Wednesday, April 4, 2007

can hampshire greens play the race card?

BUT FIRST: Burtonsville residents struggle to keep the Dutch Country Farmers' Market in town, whether or not it's actually possible; and a former local teaches anti-Purple Line activists in East Silver Spring about streetcars and little pedestrians in Toronto.

FINALLY: There's a ten-car pile-up at the intersection of race and money in Hampshire Greens, the McMansion-and-golf course community at New Hampshire and Route 28. Three years ago, when the InterCounty Connector was but a glimmer in Bob Ehrlich's eye, residents argued that they were being unfairly targeted by the State, who wouldn't have built the highway in predominantly-white (but no more affluent) Potomac.

This Census map (at right), in which darker-colored areas represent a larger black population, shows that Hampshire Greens is in fact blacker than its immediate neighbors, but not by a lot. This was only one of many reasons why the neighborhood's fight was quickly shut down by Planning Commissioner (and, in a further twist of race, black Republican) Allison Bryant.

But today, I'm left wondering why the kids of Hampshire Greens, however many of them may be black, are currently being bused to predominantly-black Key Middle School, eight miles away - and, as a result, Hampshire Greens parents are pushing the school board to send their kids somewhere closer.

A forty-five minute bus ride down New Hampshire Avenue in rush-hour traffic is absolutely unacceptable - and, worst of all, Hampshire Greens kids are being isolated from their "neighbors" in surrounding developments. (Never mind that you couldn't walk from Hampshire Greens to Llewellyn Fields, or Ashton Preserve, or one of the other McMansion developments nearby.) Why wasn't Hampshire Greens originally zoned for Farquhar Middle School, located just four miles away in Olney? Farquhar's got better test scores, a fourth as many kids on free or reduced lunch as Key - and, most importantly, room for over 170 additional students, according to these MCPS fact sheets.

I've said it before: The school system is not responsible for engineering racial diversity, whether by screwing with the Choice Program for high schools or by busing students across town. School assignments should be based on proximity - if kids in an apartment building live next door to kids in a golf course community, then they should both attend the same school. I don't think it benefits anyone to throw a handful of well-off kids into a struggling school like Key just for the hell of it.

Teaching kids about diversity at school is important, but whatever they've learned about dealing with different kinds of people is lost when they step off that bus and back into the isolation of a homogeneous neighborhood, whether it's Hampshire Greens or a White Oak apartment tower. This sort of "mandatory busing" only undermines the feeble attempts at community-building we can make in an area where everything is so spread-out and economically segregated.

Meeting photograph from Hampshire Greens website. Golf course depicted is actually Cross Creek Club.

29 comments:

Debbie Cook said...

You are kidding me! The kids in Hampshire Greens go all the way down to Key!? What a waste of money and time and GAS. It's just STUPID. I didn't think there were that many middle school aged kids that lived in Hampshire Greens. . .or for that matter - any kids that go to PUBLIC schools.

perrik said...

Wow, I thought I had a bad junior-high commute back in the late 1970s, when we Galway Elementary grads were bused from Calverton to Key. Most of the Key students then went on to Springbrook HS, but we Calverton kids (having presumably fulfilled our racial diversity duty) went to Paint Branch HS.

Well, think of it this way. The Hampshire Greens kids are learning how to stare blankly out the window at traffic. I still use that skill every workday during my 1.75-hour (each way) Metro commute. Can't say that about trigonometry...

Anonymous said...

Very stupid! I watched the recent hearing about this issues and for some reason Sharon Cox felt that it was important to have these 13 or so students attend the school that has over 750 students because it would provide some socioeconomic balance. That obviously does not make sense and luckily the new board members just ignored her silly comments. If the school system was serious about this balance, then alot more of the kids from above Briggs Chaney Road would be assigned to Key, not just the only predominately minority neighborhood in the area.

Tax Payer said...

I agree that this busing is stupid, but what I really don't understand is why the Farquhar PTA leaders are so against having those few students from Hampshire Greens attend their school. Does race have something to do with this? It seems that the addition of a dozen or so students would be a very low priority to any school. I don't buy the "it may affect school choice" argument because there is no school choice for middle school. Someone really needs to challenge Fran Simmons and the other PTA leaders on why they are spending so much time on this issue?

