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Do Tucker's Schools Serve Tucker Children?

Many parents in Tucker are frustrated with the school system in DeKalb County right now.  While there is nothing new about  upset parents here, there is a new undercurrent brewing in this Central DeKalb region and it's related to the movement for incorporation that started with a group called the Lakeside City Alliance.
Lakeside is a high school that was actually built in 1964 to relieve overcrowding at two schools:  Briarcliff High School (which has since been closed and sits vacant on North Druid Hills and Briarcliff Road in Atlanta) and Tucker High School (which has been torn down and completely rebuilt but still sits in the same location as it did when it was first built more than 100 years ago).  

Briarcliff and Tucker served vastly different populations when they opened.  One was for the "city" kids and the other was for the farm kids.  As the areas were both growing closer to one another, the need for an additional building was apparent as the baby boom generation marked a huge growth in population.  

Over time, the farms were sold and the land used for commercial property, local businesses and large, residential subdivisions of middle American homes.  These homes and the associated small elementary schools that served kindergarten through 8th grade, were the bedrock of DeKalb's family-oriented reputation and a big appeal for those who wanted to work downtown but live in greener parts.  Keeping the small town values and image in tact, many adults living here today grew up in the schools you see all around you, tucked into quiet corners of communities where kids could walk to school together, play together after school and grow up with a sense of pride for where they came from.  

Fast Forward to Today

So, what is it like for parents moving to Tucker today?  Does the community still base its pride on its small town image or are they continuing to grow and expand, creating opportunities for new areas to be born, much like it helped create the need for "Lakeside" to be built  50 years ago this year?

"Why is our neighborhood school not serving our neighborhood children?" was one of the questions raised at a meeting held in the Brockett Heights community last month.  School Board Member Karen Carter was a featured speaker that evening, along with Commissioner Kathie Gannon.   Carter spoke about changes that would be rolled out by the current school board and its leader, Superintendent Michael Thurmond.

 While the subject of illegal immigration has been all over the national news and discussed in the press, it appears to be one that DeKalb County school officials have little to say about.  The impact of non-English speaking children on our schools is not one that the school system clearly measures and often does not plan very well for, either.  Just look at the reports about the long lines of parents outside the central office, trying to register their children for school and feeling they had no choice but to camp outside in order to secure a spot in this school year.  Where are these families coming from?  Who is bringing them here?  What schools will their children attend and how will the children of those who own property here now, who pay high property taxes mostly to fund the school system, be affected?

Lakeside and Tucker share one political district when it comes to the school board and right now that seat belongs to Jim McMahan who was re-elected for a four year term.  He also missed more meetings last year than any other board member and his children are in line to attend Lakeside High School, so we must understand that he will never see any decisions regarding Tucker / Lakeside in an unbiased manner.  But, there is another thing about his position on the school board that is troublesome.  He is also on Lee May's city task force.  And,   Tucker's own city group leader, Michelle  Penkava, who has also run the Tucker Parent Council for several years, was McMahan's financial manager for his 2012 campaign.  McMahan lives in Sagamore Hills and Penkava is in the Livsey district, so we have at least one clear Tucker / Lakeside allegiance right there.

How did these two meet?  How far back does the "working relationship" go?  

What promises are being made between them since they are both heavily involved in school politics and both are now heavily involved in city politics as well?  How can they be on the same team for the schools and be on opposite sides when it comes to the city debate?  Aren't the two subjects really tied together considering that Lakeside IS a school?

And what happens when you try to ask questions about how, exactly, the Tucker Parent Council, is looking out for the Tucker community and its children?  If you ask when does the Council hold its meetings or who are the officers and when do they vote for new officers?  How do they vote on issues right now?  Why was it okay for Penkava to put the weight of the Parent Council behind the Save Livsey effort but ignore the pleas from Brockett and Smoke Rise to stop the Lakeside cell towers from coming?  Why was it overlooked that she spoke up for the Druid Hills Charter Cluster at a board meeting, when it has nothing to do with Tucker or Tucker's schools, yet she ignored a big issue about missing textbooks and overcrowding at Tucker High School?

How can Tucker's biggest advocate also be a campaign advocate for a Lakeside area resident who was running against the current Lakeside board member and TWO Tucker candidates?  Why is it okay to choose sides in that case, but we're told all our Tucker Civic groups cannot advocate for or against anything because of their non-profit status?

And, why did Penkava back McMahan at all when it was well known that the current board member at the time had worked "behind the scenes" to help her save Livsey?  Did she and Womack have a "falling out?"  Or, is it more likely that he introduced her to McMahan, who was hand selected to be Womack's replacement and carry the Lakeside torch for another decade or longer?

Politics become a lot more clear and a lot easier to understand when you simply follow the money.  There is a lot of money being paid into our school system and a lot of very high home values resting on the notion that some schools are far superior to others.  When you have people who are invested in real estate during desperate times, or who work in industries that depend on a recovering real estate market, you should remember the connection between home values and school performance and perceived superiority in this county.   And then we should all work very hard to keep those people as far away from the decision making process in our school system as possible.  Not because they are bad people or have bad intentions, but simply because all children deserve a decent, quality education.  And they shouldn't have their future tied to someone's poor investment strategy or someone else's attempt to get a good  paying job with some perks and a P-card.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, this is Tucker High School.   So, again, we ask... Do Tucker's Schools Serve Tucker Children?  Tell us what you think in the comments, or at www.facebook.com/SaveTuckerFromLakesideCity.

Student Body

Class

These details on the school's student body are based on data reported to the government.
AmericanIndianAsianBlackHawaiianHispanicWhiteTwo or moreraces9th Grade10th Grade11th Grade12th Grade0150300450600Student Enrollment
Total Enrollment 1,629
9th Grade 545 Students
10th Grade 429 Students
11th Grade 303 Students
12th Grade 352 Students

Student Diversity

This is the breakdown of ethnicity and gender of a school's student body, based on data reported to the government.

Ethnicity/Race

Total Minority Enrollment (% of total) 89%
American Indian/Alaskan Native Enrollment (% of total) 0.2%
Asian Enrollment (% of total) 10%
Black Enrollment (% of total) 68%
Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander (% of total) 0.1%
Hispanic Enrollment (% of total) 8%
White Enrollment (% of total) 11%
Two or More Races Enrollment (% of total) 2%

Gender

Male (% of total) 52%
Female (% of total) 48%

Economically Disadvantaged Students

These are the percentages of the school's students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, based on data reported to the government.
Free Lunch Program (% of total) 57%
Reduced-Price Lunch Program (% of total) 6%
Total Economically Disadvantaged (% of total) 63%



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