Druid Hills High School student: Annexation will wipe out what made my school great

Druid Hills High School senior Jacob Pierce shares his view of the proposed neighborhood annexation that would splinter his high school.

Jacob is student body president at Druid Hills, part of the school’s International Baccalaureate program, and one of Georgia’s delegates to the U.S. Senate youth program.

In college next year, Jacob plans to major in economics or public policy with hopes of pursuing a law or other graduate degree. “After college, I hope to get involved in politics at a local level and then move to the federal level,” he says.

By Jacob Pierce

If annexed into Atlanta and APS, Druid Hills High School would lose some of the communities that now call the school their own.

If annexed into Atlanta and APS, Druid Hills High School would lose some of the communities that now call the school their own.

There’s no point in sugarcoating it: Annexing Druid Hills into the Atlanta Public Schools District is a very bad idea.

If Druid Hills is annexed into APS, nearly 80 percent of the current students at Druid Hills High School would find themselves without a school to attend, and they are disproportionately black, Latino, and international students. This means Druid Hills would suddenly be without one of its greatest assets: diversity.

Druid Hills is now a majority-minority high school — more than three-quarters of the students are non-white – and, as such, it is home to incredible diversity.

The students at Druid Hills come from all corners of the globe, from the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal to the Latin American country of Nicaragua to the newly independent country of Kosovo. Having students from almost every continent allows all students to increase their own cultural awareness and understanding of the world around them.

Exposing students to diversity at a young age is important because it enables them to hear from those who have different perspectives and experiences. This, in turn, permits students to become better innovators, and prepares them to tackle the difficult problems confronting the world today.

Some in the Druid Hills community were unhappy the DeKalb school board narrowly defeated the attempt to establish a Druid Hills Charter Cluster. In an attempt to “stick it” to the district, some cluster proponents have instead elected to push for annexation.

I understand many are frustrated with DeKalb County. Their frustration stems from a central office that seems to ignore the needs of the students, so to some extent that frustration is justified.

But it’s important to remember who will be impacted most by the potential annexation: the students in the Druid Hills cluster schools. Some students will lose a high school, and others will lose an opportunity to be in a multiracial environment.

Where will those kids who will not be annexed go to high school? What will happen to the teachers now at Druid Hills? These are just a few of the things that need to be considered as this push for annexation is being made.

 I see annexation as a zero-sum game. Druid Hills gets annexed into APS but at the cost of destroying a community and robbing a school of  the diversity that makes it special. What pains me most about a possible annexation is that my sister, a freshman, and her friends might not experience the sense of cultural immersion that takes place at Druid Hills.

Our high school is a microcosm of American society; so many different cultures call the school home. I would hate for my sister and other students to be denied this experience because of a vendetta a few parents have against the district for denying their charter cluster.

The proponents of annexation subscribe to the notion that by being a part of APS, their children will be better off. I reject this notion because these kids will not be better off in a homogeneous school.

They will not be better off in a school where all they hear is English spoken in the halls and where they are surrounded by people who are culturally similar to them. They will not be better off in a school where everyone looks like them.

Moving Druid Hills to APS will not mitigate the frustrations of many parents, but simply move them to another school district. If those pushing for annexation were as zealous about reforming the DeKalb school district as they are about leaving it, they could make real change in DeKalb, change that would benefit all students, not just a few.

When I graduate in May, I will be more than prepared for the real world because I’ve been exposed to people of different religions, nationalities, and cultures during my four years at the school. This has made me a more tolerant and open-minded person.

Don’t deny other kids this learning opportunity by annexing Druid Hills.

Reader Comments 0

160 comments
Shelly Schwartlander
Shelly Schwartlander

After spending 9th grade in Moorestown, NJ  I returned to Atlanta and Druid Hills for 10th grade I found the pace so slow and the courses so disappointing I thought I'd die of boredom.  I.  I quit and took the GED and SAT in Houston and eventually was prepared to attend the fabulous Hunter College which is part of NY City College.  Unfortunately the city was bankrupt and tuition was required from out-of-state students for the first time.  So, instead I returned to Georgia and attended Georgia State.  Sadly the same situation existed there as is recently described:  cheating by educators to pass State's poorly educated kids.  Dante's Inferno was to be the subject of finals.  Instead the final for "World Literature" became 30 or so questions from the New Testament.  I'm a Jew and had studied Dante's Inferno and pulling a low grade in my third year there  was enough finally to  give up on a "Georgia education".  As Druid Hills was, I believe, the best school I'd see in Georgia, I knew  it  Georgia State was what it was, a college that dumbed down for the rest of the state and II left.  California City Colleges have been fine, legal assisting and all other studies have been rewarding in every way.  I wish I'd grown up in Philadelphia or Jersey instead of Georgia and I hope Mr. Pierce goes to college out-of-state.  it

Cere
Cere

It's always helpful to include data and facts to back up your point. Here are the facts about DHHS - from the state DOE website, where diversity is reported:


1,386 total students


Hispanic: 141

American Indian: 6

Black: 700

Pacific Islander: 1

White: 314

Two or More Races: 61

Granted, these numbers don't show the nationality of the students. 

