Parents taken aback by plan to merge two Cobb schools
by Hannah Morgan
October 22, 2013 12:02 AM | 7399 views | 14 14 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Cobb Board of Education member David Banks shocked parents and school administrators with his proposal to merge Powers Ferry and Eastvalley elementary schools at a board meeting earlier this month.

As the board began discussions on how to select the two elementary schools that will be rebuilt within the next few years with SPLOST IV funds, Banks came to the table with his own solution — to merge two schools.

Board Chair Randy Scamihorn said Banks’ idea of merging two schools was not a surprise, and that he had mentioned to Scamihorn that he was working on a merger proposal, although the identities of the two schools involved were not mentioned until the board meeting.

Banks said Powers Ferry Elementary School, just off of Powers Ferry Road and South Marietta Parkway, is over 60 years old, and needs to be rebuilt, as does Eastvalley Elementary, off of Lower Roswell Road and Holt Road.

New schools require 15 acres of land to be built, and Powers Ferry does not have the space to do that, he said.

“If we built a new school, it would accommodate 1,000 students,” Banks said. “If we did Powers Ferry by itself, it would automatically be under capacity by a large amount,” so it would make sense to merge these two schools into one.

Banks said he had not been in much contact with the schools before he proposed the merger, and came up with the idea on his own.

“I did not see this merge coming,” said Powers Ferry Elementary Principal Rattana Inthirathvongsy.

As of Sept. 5, his school had 442 students, he said, and the school can hold 459 students.

Inthirathvongsy had emailed Banks with concerns he had about needed repairs for his school, but had not requested a rebuild, he said.

“My building is very old and it needs a lot of attention, but it depends on the board and what they are going to do,” with deciding what schools will get rebuilt, he said.

Parents at Eastvalley shared Inthirathvongsy’s surprise.

“It was a sudden thing,” said Eric Stein, an Eastvalley parent of two.

Stein was involved in quickly rounding up the support of parents and creating a Facebook page for the proposed merger, Eastvalley Elementary Advocacy Alliance, which had more than 100 “likes” as of Monday evening.

“We are generally opposed to the idea in principle, but we are open to listening to the proposal,” Stein said.

The Facebook page links to a prepared letter that Stein and other parents are signing and will send to board members, “so that the board recognizes the unity, cohesion and singularity of purpose that we have,” reads the last post by Eastside Elementary Advocacy Alliance.

“Sure, what school wouldn’t want to be rebuilt,” he said, as the school is at least 50 years old, but the school has had recent construction that has helped it function smoothly.

Eastvalley has recently installed a new HVAC system, new ceilings, new electrical equipment, a new gym floor and new lighting throughout the school, he said.

The parents at Eastvalley are content with the school’s size, about 675 students, he said, because it makes it easy for parents and students to become close with the administration. Any bigger and the school would lose that feel, which is what many parents love about Eastvalley, he said.

“We don’t want a bigger school; 1,200 students is ridiculous,” he said, admitting there were other schools that needed an immediate rebuild, citing Brumby Elementary, Harmony Leland Elementary and Mountain View Elementary.

“In an ideal world, Eastvalley would be rebuilt, however, there are considerably more deserving schools in the area,” Stein said.

In the past few months, other county elementary schools have been vocal at board meetings, with parents, business owners and students showing up in large numbers and complaining of leaking roofs, moldy classrooms and overcrowded classrooms.

Brumby Elementary School, Mountain View Elementary School and Harmony Leland Elementary have been especially active in campaigning for their schools to be chosen to be rebuilt with the SPLOST IV funds, inviting board members to visit the schools and showing pictures at board meetings.

Although a list of the proposed schools has not yet been disclosed, board member Scott Sweeney assured parents at Brumby Elementary School last week that Brumby was “on the list” to be considered for a rebuild.

No other board members brought proposals to the meeting.

The board is expected to be given a list of the schools to choose from to rebuild at its meeting this Thursday, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the board room, at 514 Glover St., Marietta.

Comments
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Papermill gal
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October 28, 2013
Banks is a nutcase and in his small world of just a few "players" he thinks he's da bomb. Look at his "oh, I can't divulge details right now" thing....he thought he was bringing some great secret to parents but he misjudged the situation completely.

Poor judgment, bad ideas, condescending attitude when opposed, doesn't do his homework...simply too old and disconnected from school aged kids to do the job. Let's minimize the damage this clown is going to do in the next few years.
Old East Marietta
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October 26, 2013
First, the property that Powers Ferry sits on was given to the school district with the stipulation that it be used as a school. If the property ceases to be used as a school, ownership reverts back to the donors and/or their heirs.

