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School Board vote shocks Farragut residents

Parents had one last time to appeal to the Knox County school board before they voted on the heated Farragut rezoning issue May 5.

The board allowed speakers four minutes. Some asked that rising ninth graders have the chance to matriculate to Farragut High School. Others wanted the siblings of current FHS students grandfathered into the school. Many plead for both amendments.

Mike Bolin said he hoped his daughter, a rising junior, and son, a rising freshman, would be able to attend high school together. “I understand that the board is dealing with financial difficulties and overcrowding but I don’t understand the logic and humanity behind dealing with the problem,” he said. “When I tell people I’m gonna have two daughters in two different high schools, no one can believe it.”

Jayne Dake has spent a lot of time as a FHS mom. Two of her daughters are FHS alumni and one is a sophomore. Her youngest is a rising eighth-grader, who she hoped would follow in her sisters’ footsteps.

“Transportation is not a problem,” she said. “My problem is not wanting my daughters to be separated.” Dake appealed to the board as a fellow educator. “I am a teacher and taking care of families is our business. Please consider not uprooting families,” she said.

While many parents have asked for a new west high school, Brian Quist asked if the board had considered another construction option: building a new (and he contended less expensive) elementary school. Quist’s proposed solution would leave sixth-graders in elementary school and ninth-graders in middle school. “What ever happened to junior high schools?” he asked.

Teri White’s son is a FHS junior and his daughter is a cheerleader at Farragut Middle School. “Karns already had their cheerleading tryouts,” she said. “She already has a Farragut mentor.” White also hit the transportation issue head-on. “It does not make sense financially to send another bus to Karns when a Farragut bus is already coming through our neighborhood,” she said.

Charles James, the representative for Farragut schools, asked that the board consider delaying the vote until their mid-month session because of Brian Hornback’s, 5th District, absence.

Hornback said he had a business responsibility out of town.

Superintendent Dr. Charles Lindsey said, “If we’re going to rezone, we need to go ahead and get that done. Any delay will cause more problems.”

James made a motion and asked the board to consider allowing rising eighth-graders to attend FHS. His second request was a resolution asking that for three years, siblings be grandfathered into the high school. Both of James’ motions were overruled. James received only one vote in his favor, Robert Bratton, 9th District, who agreed that rising eighth-graders be exempt from rezoning. Jones continued to “represent his people,” he said and voted no against rezoning. The final vote was 7-1.

Dan Murphy, 4th District, addressed the audience (attending and via television) that Knox County families and schools have had to deal with rezoning every year. “And every year we go through agony,” he said.

After the vote was final, Debbie Begbie stood outside the auditorium considering what had just taken place. She chatted with friends who aren’t affected by rezoning but supported the cause. Begbie’s family consists of a rising senior, a rising freshman and a sixth-grader. “I can’t separate my ninth-grader from his football buddies,” she said. Even though parents were faced with a possible rezoning, Begbie said her daughter has yet to see a catalog to see what classes Karns offers.

James said the rezoning issue was not about a good education. “Both schools offer that,” he said.

Nevertheless, Kevin Jackson told the board his family moved in 1990 in order to place his children in the Farragut schools. He said he knew that there would be an overcrowding issue someday but, “I didn’t realize it would be so quickly. I’m upset at how quickly this arose,” he said.

Mike Mitchell agreed. “We were given no notice. We were sucker-punched,” he said. “The board knew in advance there was going to be an overcrowding and financial problem. This is wrenching our family.” Mitchell asked that the board wait a year to rezone. “Karns isn’t ready now,” he said.

Board chairman Sam Anderson reminded parents that they pushed the board on the overcrowding issue, making it an urgent need. While parents may have hoped for a new west high school, the board contends their budget will not allow for new construction. Parents no longer have the chance to influence the rezoning vote, but they may play a part in the construction of a new school. In Monday’s meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution that asked the town of Farragut to help locate and fund land for a new school. Another resolution asked that Farragut allocate the same amount of sales revenue to the schools as do Knox County and Knoxville. Farragut hands over 44 percent while Knoxville and Knox County assigns 61 percent. The board also asked the Knox County Commission for $8 of the proposed $30 wheel tax which could be allocated to fund a new school.


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