The parents, neighbors, teachers, and administrators of Eastvalley Elementary School peppered School Board member David Banks with questions for an hour Wednesday night and did not get a single direct answer.
The Eastvalley community discovered in the East Cobb Patch of Oct.11 that Eastvalley would be consolidated with Powers Ferry Elementary. Banks said the East Cobb school community will be "pleased" with his proposal once they learn the details. The Eastvalley community repeatedly asked Banks for details.
Is this a done deal?
Where is the proposed new school location?
What will happen to the school property?
If this doesn't go through where will the money be spent?
Why the 1,000 student minimum for a new building?
Isn't a school of 1,000, too large for elementary school students?
Why can’t the existing Eastvalley School be
Banks was repeatedly accused by parents of being evasive. He said that he didn't want to speculate. There were variables to be determined. He would love to tell all about some things going on but can’t because of legal problems. He said that he would do what is best not just for Eastvalley but the whole area, except that he couldn't say what that was.
The standing room only crowd in the cafeteria voted unanimously, by a show of hands, their opposition to Banks vague plan. When asked what the reason for the plan was, Banks answered “the taxpayers”. It was soon mentioned that everyone in the cafeteria paid school taxes except David Banks. He didn't dispute the fact that he voluntarily takes the Senior School Tax Exemption (better known in Cobb as the poor little old widow woman on a fixed income exemption) but said he paid sales taxes which partly fund the Education-SPLOST. Banks has also proposed a further reduction of his property taxes with a constitutional amendment that would allow for a 1% Education sales tax with the proviso that property taxes be reduced by about 30%.
Many parents said they worked hard to get the SPLOST passed with its long list of specific projects that Banks seemed to be ignoring. The community was fearful that their neighborhood school could be bulldozed like Franklin Road properties and Banks suggested that eventually it could possibly be sold to the neighboring Baptist church.
Banks did not arrive a minute early for the meeting that started at 6:30 and left promptly when it was over at 7:30.
What little news came from Banks was troubling and short on specifics. He suggested that some of East Cobb’s school students could be consolidated into Teasley in Smyrna. The East Cobb students closest to Smyrna are mostly minority students and this would be a re-segregation plan that would make East Cobb schools whiter. Eastvalley parents said that a 1,000 student elementary school would be intolerable for their children. If Eastvalley got a reprieve and only Brumby and Powers Ferry students would be forced into a new bloated school in Smyrna, Eastvalley might be tempted to sacrifice their poorer neighbors. Some Eastvalley parents asked if the new school would be a Title 1 school which would mean many poor minority children in the new consolidated school who would dilute the quality of their mostly white middle class school. Perhaps David Banks is counting on Eastvalley self-interest to trump doing the right thing
Banks didn't say where his idea came from. Eastvalley’s school board “representative” apparently didn't ask anyone (that he would admit to) in advance about his proposal. Banks said that he told the principal of Powers Ferry Elementary but I was informed that the principal first learned about it when Banks presented the idea to the school board. He did say that the new school would be in the current attendance zone.
David Banks first got elected by being the most conservative candidate in the Republican primary. Why is the school board partisan? Without partisan elections, David Banks couldn't get elected dog catcher. Not one person on the school board could get elected in a non-partisan election. Most counties in Georgia have non-partisan school boards. Why is this so important? As someone once said the biggest pot of money in Cobb County is the county school budget and those who control school taxes and school spending aren't going to give up that power without a fight.
Outside of East Cobb are school board members talking about David Banks plans? Do they have plans of their own? Do they have regular town hall meetings?