Photo by Jon Anderson
Hoover school rezoning meeting 10-19-15
At least 65 people showed up for the third preliminary Hoover school rezoning meeting at Deer Valley Elementary School in Hoover, Ala., on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.
Trace Crossings Elementary School was the “elephant in the room” tonight at the third of five preliminary meetings being held this month and next month to discuss Hoover school rezoning.
Numerous parents who came to the meeting at Deer Valley Elementary School complained about the possibility of their children being pulled out of Deer Valley to attend Trace Crossings, though many chose not to mention the Trace Crossings name.
They specifically chose to live in the Deer Valley school zone because Deer Valley has strong test scores and good ratings on websites that rate school systems, several parents said.
For example, Deer Valley is rated a 10 out of 10 on the GreatSchools website, while Trace Crossings is rated 5 out of 10.
Many parents expressed concerns about the traffic they would have to drive through to get to Trace Crossings, but Dhiraj Sharma, a Deer Valley parent who lives in Lake Cyrus, said he would drive to any part of town as long as the school provided a quality education. Parents are concerned about what their children would get at Trace Crossings, he said.
Another parent said Trace Crossings is underperforming for a reason, and parents are taking their children out of Trace Crossings for a reason. School officials need to address the root problem, several parents said.
Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy said Trace Crossings could be suffering from a perception problem.
“I think there are some perceptions that are out there, and I don’t think those perceptions are correct,” Murphy said. “There’s not a school in this district I would not put my children in.
“There are just some really great things happening in all of our schools. The same is true of Trace Crossings,” Murphy said.
The superintendent said Trace Crossings Principal Carol Barber has worked gallantly to make improvements at her school, and Murphy said she is proud of the work being done there.
Another parent said perceptions are one thing, but facts are another, referring to standardized test scores. “It’s very clear what schools are performing better,” he said.
Barber, who was present at tonight’s meeting at Deer Valley, encouraged any parents who have concerns about the quality of education being offered there to visit the school instead of relying on website ratings.
“Sometimes test scores don’t accurately reflect everything that’s going on in that school,” Barber said. “I’m very proud of our teachers. I’m very proud of our staff. They do a phenomenal job.”
Robin Litaker, the former principal at Trace Crossings, has said the school over the past 15 years has gained a lot of students who moved to Hoover from lower-performing school systems. Teachers have been working hard to help students, many of whom are from lower-income families, improve, but over the years, test scores have fluctuated greatly.
The school took a big public relations hit in 2012 when it was one of three Hoover schools that failed to make “adequate yearly progress” according to state guidelines.
Math was identified as a as a problem area, particularly among black and low-income students. The percentage of Trace Crossings fourth-graders deemed proficient in math fell from 89 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2012. Fourth-grade math proficiency scores jumped back up the following year to 87 percent.
Litaker believes a test administration error didn’t give students enough time to finish the test, but a review by state officials found no test administration irregularities.
Newer test score data is not comparable to the old data because of changes in the test, and many school ranking websites rely on data that is two to three years old, Assistant Superintendent Ron Dodson said.
Meanwhile, the reputation at Trace Crossings has suffered, and some parents have moved or put their children in private schools.
Deer Valley parents who live in the Lake Cyrus community said tonight it doesn’t make sense for them to have to drive their children to Trace Crossings because they have to pass either Deer Valley or South Shades Crest elementary schools to get there.
They encouraged Murphy to drive, during peak morning and afternoon times, the routes they would have to drive if their children were to be sent to Trace Crossings.
Parents from South Shades Crest Elementary two weeks ago asked Murphy to do the same. Murphy said tonight she already has driven in carpool traffic at three schools and pledged to do the same at others.
Other parents tonight asked Murphy to take into consideration that Lake Cyrus residents already had to change elementary schools when Deer Valley was built. Forcing them to change again when other schools haven’t had to change isn’t fair, one man said.
Murphy said she would do everything she can to be fair to every student in the Hoover school district, but fairness is often in the eye of the beholder.
Several parents encouraged school officials to crack down on students attending Hoover schools who don’t live in Hoover. Murphy said the Hoover school system has two men who work every day to verify students’ residency.
Tonight was the third of five preliminary meetings to discuss rezoning with the community. Two more are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 3 at Green Valley Baptist Church and 7 p.m. on Nov. 12 at Metropolitan Church of God.
At each of the meetings, Murphy is explaining the reasons Hoover needs to redraw school zone lines and giving people a chance to share concerns and ask questions. There is no plan or maps to present yet, she said.
She hopes to have a plan ready to present to the public in January and will take more feedback. She then hopes to present a plan for the school board to consider in February or March and will ask the school board to vote on the plan in March or April, she said.
That way, parents will have as much notice as possible before a rezoning plan takes effect for the next academic year, she said.
“When this thing is over, not everyone is going to be happy,” she said. “It’s just something we have to do.”
In the end, she hopes to come up with something that meets the school district’s needs and keeps as many children as close to their homes as possible, she said.