MoCo said...

These bizarre school cluster assignments are in place throughout the county. If MCPS were to perform a countywide boundry realignment, we could get rid of most of the learning shacks, significantly reduce both the quantity and duration of bus routes, and completely eliminate school overcrowding. At the same time, taxpayers would be saved a boatload of money.

The situation described in the Gazette article is actually minor compared to some of the boundry situations in Montgomery County. In some cases, kids are bused right past schools that are within walking distance of their homes to schools that are several miles away. I'm amazed that the NAACP or some other organization doesn't expose these clear cases of intentional segregration in Montgomery County.

Anonymous said...

Hampshire Greens residents knew that their children would go the Key MS when they bought their homes. There are many neighborhoods, rich and poor alike, that are not assigned to their closest schools. Why should Hampshire Greens homeowners be singled out for special treatment? My feeling is that if the Hampshire Greens residents don't like their school assignments, they should do what the rest of us have had to do...enroll their kids in a private school or move to another neighborhood. I'm all for community schools, but only if it applies to all communities. I say no special treatment for Hampshire Greens.

Poor Hampshire Greens said...

I, for one, am sick and tired of the Board of Educations time being consumed by the cry-babies from Hampshire Greens and their demands for a new middle school assignment. "Taxpayer" needs to be reminded that the last time the Board was considering a boundary study for the cry-babies from Hamsphire Greens, ALL THREE MIDDLE SCHOOLS (Key, White Oak and Farquhar) overwhelmingly opposed moving Hampshire Greens. So stop characterizing the opposition as coming only from Farquhar. Oh, and nice try inserting the race issue once again. Last time I checked, White Oak and Key are majority black schools and they both overwhelmingly opposed the last boundary study. I guess the Hampshire Greens slogan is "if all else fails, play the race card". Just what I would expect from the leaders of Hampshire Greens.

william said...

Hampshire Greens parents have alot of $ which gives them options (like private schools) that poor parents don't have. The poor families should be our first priority, not the rich people with there big houses. We should send the poor kids to there neighborhood school first. A Far away school assignments is more of burden to the poor families. And poor families can't send there kids to private schools.

thecourtyard said...

I think a lot of these posters are missing the point. For starters: Hampshire Greens residents probably didn't know where their kids were going to school when the development was first built, as school assignments are not set in stone yet.

Second of all, if there's a school with room for students and close to a certain neighborhood, there's no reason why that neighborhood shouldn't be zoned for that school. It's not a money issue. Hampshire Greens kids aren't keeping poor kids from going to their neighborhood school.

This is one of the worst cases of redistricting in the County that I know of. Find something worse than this, and tell me Hampshire Greens is unjustified in pushing the school board to send their kids somewhere closer. There are a few apartments in Briggs Chaney that are zoned for Galway Elementary a mile away (my neighborhood school and, let me tell you, it had enough problems of its own) but that doesn't compare to a forty-five minute bus commute.

christopher said...

"Courtyard" needs to get the facts straight before accusing others of "missing the point". I remember touring Hampshire Greens when it first opened and being surprised by the Key Middle School assignment. Residents knew exactly what they were getting when they bought their homes. Second, going with a community school model as you suggest would be a big departure from the current policy for setting boundaries. I happen to agree with you that community school assignments are best for families and kids. But I am also for fair treatment. What message does it send to the broader community if a single wealthy neighborhood gets to opt out of the current policy for setting boundaries. Perhaps we should be working to create a new framework to put ALL kids at their closest schools, not just the chosen few at Hampshire Greens.

taxpayer said...

Wow! I am stunned by the irrelevant arguments used by Christopher, William and "Poor Hampshire Greens". This is about fairness, what is best for the children, addressing issues that don't make sense and yes how to save us taxpayers money in the process. All school assignments (for rich or poor communities alike) should be based on what makes sense based on those criteria. If there was some important reason for busing children a slightly longer distance to school than most people would support that type of busing. If there is no logically reason for it (like in this case), then it should not continue. I could care less if the folks from Hampshire Greens knew about their school assignment issue prior to moving in or not (I am sure it is a mixed bag here), if it serves not purpose, creates issues for their children, and is costing the county one additional cent, it should be stopped. Period, end of story. If there are other situations in the county like this (rich or poor neighborhoods), where they are being bused long distances for nothing, then they should present their case to board like the parents of Hampshire Greens did.

christopher said...

