published Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Normal Park rezone may expand to North Shore condos


What: Hamilton County school board meeting

When: 5 p.m. today; work session at 4 p.m. to discuss a charter school application for a new sixth- through 12th-grade school focused on business and law

Where: Central office, 3074 Hickory Valley Road

Now that Hill City homes will be zoned for Normal Park Museum Magnet School, school board members want to consider the One North Shore condominiums for inclusion, too.

The Hamilton County school board voted 5-4 on Nov. 3 to allow Hill City residents into the Normal Park zone. A previous agreement to include Hill City was never implemented because officials said the school was overcrowded.

Families covet inclusion in Normal Park, a high-performing school that draws from a neighborhood zone and takes magnet students from across the county.

Now, board members Chip Baker and Linda Mosley want to consider rezoning One North Shore, the high-end condominium complex on Manufacturers Road across from the complex that holds Greenlife Grocery, into Normal Park. But other school officials are wary of more expansion of the school's zone.

Baker, who voted against Hill City's inclusion two weeks ago, said Hill City and One North Shore were both excluded from the Normal Park zone around the same time.

"If one's going in, they both should be going in," he said.

Condos in the 2 1/2-year-old One North Shore development range in price from $170,000 to $500,000, said sales agent Margaret Thompson. About half the 200 units are sold, with an additional 20 or so leased, she said.

When One North Shore first opened, it was zoned for Normal Park, a great selling point, Thompson said. Some homeowners bought with the expectation that their children would attend the school.

But last year, the development was rezoned for Brown International Academy downtown near the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"It's a positive thing," she said. "We're hoping to be included again."

Karla Riddle, director of innovative programs, oversees magnet schools for the system. She said the district receives numerous requests and petitions from nearby neighborhoods for inclusion in the Normal Park zone. Now that the board has approved Hill City, it could reignite others looking to get into Normal Park, she said.

"It's just reopened the issue," Riddle said. "I don't think we've heard the end of it."

Normal Park Upper School Principal Jill Levine said she opposes any expansion of the school's zone, regardless of which area is in question. Additional students will dampen the diversity that comes from magnet students, she said.

"Basically, my position and the school's position on this is the same as it is for any geographic area that wants to be added to our zone," she said.

Levine said a few One North Shore families attend Normal Park after being grandfathered in. But she worries about the potential influx of students if the whole development were zoned in.

Residents in other neighborhoods surrounding Normal Park have lobbied for zone inclusion for years, Levine said.

"For years, we've gotten petitions and letters," she said.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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Humphrey said...

The problem continues to be that N. Chattanooga population has grown!

November 17, 2011 at 10:38 a.m.
indaspring said...

There is also an issue here regarding due process. As a homeowner at ONS since 2008, I can assure you that no one here was notified about a proposed change of zoning until it was a fait accompli.

November 17, 2011 at 2:43 p.m.
Muckiemesome said...

OK, Let me get this straight, Chip Baker thinks Normal Park is over-crowded for poor and minority children from Hill City. Yet people who can pay 1/4 million for a place to live and there's plenty of room. I hope the voters on Signal Mountain are paying attention. Is this really the kind of person we need on our School Board?

November 17, 2011 at 7:02 p.m.
Humphrey said...

Indaspring, just tell the school board you are poor, they'll let you in. Don't worry, you won't need any facts or anything.

November 17, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
Imasockpuppet said...

