As previously reported in The Dallas Express, Allen Independent School District’s (AISD) school board recently took a controversial vote that resulted in two elementary schools being slated for closure, prompting outrage from district parents and the abrupt resignation of Trustee Vatsa Ramanathan.
Commenting on his decision, Ramanathan stated, “It was not because of the vote. It was because of the whole process that the school district went through.”
District leaders claimed the move was intended to help alleviate budget issues, address school overcrowding on the west side of town, and meet a state mandate requiring full-day pre-kindergarten.
Parents had protested for weeks over the proposed rezoning plan that threatened Anderson Elementary School and Roundtree Elementary School. However, Ramanathan said another trustee instructed him not to speak to them.
“I was told not to go talk to anybody. So, when I heard that, I was like, ‘Why? What are we hiding?'” claimed Ramanathan in an interview with NBC 5. “So anyway, I went ahead and spoke to the parents.”
He said the board member created the impression that the angry parents were “very emotional and they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Ramanathan explained that he identified with many of the parents’ concerns regarding the closures, especially since one of his children currently attends one of the schools.
“Yeah, if a school is closing where your kids are going, then you’re definitely going to be emotional, and I was also emotionally attached to that school because my kids went there. But as a school board member, I cannot let my sentiment influence my decisions.”
Ramanathan questioned the rationale behind closing Anderson and Roundtree. He explained that the board seemed to rush through the process.
This was concerning because the district had received a waiver from the state to delay the adoption of the pre-kindergarten mandate.
“These are so many unanswered questions and so many unhappy parents,” he observed.
“When we are elected by the parents, we are elected by the community, and if they are coming up with valid questions and valid concerns, why do this in haste?” Ramanathan reasoned.
Much had been made in previous months over the issue of overcrowding in west-side schools. Meanwhile, enrollment at east-side schools had been down.
Like other parts of North Texas, west Allen is seeing an influx of new residents pouring in from different parts of the state and country. Some are even coming from closer to home.
According to the U.S. Census, Dallas County lost almost 1% of its entire population during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many residents moving further away from Dallas City proper, per The Dallas Morning News. All the while, millions moved into surrounding areas in Tarrant, Denton, and Collin Counties.
As previously reported in The Dallas Express, Dallas ISD’s poor reputation of mismanagement and low academic marks, along with rising crime, have likely induced residents to move to places like Allen in Collin County, where AISD performs far better, clocking a 97.7% on-time graduation rate, well and above Dallas ISD’s alarming 81.1% on-time graduation rate.
Still, it is unclear to Ramanathan and many district parents why an effort is not being made to either build more schools on the west side or rezone to have west-side students attend under-attended east-side schools.
“If you have overcrowded schools, then do you close schools?” he asked. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
District parent Michelle Boren expressed a similar sentiment to Fox 4 prior to the board’s vote, stating, “They told us upfront they were looking at the entire school district because there is overcrowding on the west side. Yet here it is. They are taking away two schools on the east side. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
The notion was echoed by Holly Barnard, who told NBC 5, “They just don’t want to touch certain neighborhoods on the west side. They don’t want to touch them.”
NBC 5 asked Ramanathan why he resigned rather than stay on to offer a differing view on the board.
He responded, “If I am the only one talking about it, and I don’t get even support from any other school board members to put even an item on an agenda, then what good is it? I mean, it is like talking to the wall.”
A spokesperson for AISD commented on the board’s decision, stating:
“Our families love their schools, and redrawing attendance boundaries is never an easy process. Ultimately, this endeavor was conducted with a focus on the long-term success of this district for the benefit of all students.”