Sorry "Taxpayer"...the arguments that are made for keeping Hampshire Greens at Key Middle School are inconvenient for you but they reflect the school systems policy for setting boundaries and, therefore, that makes them relevant. Nice try.

You say it is about fairness...how is it fair that only one subdivision should be allowed to attend its closest school when so many others don't get to.

And you say it's about what's good for the children? What about the thousands of area children that don't get to attend their closest schools. This is way bigger than the dozen or so kids at Hampshire Greens.

The Hampshire Greens families are responsible for the homebuying decisions they made. Period, end of story.

If you're really worried about taxpayer costs, you should support the current boundaries. I'd bet that most of the Hampshire Greens kids go to private schools. Thus, no cost to taxpayers (just trying to insert a little humor into this discussion).

In all seriousness, I think all children should go to their neighborhood school and hope that the system will change its policy. But until then, there should be equal treatment for all and special treatment for none, not even Hampshire Greens.

MCPS Parent said...

My kids don't go to their neighborhood schools either so I sympathize with the Hamsphire Greens. But I also agree with the other posters that say that Hampshire Greens should not be treated any differently than my kids.

Anonymous said...

Hampshire Greens is not just being sent to the second closet school - or even the 3rd. They go to the 4th closest middle school! They were an island community pulled out to go to Drew Elementary - also not their closet school. I know many if not most communities don't go to their closest schools, but look at the boundary maps - their situations are nowhere near as bad as Hampshire Greens' is. I think HG is willing to do their part and go a little farther - like they do to go to Drew instead of Cloverly - but this is so far past that it's simply ridiculous.

mcps parent said...

Don't get me wrong...I hope Hampshire Greens gets it way. Maybe that will allow my kids to leave the increasingly poor school that they are going to so that they can go to a better school that is closer by.

Anonymous said...

It is funny to see Olney calling Hampshire Green playing the race card when some of the Olney residents want to keep thier community schools white and Jewish.
This is not about politics, white or black, rich or poor.
It is question of helping a few kids. We are all making this a big deal. Let us look at it without emotions and we will come to the same conclusion that middle school for Hampshire Green Should be Farquar.
If Hampshire Green wanted to change their Elementary and High Schools then that would not be acceptable. The change of Middle School does not make any difference to any community, School, politics, religious or any group apart from the fact the Farquar might get a few more black students. Farquar is under utilised.
The tax payers will savedollars on Gas, bus drivers pay and also tax payers will get a better return on their dollar by utilizing the asset and staff of farquar which has already been paid for.
MCPS should make a logical and financial decision in the interest of few kids and should ignore parties that have racial, political,financial or other interest. Do the right thing my a few kids. Grow up the rest of you adults.

Anonymous said...

Look at the facts here: There is no other situation where a community had no (zero) say in their school assignment, resulting in a triple island issue where kids are bussed over 12 miles away passing 10 (ten) other vacant middle schools. Their kids arrive late to class more often than not because of the distance and associated traffic. The risk of a traffic accident occurring is proportional to the amount of time our kids spend (50 min. on average each way) on the road.
Prior to any residents moving in that community the School board thought that the community would be predominately white hence decided to apply “social economic bussing” vs. their standard policy of assigning schools based on proximity to the community. Right or wrong they decide to bus kids based on a guess of the race and economic stats of a to be built community. Hence the school board at that time was playing the race card not the community. Well as it turns out Hampshire Greens is an multi racial community with a predominance of African Americans, not whites (not that this matters but let’s get the facts correct). To say they are playing the race card or school shopping is flat out wrong (do you hear that Mrs. Cox?). If you do not agree then prove it folks!