Wikipedia has this to say:

"Druid Hills has had IB accreditation since 2004 as an IB World School, one of the very few in the area to have done so. At Druid Hills, AP classes are generally much larger and much more popular than its IB counterparts. Roughly 10% of the student body enrolls in the IB Diploma Programme, often with below 50 IB students per year in the same grade."

So, for those few who enjoy the IB program, it certainly is a great experience.


bobjlv
bobjlv

No matter HOW I say this...it will come across racist..and I don't mean it to be. When I attended DHHS in the 60s, I'd say it was 99.5% white. Whether the school is diversified or not...it's still a great school. I guess that's the point I'm trying to make here...again NOT trying to sound racist. DHHS has always been one of the best High Schools in the nation.

m2ap
m2ap

@bobjlv Yes, but diversity aside, it will no longer be the DHHS if it goes to APS. 

Starik
Starik

@m2ap @bobjlv Unfortunately, DeKalb is probably worse. Optimism is unrealistic. Atlanta might get better, though.

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

@bobjlv It isn't even the best in DeKalb County or Georgia based on any ranking system available.  We have such low standards in DeKalb County apparently.

Raja44
Raja44

@Bernie31 @bobjlv  Bernie, you should check out the recent Key & Peele bit on use of the term "racist"

Bernie31
Bernie31

@Raja44 @Bernie31 @bobjlv - Why should I base a Truth from a comedy SHOW SKIT?


Just because your place of Truth is FOXNEWS...which is an altogether different kind of comedy.


Do you really know HOW STUPID you sound?

Bernie31
Bernie31

Jacob, As You grow older you are going to learn a few things about Life in America and Race Relations. The very thing you spoke of in your piece that makes your High School GREAT! Is the very thing that makes People Fearful in America and specifically in the SOUTH.


Its Nice to see and read your opinion on this matter. It Provides many of US a reason to HOPE for a Better Future.


Haters will ALWAYS HATE!


Thank-YOU.

bu2
bu2

What no one is talking about is that this whole situation is backwards.  A self-appointed group is pushing annexation.  Atlanta is just sitting back and watching.  When other cities annex, there is a plan.  Decatur has had hearings and plans for their annexation.  Their school district and city governments work together.  There is no plan here.  Atlanta is not driving this.  A private group is.  That's why everything is so uncertain.  Atlanta is the only one who can make decisions and they aren't really involved.

Insight2015
Insight2015

All adults:  Of any blog posted by AJC in some time, this one is most likely to be read by our kids, because Jacob did such a wonderful job and he is President of his school.  Can we please serve as an example to our kids in the way we debate these issues of great importance to our community?  We are setting an example they will imitate, and if the diatribe today is any evidence we are in huge trouble, and they will be if they imitate our example.  If this is really about the kids, can we please take it up a few notches?  There is no need to call out community volunteers in this negative way.  There is no need to call out elected officials poorly compensated to serve us.  Surely we can express disagreement in a way which we would be proud and be able to explain to our kids.  They are always watching, imitating, and we are probably doing as much or more harm in the way we are communicating about this as the actual pro- or con-annexation outcomes will ever have.

Insight2015
Insight2015

Thanks Maureen for cleaning up the problematic dialogue.


MattReads
MattReads

Why is this small group of people in Druid Hills moving forward with this when their survey conducted late last year showed that more people in Druid Hills preferred remaining in unincorporated DeKalb County than being annexed into Atlanta?  Why did they even do a survey when they weren't going to base their decisions on the results?    

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MattReads


You have focused upon the essential question related to this issue.  Why, indeed?  I would submit that the answer to your question is more complex than most are aware.

bu2
bu2

@MattReads 

LaVista Park is in the area to be annexed as well.  Their survey results were similar to the DHCA survey, favoring staying in unincorporated DeKalb with little enthusiasm for being part of a new city (LaVista Hills).

bu2
bu2

@MattReads 

You may hear TIA distorting the results by saying 52% in the survey were favorably inclined to the city of Atlanta.  But 7% of the survey respondents already lived in the city of Atlanta.  When the Atlanta and Decatur respondents were excluded, staying unincorporated had the highest score.