Children at ONS who had started at NPMM were grandfathered in. There was and is no guarantee that any residence will stay in the same school zone forever. ONS is currently zoned for a great magnet school, Brown Academy, which is an IB school and up and coming, and the new home of VW families as well (partly because there hasn't been room for the vw families at NPMM the last two years). Unfortunately for one north shore, there is no one to cry discrimination for those families, because they are upper income families. Just like there isn't for the families who live a block away from NPMM on Sharon Circle, or Curve St., or the North Side of Dallas, etc. The irony is, the LIE was spread that NPMM can "pick and choose" children and didn't pick the Hill City kids. But they also didn't pick these rich North Shore kids. It really isn't hard to understand the point that Chuck Baker is trying to make here – that if this deal was offered to the Hill City families, that it should be offered to other families as well. The problem is that the people who stand to make a lot of people at ONS aren't as savvy as the people who stand to make a lot of money by owning property in Hill City. It is tough to make up claims of discrimination when you live in expensive condos, and so the cover smoke for land developers paying off school board members is harder to gin up. The thing is, a magnet school is supposed to bring children from OUTSIDE the neighborhood to mix with the kids that are IN the neighborhood. The whole point is to bring kids in. There is a mistake in this article - it says that Hill City residents were not allowed in, but that is not true. Hill City residents were given the option of Red Bank or NPMM last year. Of the ~100 families, only ~30 chose to go to NPMM.

November 17, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.
Imasockpuppet said...

Remember that a few years ago Chattanooga Middle was a FAILING school in a crumbling down old building. Families in Hill City petitioned the school board to attend the shiny new building in Red Bank, rather than that old building falling apart. Since that time, young families have moved in to N. Chattanooga - largely because of the success of NPMM and property values have went up absurdly. So folks who owned property in Hill City saw an opportunity to make some money and pushed for the NPMM zone, claiming that the "2007 promise" was not delivered - when it was delivered last year! Any children who haven't started school yet were not a part of that 2007 promise because they weren't born yet. But when the people who were looking to make a profit off of hill city property started fussing again this year, NPMM offered a plan to give up 5 magnet slots each year and allow 5 more Hill City children in each year. But the group turned that down. Of course they did, because the property values depend on zoning. The NPMM buildings are old. The lower school does not even have a gymnasium! There are no classrooms open, they are all used. But parents are required to volunteer and they put a lot of time and energy in to that program. It is like Mayzie bird wanting her egg back after Horton sat on it. The property speculators pulled out bogus statistics that there was room for over 900 children at NPMM. That is absurd. Fire code regulations might allow that many children (if they were standing shoulder to shoulder), but it is a farce to think that you could put 900 children in that old building. Every classroom is in use (those old, oddly arranged spaces that they are), and the state has limit on class sizes. You can't keep adding children. There is simply no place to put them. The speculators cried "they took our middle school!" in blogs and on facebook. But that middle school was failing and the parents were complaining to leave it and go to red bank! The other smoke screen was the cry of "discrimination" even though 85% of the African American kids at NPMM are lottery magnet kids.

November 17, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.
Imasockpuppet said...

The fact that ONS and other children were not in the zone blows that whole weak "discrimination" argument that the property speculators were pushing out of the water. But they pulled this trick on Hill City residents off with the help of some school board members. Explain how that Perry Development NW of Dallas at the top of Hill City has had a billboard up saying "Zoned for Normal Park" for weeks now? How did those developers know the outcome before it happened? Is there any explanation besides the fix being in? And so now the gentrification of Hill City begins, watch the properties value rise and the property tax rates, and watch those poor families that live there not be able to afford the rent there in a couple of years. There will be no “diversity” in Hill City in a couple of years because people who rent there won't be able to afford it, and people who own there now won't be able to afford the property tax. Somebody is going to get rich but it isn't poor children wanting to go a better school. But ultimately, the line has to be somewhere. Every kid in Chattanooga can't go to NPMM. No other children in Hamilton Co. besides those in Hill City can have the unique fortune of being able to pick and choose between two schools every year. There isn't space in North Chattanooga to make Normal Park bigger or add classrooms - there isn't even a parking lot. Is it horribly unfair to the parents at ONS? Or bridgeview? Or Sharon Circle? Yes, it is. They can't cry discrimination, they can't point fingers. But it remains that there simply isn't a solution that is physically possible.

November 17, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.
indaspring said...

The internet makes anonymous vitriol much too easy. I made a simple point about how decisions have been made. Due process means that those affected by decisions have a right to present their point of view before the decision is made.

November 18, 2011 at 9:31 a.m.
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