It’s the distance stupid. For god sakes, the kids friends attending this distant school are 15+ miles away from their parents homes. After school activities are non existent since there is no after school service to Hampshrie Greens. These residents pay taxes just like everyone else and deserve to be treated just like everyone else. They deserve to go to the schools that have the vacancy and are in closest proximity to their neighborhood. The children should have the chance to stay with their friends as they transition from elementary to middle school. Parents should have the ability to participate in after school programs w/o driving over 25 miles round trip which equates to nearly 2 hours sitting in traffic! Use common sense here folks! We owe it to the children; make that all children of the County and need to start somewhere to correct artificial boundary mess that we are in.

poor hamsphire greens said...

Dear Anonymous - Now it's not just a white conspiracty but a Jewish conspiracy to keep Hampshire Greens from picking the school they want their kids to go to while the rest of us have to play by the rules. Very pathetic and offensive.

You are right about one thing. Farquhar will get a few more black kids if you get your way...or should I say a few rich black kids that will be good for test scores and parent participation in the PTA. Great for Farquhar but bad for Key.


Didn't Hampshire Greens demand a change to both their high school and middle school last year or the year before last? I guess they decided to divide and conquer. First the middle school and next the high school.

Food for thought...why doesn't Hampshire Greens want Briggs Chaney, which is closer to them then Farquhar? I'll bet Briggs Chaney doesn't quite fit the economic profile they want for their kids or their home prices.

Taxpayer said...

Did I miss something here? When did anybody from Hampshire Greens say that they were not interested in attending Briggs Chaney? It seems like "poor Hampshire Greens" aka Steve Bolen from the Farquhar PTA is making stuff up again. I think it is Mr. Bolen because I've heard the same idiotic argument from him at BOE meetings.

Now, as the blogger host did state Farquhar has over 100 available seats this year, and last time I looked Briggs Chaney was slightly over-capacity, but I am certain the folks from Hampshire Greens would be just fine with Briggs Chaney because it is significantly closer to Key. The bigger question is why did the former Sherwood ES students who now attend Clovery fight so hard to not attend Briggs Chaney and was given an "exception" by the BOE to attend their preferred middle school, Farquhar instead. Steve Bolan has whinned to the Board on several ocassion that Cloverly is split artriculated, but I remember the 1997 battle and those former Sherwood folks did not want to go to Briggs Chaney. Why didn't they want Briggs Chaney, which is closer to them then Farquhar? I'll bet Briggs Chaney doesn't quite fit the economic profile they want for their kids or their home prices.

In regard to the high school, I am very surprised that Hampshire Greens does not go to Blake (which is almost adjacent to their community). So it looks like we are spending lots of money again sending mostly minority kids down to a mostly minority school (Springbrook) so the mostly white kids that attend Farquhar can attend the mostly white school (Blake), even though Blake is further from then it is to Hampshire Greens. Are we stupid or what? What purpose again does that serve? I know Hampshire Greens is a relatively affluent community, but no more so than Ashton Preserve and the other communities in that area. I hate to say it but are trying to put this mostly minority upscale community "in it's place".

I am not African American, but I am now getting angry at the little progress that many of us have made regarding race. Regardless, everyone should be treated fairly and obviously the folks in Hampshire Greens are not. Any argument against treating anyone fairly has to be dismissed as anti-american. If "poor hampshire greens" thinks that he has been treated unfairly, then he should voice his concern to the board also. But don't follow the "crab-theory" and keep your neighbors down.

MCPS Assignment Exper said...

Wow! it is amazing how much this Hampshire Greens situation has been blown way out of proportion and how the facts are being misrepresented. First of all, IT IS MONTGOMERY COUNTY'S POLICY TO ASSIGN KIDS TO NEARBY SCHOOL "UNLESS OTHER COMPELLING FACTORS DICTATE". The most typical other factor is that the school is full. The other factor (when a reasonable boundary can be drawn) is to address racial and socioeconomic diversity concerns.

The great majority of the over 140,000 students in our county go to nearby school. Now that does not always means the closest school. Assigning everyone to their closest school is impossible due to the fact that perfect circle boundaries around a school are impossible. As the Island Study that was just completed said, there are only 25 real community islands in the county (vs. the hundreds of communities) and only three of them (Hampshire Greens included) is an island to all of its schools.