Just_Blink
Just_Blink

@bu2 @MattReads a survey is exactly that.  Either all city-hood and annexation activity should be stopped...or put the annexation to a vote.

Spence5948
Spence5948

@Just_Blink @bu2 @MattReads  The survey was never meant to be an end all. In fact, the DHCA specifically recommended a referendum on the matter.  Let the poling booth decide. Seems fair to me.

MattReads
MattReads

@Just_Blink @MattReads You can't base your conclusion on a single question from the survey. There were separate questions asked about annexation and remaining unincorporated. The bottom line is that there is not strong support for annexation. Only 27.6% of respondents strongly agreed to annexation; more people (28.3%) strongly disagreed with annexation. In the same vein, 26.3% of the respondents strongly agreed to remain in incorporated DeKalb County while only 19% of respondents strongly disagreed with remaining in unincorporated DeKalb.


In fact, the comments (if anyone even bothered to read them) are primarily anti-annexation. It takes a lot of time, but I can encourage you to read through the comments.

Spence5948
Spence5948

@MattReads @Just_Blink  So Just _blink can't reach a conclusion but you can? Funny. It seems to me that you fear a vote. I simply cannot imagine a reason that anyone who had the ability to leave DCSS would not do so.


Hear is what I have NOT heard. I have not had one single person state a reason why DeKalb is a BETTER option than leaving.  We have all heard about what APS schools are not, but we have not heard what DeKalb Schools are.


What would lead anyone to the conclusion that DCSS can or has a willingness to fix the myriad of problems they face?

MattReads
MattReads

@Spence5948 @MattReads @Just_Blink Conclusions should be reached only after a thorough examination of the survey and all quantitative and qualitative data in it.  I encourage everyone to read the entire survey. And apparently the focus of the survey (and of TIA) was not the schools, so why are you bringing up the schools with respect to the survey results?

bu2
bu2

@Spence5948 @Just_Blink @bu2 @MattReads 

Its not fair to those who don't have a vote.


Its very unsettled on what would happen if it succeeded.


Its just really a total, discombobulated mess.


If Druid Hills joined they would have no representation on the APS board or Atlanta city council while the critical decisions were made.  Right now there is one resident on the DCSS board and 2 on the county commioner's court.


Its a knee jerk reaction to what others may or may not do.


Lets see if LaVista Hills and Tucker pass.  Lets see who succeeds Thurmond.


Lets have a little community concensus instead of a private group (TIA) causing a lot of work and stress for everyone else.

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

@bu2 @Spence5948 @Just_Blink @MattReads Sorry, we've been waiting for years.  This annexation business is the ONLY thing that has ever made the administration sit up.  Not awful graduation rates, not being ranked at the bottom of the country, not being put on probation, only the threat of losing all of Druid Hills tax dollars and being the reason for DeKalb County losing CDC and Emory.  Thurmond, it is all your fault, and you are embarrassed.


Let the people vote.

bu2
bu2

@MattReads @Just_Blink 


And that 52% as I said includes the 7% of the survey respondents who already live in the city of Atlanta.  Some parts of Druid Hills are already in the city of Atlanta and other parts are in the city of Decatur.


Residents were asked to rate the various options on a 5 point scale.  When you only consider the people in unincorporated DeKalb (i.e. the people who actually would get to vote on the issue) unincorporated DeKalb scored 3.16 on the 5 point scale while Atlanta scored 3.10.  Becoming part of a new city trailed far behind.

bu2
bu2

@Spence5948 @MattReads @Just_Blink 

APS still has board members interfering in personnel decisions.  DCSS doesn't.


The Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta tried to hide the test cheating problems and supported Beverly Hall until the end.  The same power brokers are on the Chamber of Commerce.  They cared only about image and harmed the students.  It wasn't just indifference.


Last I checked DCSS had a higher graduation rate than APS.


Both were among the bottom districts in the latest Georgia test scores.  I think APS was lower, but I could be mistaken about that.  In any event, the difference was insignificant.  Both were bad.


Taxes will be a lot higher in Atlanta.


DCSS has a better choice and magnet system.


DCSS has IB in the Druid Hills cluster, including HS.


APS has repeatedly shown an unwillingness to tackle tough overcrowding issues on the north and east side.  Inman MS being left as it is just is really unacceptable.  I understand.  They would really upset people.  They upset people just talking about it.  Neighborhoods were signing petitions to kick other neighborhoods out of the school.  It was a poisonous atmosphere that drawfs any of the nasty DCSS fights.


