed against the State of Texas TEA claiming the State (meaning you and I, as taxpayers) don’t give Katy ISD enough money to provide an adequate education, yet they fail to tell the State they use their existing schools to 100% capacity.

    We hope by bringing the many facets of this bad decision to light that enough people get involved and make a difference.

    Oh, and we are hopeful that the petition we filed this week with the Texas Education Agency (yes, the same agency that KISD has sued) will allow this process to be viewed objectively by unbiased people who truly have the students best interests at heart.

  12. HJ says:

    Well, I also think whether Griffin was promised or not they should have been there for the meetings. All other zones’ representatives were there, where was Griffin? Ultimately, the issue involved Griffin zone too. The other parents and board spent 3-4 months over this issue and now you suddenly get interested in this issue only when it impacted you. That means you are NOT concerned about all KatyISD kids but just about Griffin Funding. When you say that you don’t mind any of the recommendations whether it is December or Jan. works for you,that shows that you are concerned only about your ‘FUNDING’ and not at all concerned about other issues that other parents and kids will be facing…..
    Come to Griffin’s funding and under capacity , Mr. Gunell mentioned in the last ABM meeting that Griffin’s under capacity could be brought up to optimum utilization by ESL, Special ED. Etc.

    • tbd says:

      HJ,

      Let’s be very clear. This is not about funding for Griffin. This is about ensuring proper utilization of schools when rezoning for the purposes of offering optimum educational opportunities to our students. It makes absolutely no sense to leave Griffin undercapacity and Kilpatrick overcapacity given the circumstances. What I wrote was that either the December or the January recommendation was acceptable given that both balanced enrollments at Kilpatrick and Griffin. Partisans from 68A and 75B who have a different agenda could be expected to feel differently about each of the recommendations. Your assumption that I live in the Griffin land use zones is wrong. The conclusion should be the same whether you live in land use zones that are zoned to Griffin or Kilpatrick or some other KISD school if you are properly concerned about utilization of schools as each member of the school board should be.

      Why should our families who have students in the special education, ESL and other special needs populations be dragged from pillar to post because the board wants to keep Kilpatrick overcapacity to pander to the desires of 68A and 75B? This is not right for students of Kilpatrick, Griffin or the special population students.

      The current result would not be acceptable even if parents had talked about it for 10 years so please stop patting yourself on the back about all the work that you did to ensure the lopsided result. I don’t care how much work you did because the product is terrible!

      Could you please stop blaming the parents of Griffin for the bad decision that was made by the school board?

      I hope the school board which is ultimately responsible corrects its error and does it soon because this is terrible for our community and this should have been a 7-0 vote in favor of a recommendation that properly balanced enrollments at Kilpatrick and Griffin.

    • westsidebill says:

      HJ:

      Pretend your a business executive. You have a serious project coming up that’s so important (one significant for the company’s future as well), so you assign two teams to analyze and create a working model for the future project. After viewing them, one model is clearly best for the current situation and solidifies the company for the long-term as well. You choose it.

      However, at the next department meeting, the “losing” team (who will still remained fully employed because of the resolution by the “winning” team) brings in charts and graphs showing you how much overtime/extra effort they put into the project. It doesn’t improve the results of their project, but just tells them how hard they worked.

      Do you change your mind based on that? Because that’s EXACTLY what the BOT did by giving into the OKE crowd.

  13. ktparent2 says:

    TBD is absolutely correct. All of the other LUZ’s were not represented at these meetings. Several in the surrounding area made it clear that their LUZ and their school should not be considered and they were in the immediate area affected. Many parents will tell you and others will confirm that it is all about who you know. HJ the parents of Grifffin are not just concerned about their school. It may be Griffin’s turn this time but everyone will be affected at some point.

    HJ if you read the earlier post you would see that there are no plans for special programs at Griffin over the next several years. Instead admin and the board promise to get things right “the next time”. How many times does Griffin have to hear this. Three elementaries have been started by Griffin with the school losing enough students to start complete schools each time. Griffin recovered each time but the difference is that now there is no chance of growth with new development.

    The parents at Griffin are very concerned about the overcrowding at all campuses. It is not about “funding” for Griffin. Please learn your facts about all of the surrounding schools before attacking the parents at Griffin.

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