Given that greater than 95% of children attend either their 1st of 2nd closest schools at all levels, you would have to consider it "unfair" that Hampshire Greens is attending its 9th or 10th closest Middle School, its 4th closest Elementary School and its 5th closest High School, especially if any nearby schools have capacity (such as Farquhar and possibly Briggs Chaney)

Looking at the boundary maps, I do not see anyone else with such bizare assignments, but if they do they obviously should voice their concerns to the system and seek a remedy. The former Sherwood Elementary students who now go to Cloverly appear to have voice the biggest concerns about treating everyone fairly, however looking at the map, those residents appear to attend their 1st or 2nd closest school at every level. Ironically, it appears that they are an island community to their high school (Blake) but only because Hamsphire Greens is assigned to Springbrook.

If you stick with the facts and not the side items (racism, elitism, etc.) it is very "Fair" to look into reassigning Hampshire Greens to either Farquhar or Briggs Chaney Middle School. It is actually unfair not to.

Also a Taxpayer said...

I agree with Taxpayer. To spend money busing that small group of kids that far makes not sense and should be changed immediately. I don't have any children, but I do pay taxes, and if we are doing this to other children for not real reason, that should be stopped also.

What I don't understand is why any logical, intelligent person would argue against making a change such as this, that saves taxpayers money, and does not appear to harm anyone. I do agree that if there are other situation like this (long distances for no reason), they should also be changed, but the only way to do that is one at a time, so why not let Hampshire Greens lead the way. I don't no how much, if any, they spent to make this happen, but at least it is not my money that they are spending.

I do want to say that "Poor Hampshire Greens" sounds like an "agry white man" and needs to be a little more sensitive about what is saying here. I am also white, but it appears that he is mad at what he perceives as being an "uppity bunch of black people." who appear to only be asserting their rights in very positive manner.

poor hampshire greens said...

I'm just a person with enough time (too much time) to follow this silly stuff on TV. And in all my viewing time, never once have I seen Hampshire Greens ask for Briggs Chaney. I stand corrected if Hampshire Greens homeowners have said that and I missed it.

Cutting through all the noise, the precious Hampshire Greens subdivisiion is not alone in being screwed by wacky school assignments from MCPS. Everybody knows this to be true. I'd endorse making distance of travel the main facter in school assignment. It would get more of my kids friends into our neighborhood schools. But that's not the way it is right now, not for Hampshire Greens or anybody else. Until that changes, everybody should stay put. And that includes you Hampshire Greens.

Concerned Parent said...

I am certain that the reason the original board of ed resolution included Briggs Chaney this time is because Hampshire Greens saw it as a viable option. Previously Briggs Chaney was either involved in a Boundary Study (with Bannecker) or it was overcapacity) so Hampshire Greens could not have asked for it (since it would require bumping other kids). Now that the county is projected at least a little capacity at Briggs Chaney then I suspect that is why it was put on the resolution.

I also agree with "MCPS Assignment Exp" when he/she says that MOST KIDS DO GO TO EITHER THEIR 1ST OR 2ND CLOSEST SCHOOL. I used to live in Bethesda and all the kids around us went to fairly close schools. I now live in the Olney area (and am embarrassed by the actions of the Farquhar PTA) and just about all of the kids in the Sherwood Cluster go to their closest schools.

Hampshire Greens is our neighbor, and we should be ashamed for not wanting fair assignments for our neighbors, especially when ours are definately fair and close.

If Wrong Change It said...

I am so glad the most people don't follow the advice of "poor Hampshire Greens". He obviously is not happy with the local assignments in the area and seems to have just accepted it.

Just because for some reason he has accepted his areas supposedly "wacky" school assignments, he seems to think everyone else should do the same.

I have also been watching the hearings (on the internet) and I am proud of the folks from Hampshire Greens for standing up for what they feel is right, and doing so with more class that the 'angry" Farquhar PTA representatives who keep coming up with more creative reasons for opposing this move.

I was alway taught that if you felt something was wrong, you should fight to make it better. That is what this community is doing, and regrettably, for that folks like "poor Hampshire Greens are calling them names for doing that. I don't know if the fact that it is an upscale minority neighborhood that is causing us "concerns" but it is easy to see why some would think so.

Ashamed Farquhar Parent said...