North Atlanta HS represents the wealthiest portion of the state.  And that's the best APS can do.  The previous principal and his staff got marched out like criminals in the middle of the year apparently because someone complained to a board member about discrimination.


APS might well convert DHHS to a middle school and send the students to Jackson.  I don't think many parents would send their kids there.  People might go to Grady, but there's no room there now.  They've got a new principal too, since the last one was letting lots of football players from out of zone go to school there (worse yet, they didn't even win that much.  They cheated and weren't even successful!).


And as mentioned, all the teachers would have to re-apply and many, maybe almost none, would not be employed at these schools.  Mr. Marshall, who does a very good job at Fernbank ES, could be out of a job and someone unknown come in.


So, IMO, APS does a worse job and it costs more.  It could significantly degrade the situation for HS and MS students and change a successful ES.   Even more importantly, it ends future options in DeKalb that might improve things, whether it be charter clusters or city districts or some other alternative.



Mandella88
Mandella88

@TheDeal2 @bu2 @Spence5948 @Just_Blink @MattReads


Actually, it is the DeKalb Schools Watch II mafia who are embarrassed.  Their efforts to bad-mouth the DeKalb School System at every turn has failed, and because they could not control or intimidate Mr. Thurmond, they are at the end of their rope.  Their hateful diatribe and attempts to destroy the school system have run their course, and the citizens of the county are excited about the future's potential.  


I know that you couldn't even explain how graduation rates are calculated unless someone tells you what to say.  Nonetheless, I hope the people do get to vote, and when they vote against annexation, I look forward to your explanation.  

Spence5948
Spence5948

@bu2 @Spence5948 @MattReads @Just_Blink  You rattled off like 10 bullet points that did not answer the question.


The only point I heard was that DCSS had better magnet and DHHS had IB.  That it?  Is that really all you have? And no, the taxes are not higher. Check the comparison done by DHCA.  The only people that will see higher taxes are some seniors,  I would argue that their increased property values will more than make up for it.


And make no mistake, the values will be higher. Bet on it.


bu2
bu2

@MattReads 

Because TIA doesn't represent Druid Hills.  They sent their map to the legislature before the Civic Association survey was even released.  They are not affiliated with the DHCA.


The DHCA, whose leaders personally support annexation, has taken a position that there should be a vote, but has not taken a position on whether the vote should be yes or no.  They know there would be a revolt if they endorsed it.

bu2
bu2

@Spence5948 @MattReads @Just_Blink 

You might also mention that the city of Atlanta prioritizes parks over schools.  Mayor Reed has refused to pay APS money they are contractually owed from the Beltline Improvement district.  If they did, it would slow development of the Beltline or force Atlanta to fund that development themselves.  Mayor Reed has chosen a 3rd option-Don't pay obligations to APS.

bu2
bu2

@Spence5948 @bu2 @MattReads @Just_Blink 


I've read the comparison by DHCA.  For everything valued over 250k, Atlanta taxes are higher.  For under 250k Atlanta taxes are lower.  There aren't many homes in Druid Hills valued below 250k.  There probably aren't any except for condos.  Most in the Briar Vista zone are probably over 250k.


You didn't like any of my bullet points, but they all show why, IMO, DCSS is better than APS.

Is DCSS as good as Gwinnet-No, not even close.  Is it where it should be?  No, not even close.  But its a lot better than the Atlanta alternative.  And that's what we are comparing it to.

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

@Spence5948 @Mandella88 @TheDeal2 @bu2 @Just_Blink @MattReads Spence, he lives on the planet of Friends and Family.  It's a very wealthy place, nice on the surface until you dig down and realize no one there has any scruples or intelligence.  They all speak the same language of racism and their national motto is Status Quo.

class80olddog
class80olddog

"The DeKalb County School District has been ordered to return $2.1 million to a federal anti-poverty program because district officials failed to show that they allocated the money as required. "


I wonder WHY DH would want to leave DeKalb County?


Plus DeKalb county, after being called on the carpet for spending too much on legal bills, is setting aside a TON of money to fight the Druid Hills annexation. 


But they have the STUDENTS as their best interest.

class80olddog
class80olddog

What SHOULD happen is that they should work on a Constitutional amendment to allow city formation and for cities to be able to form their own school system (Just like Decatur and my alma mater, Dalton City Schools). 

HaiL_Trump!
HaiL_Trump!

No way wuld I let my kids go 2 a scholl with that many illeagle emigrants

mwb1
mwb1

Why would you presume that the students from other countries are all "eilleagle (sic) emigrants(sic).?

