Interdistrict transfer policy debate to continue

After signaling an interest in revisiting the school district’s priority list for interdistrict transfer requests, board members on Wednesday said they would continue to explore ways to expand the diversity of the student body through a variety of means — including the possible expansion of allowances for parents/guardians who are physically employed “within the boundaries of that district” and the children of high school coaches. They also appeared in agreement that the so-called “grandparent privilege” should remain in place.

Public comment reflected a diversity of views from both the grandparent community and members of the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign (PREC), but all were aligned in the belief that diversifying the student body was a desirable goal. Trustee Megan Pillsbury said every letter the board received supported diversity. “I believe there is a way to make everybody happy — a place that is welcoming to grandkids as well as meeting our racial and equity goals.”

Longtime grandparent provision advocate Trudy Maddy told the board that keeping the criteria in place was fair and practical. “We pay full taxes; we are directly connected to community; we are a source of additional money. My own grandchild is biracial,” she noted, and highlighted the fact that public school districts can not legally recruit students based on race.

Noura Fakoury, who created one of the petitions circulating in support of maintaining the grandparent clause, said that “children of grandparents are not all the same.”

Members of PREC spoke to the positive generational impact IDT policies can have on a student, and the need to share the advantages of a Piedmont education with students outside the town’s boundaries.

Resident Jill Lindenbaum called the IDT process “an opportunity and a tool that can help diversity in addition to race, income.”

Trustee Hilary Cooper suggested that a director of diversity, equity, and inclusion — a position the district is looking to fill — could help the board finesse its approach. Trustee Amal Smith noted that this director could help ensure a structure of support was in place to make for a successful implementation of revised IDT policy.

As to whether or not an exodus of families from PUSD would open up more spots, Booker noted that there was no way to know what enrollment would look like in the fall, and that if some chose to move away temporarily, the district still needed to hold space for Piedmont residents who return.

Additionally, “We have the most challenging staffing year coming up because of COVID —  it’s hard to give an exact number,” Booker said. He gave a ballpark figure of 20 — 50 spots potentially being available to transfers, but emphasized the uncertainty around that number. District staff will need to determine where openings are available.

Trustee Amal Smith said the district should move forward with an “abundance of willingness and scarcity of seats.”

Trustee Veronica Anderson Thigpen said “I appreciate that we have a lot of options to think about. We have a lot more to figure out but we cannot wait for a DEI director to move forward.”

The board directed Booker to keep the grandparent priority and to explore adding language that would add Allen Bill provisions and coaches to the list. The board will then work out the order of priority at the next meeting.

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