I am from Olney and my daughter goes to Farquhar and I am really ashamed that our PTA leaders (most other people don't care), has taken it upon themselves to champion the cause to keep the few kids from this wonderfully diverse neighborhood out of our schools.

If it is not because of race, then please let people know what it is. The excuse that "everyone must have their preferred school assignments before Hampshire Greens can eliminate their obviously horrible assignments" is not logical or believable to any intelligent person. I also know that they could care less about any impact of Hampshire Greens leaving Key. Our PTA leadership is all about what is in the best interest of our PTA leadership, so what is it?

PHG said...

"Concerned Parent" should have moved down here to Silver Spring where things are much more exciting than in boring Olney. The northeast consortium, or should we call it the MCPS mixing bowl, is an experiment in pushing wacky school lines to new limits. The high schools resent each other if there isn't perfect balance, their are racial and economic undertones to almost every discussion and name calling...oh we have loads of that. Depending on the position you take and who is on the other side, you can count on being called a racist, elitist, anti-poor, unintelligent, pro white-jews-in-Olney and the list goes on and on. And a word to the wise...whether it has to do with schools, the ICC or whatever, don't get in the cross-hairs of Hampshire Greens.

To "Ashamed Farquhar Parent"...sounds like you should get more involved in your school or transfer your daughter to another school. A warning for you though...if you send your daugher to either Key Middle School or White Oak Middle School down Silver Spring way, you are going to be ashamed of those school communities too. These heavily minority schools were firmly against Hamsphire Greens last time around. I doubt it had to do with race...maybe you should call these schools and find out firsthand.

To "if wrong change it"...I really liked the one lady from Hampshire Greens who spoke in favor of keeping Hampshire Greens at Key Middle School.

Got to go now...have an appt with my psychiatrist to work through my "anger" issues (just kidding, really). I'm looking forward to watching the drama unfold on TV, compliments of the MCPS $9 million communications machine.

MCPS Assignment Expert said...

Just wanted to set the record straight regarding the support for changing Hampshire Green's school assignment. Farquhar has opposed any resolution related to Hampshire Greens (and have used every reason in the book for doing so). Key's only opposition has been that moving Hampshire Greens may help create a bad perception of their school (emotional but not logical). Briggs Chaney has never taken a stand on this issue yet. White Oak only opposed the gigantic boundary study that was proposed in 2004, but have never voiced opposition to moving the few kids at Hampshire Greens.

I give these facts just to clarify the issue, but honestly it difficult to really know if it is the school PTA or just the leaders.

Regardless, it does not matter what school PTA's support an issue or not. If the school assignment is unfair then it should be changed.

The lady from HG who spoke in opposition of the leaving Key obviously was impressed with the Principal there and seems like the type of nice person who would do just about anything to make someone elses life better. She tried to make the best of a bad situation and should be given credit for doing that. Thank god we have people in the world like her. However, that does not change the fact that the community's assignment is unfair and should be changed.

MoCo said...

IT IS MONTGOMERY COUNTY'S POLICY TO ASSIGN KIDS TO NEARBY SCHOOL "UNLESS OTHER COMPELLING FACTORS DICTATE"

That is the written policy, but the reality is that MCPS has a plethora of situations where students go to the second-closest school even when the closest school has more space. The prevalence of islands of segregation is indisputable.

If wrong change it said...

To PHG I still say "if it is wrong work to change it". If the Northeast Consortium's assignments are screwed up, you and other should be working to get rid of the Northeast Consortium. You should definately not spend all of your energy fighting one of your neighbors who is fighting for what you and they know is right. With the issues about the choice program, I am certain you would be able to muster up some support from many neighborhoods in Silver Spring, including Hampshire Greens.


I do agree with MOCO. Many of the existing islands probably were created to provide diversity at the schools, but ended up either dividing neighborhoods or (after white flight) created a situation where minorities are being bused to other minority neighborhoods for nothing (like Hampshire Greens).

Yes, there are also many folks whose children attend their 2nd closest schools (for good or for bad reasons). Now imagine attending your 10th closest middle school (like Hampshire Greens). I only hope that you would fight it as hard as Hampshire Greens is.