And even if they were, how could that possibly hurt your kids? Actually, the U.S. Ranks mighty low in comparison to other industrialized nations on quality of schools. DHHS has a wonderful diversity. Thank you, Jacob. I think the student body president speaks with great authority.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@mwb1  " And even if they were, how could that possibly hurt your kids? "


English as a Second Language?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@mwb1 " And even if they were, how could that possibly hurt your kids? "


Measles?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@mwb1  "Actually, the U.S. Ranks mighty low in comparison to other industrialized nations on quality of schools."


I would disagree with that!  Great schools are composed of great students, and the schools we have with great students (think Walton High School) are truly great.  Where the comparison ends is where other countries segregate their students and only the best go to full high school, and the rest go back to the rice paddies.  THAT is why they LOOK better - they are not trying to "pound square pegs into round holes" as we are doing in the U. S.

Mark Knowles
Mark Knowles

Jacob, thank you for your leadership on this issue driven mostly by emotions. The Georgia General Assembly is charged with the responsibility of reasoned debate. Unfortunately, this particular issue has too many unknowns to allow most of the General Assembly to make an informed decision. This is one reason DeKalb Strong’s petition for a pause has gained so much support in such a short time. DeKalb County residents deserve a pause so that some of the smart people can address the questions.The petition for signature: https://www.change.org/p/the-dekalb-and-atlanta-delegations-to-the-georgia-assembly-establish-a-moratorium-on-new-cities-and-annexations-in-dekalb?recruiter=21888518&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive

bu2
bu2

@concernedcitizen4553 @Spence5948 @OriginalProf @Mark Knowles 


Some of the annexations are pushed by panic that they will be left behind or never get another chance to annex an area.  That calls for a calming period.


However, Tucker and LaVista Hills have been working on this for a while.  And most of the leaders pushing a moratorium are simply the politicians trying to keep control of $ and stop all annexations.  So I can't support the petition stopping ALL annexations and new cities.  I do want to stop this one.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Mark Knowles  Right, call for a moratorium NOW.  If they grant a moratorium, they should remove Decatur's grandfather status and make it join the rest of DeKalb.  Now, THAT would get some people's attention, including Maureen's.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Mark Knowles 

This call for a moratorium on new DeKalb cities/annexations is an excellent move! I really have gotten the impression that there is a land-rush going on in DeKalb like there was in 1848 in California.

Mark Knowles
Mark Knowles

@Spence5948 It is true that I live in the TIA proposed map. It is also true that I will no longer have a child in the school district as of this spring (!!!). Our family has been fortunate to be a part of a great system and have worked to help leave a similar legacy for others.  I personally have great confidence in many of TIA's leadership, especially Matt Lewis - and applaud their efforts seeking to improve the system. Calling for a pause simply allows specific studies to be conducted for the sole purpose of understanding the annexation's impact. Despite the fact that a local task force met the entire fall and included an elected school board member - no analysis of the impact caused by the independent school districts on the affected school district was conducted. Moving forward with annexation and new cities without this analysis could cause long-term harm that the community may not be able to correct (e.g., the municipalization of DeKalb may be best served by allowing the City of Atlanta to annex the entire DHHS feeder pattern - and ease fiscal stress that may be caused by the annexation - forming new cities could prevent this solution from occurring). It was just a few years ago our county won the All-American City Award. This was not by accident. It was by thoughtful planning and strong leadership. I'm confident our elected leaders can help us through this process with a reasoned approach and help develop a plan to restore this county's role as a regional leader. It may be lawful, but that doesn't by default make it a good idea.

Spence5948
Spence5948

@OriginalProf @Mark Knowles  Call for a moratorium all you want. Annexation and Incorporation votes are coming. Want to know why? Because it is lawful.  I empathize with Mr. Knowles living outside the Druid Hills annexation zone, but unfortunately he has no say in what is lawful and what is not.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Spence5948 @OriginalProf @Mark Knowles 

I hear you, but the state legislature can move in mysterious ways, especially when pulled by different blocs of influential voters. And that moratorium would involve all of the proposed new cities in DeKalb, not just Druid Hills.  Maybe it would postpone the inevitable, but it might also establish some legislative rules according to which the new cities would be established ....something I believe is lacking right now. I think such rules are badly needed.  I'm not a DeKalbite, but it seems that something ruthless is going on in that county that should be controlled.

bu2
bu2

@class80olddog @Mark Knowles 

Well there's one other annexation to be stopped-at least part of it.  Decatur is trying to annex commercial property near Medlock without taking the residential areas.  They have the best schools in DeKalb and want the rest of us to finance them.  Decatur tops TIA for sheer arrogance and the callousness towards their neighbors.