3/22/16 Petition opposing Western High redistricting nears 1,500 signatures

Petition opposing Western High redistricting nears 1,500 signatures
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 3/22/16    
Reprinted with permission.      

   In four days, the petition “Say No to Western Alamance High School Redistricting” got close to 1,500 supporters.

   According to the petition on Change.org  , the “concerned families and voters of Western Alamance High School” oppose the redistricting because it unfairly targets Western and favors Williams High School by moving a larger percentage of Western’s wealthier white students to Williams.

   According to the petition, Western would lose 34.4 percent of its “current student population in order to gain the majority of Cummings High students who will be displaced by the dissolution of Cummings as a traditional high school, as well as some of Williams and Graham students that will be redistricted.”

   Western would have the largest change in its zone and student body of any school remaining a traditional high school, according to the petition, and with 1,604 students projected, according to the Alamance-Burlington School System, will be the biggest school in the district.

   The proposal would favor Williams, which the petition points out is already getting a prestigious International Baccalaureate program, by sending Williams “the most socioeconomically affluent in Burlington and their ‘resources.’”

   “Demographics appear to be the main driving force, not just a factor in redistricting Western, as approximately 30 percent of the current Caucasian socioeconomically affluent student population will be sent to Williams,” the petition reads.

   The petition also points out Williams is closer to both Cummings and Graham high schools than Western.

   According to Change.  org  , “Western Alamance High School Redistricting Opposition” started the petition, but no names were attached to that organization on the website. Three people commented on the petition giving their names and the towns where they live; all three were local, according to the site. Fifteen more were named as supporters, though their locations were not given.

   According to the site’s privacy policy, people have had the option to withhold their names when they “sign” petitions since October from everyone, but the ones starting the petition and in some cases the ones receiving it.

   The proposed redistricting would divide ABSS into five wedge-shaped high school districts: Western, Eastern and Southern Alamance high schools, as well as Williams and a new high school yet to be built.

   Cummings and Graham high schools would be converted into magnet schools, possibly an arts academy and trade school.

   The first draft of the proposal from ABSS Superintendent Bill Harrison was for a seven-high school district. While it alleviated overcrowding at Southern, it left the old city and county school district lines in place, and left concentrations of poverty in urban schools — Cummings, Graham and increasingly Williams — and the unequal resources that go with them.

   With the encouragement of the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education and a joint taskforce of the board and the County Board of Commissioners, Harrison came back with a proposal to do away with the old lines and start from scratch.

   Harrison has said ABSS will hold public forums on the proposal in April or May.