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Hardin opposes panel idea

January 10, 2002

Hardin opposes panel idea



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


Washington County School Board member J. Herbert Hardin said he opposes a community redistricting panel's recommendation that would send wealthier students from Potomac Heights and Paramount elementary schools to Fountaindale Elementary School in an attempt to balance the percentage of poor students at Fountaindale.

He said the potential move is unfair, would have a negative effect on the youngsters from both schools and that the Potomac Heights and Paramount students would be used as a "tool" to boost test scores at Fountaindale.

"If there's a segment of people who are being used to improve a school, that bothers me," Hardin said at a Tuesday meeting. "It's not going to be beneficial to both parties."

Blue Ribbon Redistricting Committee co-Chair Scott Nicewarner said Wednesday socioeconomic balancing was just one reason for the recommendation to move students to Fountaindale.

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"It wasn't even the first reason," Committee member Jenny Belliotti said.

Belliotti said the main reason for the recommendation to send the Potomac Heights students to Fountaindale was to clear the way at Potomac Heights for 42 Eastern Elementary School students, which would help decrease overcrowding at Eastern.

Nicewarner said the students living in the section of the Paramount district that may be redistricted had attended Fountaindale before the last redistricting process six years ago, and this recommendation would return students from that area to Fountaindale. It would also free up space at Paramount to accommodate an expected enrollment growth there over the next several years, school officials said.

Hardin said Wednesday that if the School Board is going to consider socioeconomic balancing at Fountaindale, it should consider it at all county schools.

"To me, taking some out of one school and sending them to another school is not always the right answer," Hardin said. "To look at one school is sort of not equity and sort of not fair."

School Board member Roxanne Ober echoed Hardin's claims.

"If we're going to look at socioeconomic balancing, I think we have to analyze the whole county, which is our job," Ober said. "We need to see if there's a way to balance the whole county."

Under the committee's proposals, 38 Potomac Heights students from Oak Hill Avenue and Hamilton Boulevard and 25 Paramount Elementary students would be sent to Fountaindale next school year.

Nicewarner said the socioeconomic balancing of Fountaindale would raise test scores at that school and lower the percentage of students receiving free and reduced meals.

Hardin said the recommendation would increase class size at Fountaindale, which would decrease the quality of education. He said he hopes the School Board considers his concerns.

"I think it's probably not going to be taken seriously," Hardin said. "I haven't made my message heard."

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