The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 6, 2013

Parent group to attempt to formulate redistricting plan for Joplin schools

JOPLIN, Mo. — A group of parents who are unhappy with the Joplin School District’s proposal to redraw school attendance zones and change the middle schools into which some elementary schools feed plan to write their own proposal to present to administrators.

Patrick Martucci, one of the organizers, said the dozen parents who attended the group’s first meeting Tuesday were there because “we don’t agree with the current plan or we don’t know if we agree with it.” He said all members of the Board of Education had been invited; board member Jim Kimbrough attended.

The plan as proposed by the district would redraw some of the district’s attendance zones, which designate the schools that students attend based on their addresses. About 200 current elementary students would be rezoned to different elementary schools next year. It also would redirect elementary students at Cecil Floyd, Royal Heights, Kelsey Norman and Emerson schools to different middle schools and would introduce a permit option at the middle school level.

Superintendent C.J. Huff said that proposal was drafted by a committee of principals and parents from each school with the assistance of an outside firm, Business Information Services. The committee had met earlier on Tuesday, at the school board’s request, to review its steps and gather more feedback from parents.

“That group (the original committee) indicated they felt comfortable with the proposal that was presented,” Huff said. “This group that’s come together, if they have a proposal that they think will work better, we will entertain that.”

The parent group said it hoped to have its own plan ready to present to the district by next week, when school officials will hold several information sessions for parents at affected elementary schools. They said they would draft a plan based on the same priorities that had been identified by the redistricting committee, which include balancing middle school numbers, keeping closeness between students’ homes and schools, and affecting the fewest number of students possible.

Organizer Jennifer Martucci said Tuesday that the group’s next steps were to gather population projections from the city as well as specific enrollment data and school building capacity numbers from the district. She said her group’s proposal would likely suggest changes to elementary school boundaries without changing which middle schools into which  elementary schools now feed.

“We’re moving forward trying to put together good information, and I see us coming up with options — not just one plan, but more than one to give the board more things to think about,” she said.

Patrick Martucci, who is an attorney, said he would pursue that information from the school district through the state’s Sunshine Law. The law specifies that meetings, records, votes and actions of public governmental bodies be open except in certain circumstances. Action taken by entities that have been found by a court to have violated the Sunshine Law can be declared void, Martucci said.

Huff said Wednesday that district officials were working to fulfill Martucci’s request in a timely manner.

Several parents from Cecil Floyd, many of whom were at the Tuesday meeting, have been the most outspoken against the district’s plan. They have said it moved too quickly through the administration, and that it lacked sufficient parent involvement and feedback. A few also said they were unhappy that their children would attend North Middle School instead of South Middle.

Patrick Martucci said the group is neither “a bunch of gripey parents” nor made up entirely of parents from Cecil Floyd; instead, it’s a group of parents who want to give the school board other ideas for redistricting, he said.

Next meeting

The parent group will meet at 7 p.m. today at the Joplin Family Y South, 3404 W. McIntosh Circle Drive. The meeting is open to the public.

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