I doubt that Mr. Banks knows this. Or maybe he does and would like to see the programs now housed at Hawthorne and Fitz relocated here to a more central location.

Secondly, all east Marietta parents should understand that making this work would definitely require redistricting of at least Powers Ferry, Eastvalley, Brumby, and Sedalia Park elementary schools.

Then again, a good redistricting plan, including all East Cobb schools, might solve a lot more problems than just the ones mentioned.

Candor
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October 23, 2013
Let's be honest here, folks. The parents at the more affluent (and more white) East Valley ES understandably don't want to merge their school with the less affluent (and more minority) Brumby ES. It doesn't make them bad people or bigots. It just means they understand that schools are only as "good" as the students who attend there, and that student achievement has a very high correlation to parent income and parent education levels.
EV parent
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October 23, 2013
First, Brumby is not the correct school for the merger (read the article). Secondly, Eastvalley has an extremely diverse population. You should come to our yearly International Night and see the 20-30 countries represented by our student body. We celebrate diversity. I know something about this because my child is a minority and we have never had an issue with anyone at Eastvalley. Eastvalley is not opposed to this to avoid a merger, we are opposed because Eastvalley is an awesome school. We love the community feel and the closeness we enjoy in a smaller school setting where students are cared for. We are also opposed to a mega-elementary where there are too many students to make personal connections. Almost every teacher, cafeteria worker, and custodian knows my child's name (even teachers who have never taught her). You cannot get that type of a quality education in an elementary with over 1000 kids. We have a great situation and we do not need to fix something that is not broken!
KR1962
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October 23, 2013
The proposed merger is between East Valley ES and Powers Ferry ES, not East Valley ES and Brumby ES. Go back and reread the article.
Parent and Taxpayer
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October 23, 2013
Candor; You are misinformed. Eastvalley ES is highly diverse, and far more minority than you probably realize. The main issue is school size and love for the atmosphere it provides. Just having a new big building for the sake of it does not appear to be proper stewardship of Cobb's tax dollars.
Pete152
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February 05, 2014
I have not heard anything about Sope Creek ES. SCES is the most affluent in the county and the silence about it makes me think of the Braves.
jonoyoung
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October 22, 2013
The details are not in the open yet. What I do know is that Eastvalley ES is a GEM of a school. Should Cobb taxpayers vote to combine all elementary schools that have less than 1000 students? No. just because the building (Eastvalley) is old, doesn't mean it has to disappear. SPLOST has already paid for tons of HVAC, new ceilings, lighting, walkway canopies, etc., in just the last few years. If you're going to raise extra tax money, put it where it needs to go; don't just build something because you can. Small schools promote better education; It's a fact.

east marietta
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October 22, 2013
Something should be done about the four Wheeler-zoned elementry schools of Powers Ferry, Eastvalley, Sedalia Park and Brumby. The answer is more complex than the Banks proposal, as Powers Ferry and Eastvalley attendance zones do not even border. It would take a complete redistricting overhaul of the area, which could further justify rebuilding Brumby.
Typical CobbResident
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October 22, 2013
I'm not sure what's going on here and I'm certain to remain uninformed but what I do know is that it involves Cobb County schools so I'm automatically opposed.
just wait
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October 22, 2013
Just wait till Banks decides to promote redistricting of some of the Walton kids into the Sprayberry district as he was attempting to do last year. Where does this guy come up with these ideas??? Crooks maybe?
anonymous
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October 22, 2013
Typical Banks. Please do not complain, we just reelected him and will have to live with this poor decision for years.
Funny Stuff !
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October 22, 2013
So, without consulting the community, Banks floats a trial balloon about schools merging. Why is anyone shocked? This is Bank's routine procedure.

He originally campaigned on a traditional calendar platform, and you all know how that turned out.

By the way, if there is a minimum of 15 acres required for an elementary school, they'll need a new site for those two schools to be combined. It's likely that neither have more than 8 acres of land.

M Sollicito
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October 23, 2013
I hate to say I told you so but I campaigned hard against david banks getting re elected. He even had a school merger in his proposal when he was elected. Whoever re elected him and refused to support a decent alternative option, this is what you get for not being PROACTIVE and doing something to change things. David Banks has a long history of erratic ideas and behavior, of upsetting parents and schools. Why did you vote for him..? Or why didn't you support actions to prevent his reelection? I'm fed up with being told to be respectful towards a guy who clearly doesn't respect my kids needs for a good education with minimal disruption. This guy needs to GO! He cares more about money and budgets than kids educations and yet he campaigns to keep schools open in early August, even though the air conditioning costs alone are so huge to keep the schools open at those times that we cannot afford core curriculum math books! Crazy! End of rant
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