City Council Delays Giving DISD Rezoning It Wants in Jubilee Park, Pending Trustees' Vote on School Closures Tomorrow Night

RobertsStudent.jpg
A Roberts student asked the mayor to sign off on DISD's rezoning request so she could get her school back.
Best I can tell using our half-baked search engine, we began writing about Jubilee Park-ers' battle with the Dallas Independent School District over a new-and-improved O.M. Roberts in April 2010, when residents told Dallas County commissioners they were terrified of losing their homes in an eminent domain tug-of-war with the district. As the battle played out we met longtime residents such as Shawn Busari and Norma Hernandez, who have fought the district every step of the way as it planned to put in parking lots and geothermal heating-and-cooling pipes on empty lots between existing homes.

The district insists: It needs those sites to replace the torn-down O.M. Roberts using 2008 bond funds. Some longtime residents insist: No it does not. And per Roy Appleton's superb recap in the morning paper, architects and planners agree: "You can't take residential neighborhoods and build schools," in the words of Dallas CityDesign Studio head Brent Brown, who offices at Dallas City Hall.

Busari and Hernandez and other Jubilee Park residents returned to Dallas City Hall this afternoon to yet again make their case -- this time to the Dallas City Council, which would cast the final vote for or against the district's request to rezone those properties. Because where once the City Plan Commission shot down the district's expansion plans, in December it signed off the proposal to rezone.

Said Hernandez: The DISD is trying to "destroy our community." Said Busari: "We're asking you today, even though our numbers are small, leave us, please don't take to thinking it's OK to allow a parking lot to become a place where human beings are supposed to exist. Let us stay homeowners. Bring the homes back. Don't rezone us. Don't rezone us."

But Roberts teachers, students and parents -- who are currently at Mount Auburn and Mata, awaiting their new home -- also spoke in favor of the rezoning request. Said one teacher: "Do what is needed today to turn the land into a parking lot so we can build the new school and return to where we belong." A fifth-grader read from a letter, which began: "Dear Honorable Mayor Rawlings and city council members, I am writing this paper to persuade you to approve the rezoning." The mayor was appropriately charmed.

Karl Crawley from MasterPlan, which is repping the district, said this isn't perfect, not by any stretch. "But it's the best situation with the real state we purchased."

And then it was time for the council to weigh in.

Pauline Medrano wanted to know: Will the school be built? Because, you know, it is on the list of 11 schools to be consolidated under the plan that's scheduled to be voted on tomorrow evening. Larry Zerby, the district's director of design, told Medrano it's presently being bid. But: "Yes, it will be built. That is our plan."

LarryZerby.jpg
DISD's Larry Zerby
Said Medrano: "I think it could have been done a lot better," without splitting the community. "It has been divisive." Nevertheless she moved to sign off on the plan commission's recommendation to allow for those parking lots, which the district says it needs to build Roberts.

Sandy Greyson, though, had no kind words for the district. She reminded: These lots were not vacant till the district came in, bought houses from owners who believed they would be taken from them and tore them down. Said the council member from North Dallas: "This caused such divisiveness in this neighborhood and unnecessarily so. ... Even the people asking you not to support it want to see the school built, but in a way that doesn't negatively impact the neighborhood."

And, for God's sake, she said, this doesn't even make sense -- being asked to vote to allow building a new school the district might well vote to shutter tomorrow anyway. What in the ...?

"Hunh? Until we know if the school's going to be built," she said, the council should defer the vote. "I've already told Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Medrano I can't support this. It's not that I don't want the school built [but] this was not done well." Ann Margolin said close to the same thing; so too Carolyn Davis.

Dwaine Caraway used the opportunity not to talk about Roberts or Jubilee Park. Rather, he said, he went to one of those school-consolidation meetings the other night and heard that someone from the district said the city's to blame "for something the school board has failed to do. ... I am very disappointed they told the community it was the city of Dallas that's responsible. I do intend to go to the board meeting to express that tomorrow night."

Mayor Mike Rawlings, who ran his campaign last summer insisting he'd do all he could to fix the troubled district, had enough of that kind of talk. Before letting Angela Hunt have her say, the mayor interjected -- with not a small amount of force behind his words.

"I think we should reset this and understand where we are," he said. "Obviously it's a tricky situation. We all went to help neighborhoods. It could have been handled much better and the process is not what we like. We as a city must come together, and DISD should not point fingers at the city of Dallas and the city of Dallas should not point fingers at DISD. We must be together. ... It is our job to emotionally support [DISD] as best we can. ... These kids have been bused for a year, and we must get on with the education of these children -- children first. I am not happy the way this is but you have my full support."

The mayor then said: Far as he knows, if the council votes to rezone in DISD's favor, it can always revisit and reverse the subject. Which, sure, you can do, said Theresa O'Donnell, head of Sustainable Development. But it's a long, drawn-out process -- an "authorized hearing," as it's called, which is only done "with great caution."

Angela Hunt wanted to postpone it for a month. Vonciel Jones Hill said she'd do what Pauline Medrano wants to do. And, look, "Whether this could have been done better is a DISD trustee question," she said. "I have not sat in the trustees' seats. I don't want to sit in their seats. ... I am happy to hear all of the discussion, but I want all of us -- respectfully, colleagues -- to find our lane and stay in it."

You bet, said Greyson. "And I cannot support this zoning. I am not against this school. I believe this could be done a whole lot better, brought back in a zoning fashion that is something I could support. And if we deny this today DISD could come back in a short period of time if they vote to keep the school open with a better zoning plan for this we could then approve."

At which point the whole thing spun out of control. Because how in the hell is the city council expected to vote on rezoning for a school that may be closed tomorrow? O'Donnell said she wanted some clarification from the district. At which point Medrano withdrew her motion to approve the zoning request. Instead, she said the council should discuss this again in four weeks -- on February 22. Mayor Mike couldn't act fast enough: All in favor? All in favor.
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angry mom
angry mom

Is easy for those who don't have kids to sit back and let politics take over!  This is not about DISD or the Mayor, this is about the kids and parent that live in that neighborhood and need their school back. No body in that neighborhood is fussing about that school getting build but a hand full of people!  Give this neighborhood their school back! 

Smart Parking lot
Smart Parking lot

Angry Mom, If you would only pay attention you would realize that the affected residents aren't against building a new school!  They supported better compensation for our teachers and a covered parking lot, but NO, you can't see the forest for the trees!  They ONLY oppose a DANGEROUS parking lot and VACANT fields.  You will be the first to complain when a child gets injured as a result of DISD's poor design.  And When did a parking lot start teaching kids, that's one talented concrente stab And if your like the other parents, Do you even live there? or do you live in  balch Springs listing your mothers or grandmothers address.

Dangerous Parking lot
Dangerous Parking lot

So you think it's ok to disregard the lives of the Children, Senior, Veteran, and Disabled residents left in between a dangerous parking lot and vacant fields?  Put yourself in their shoes.  Not only will the residents left in-between destruction be in danger so will the students attending the new school. Please look at the whole picture other solutions are available that would work for the students and remaining residents.   DISD lies cheats and steals!  Open your eyes!   It's not about the children for DISD it's all about the dollars. 

RSF
RSF

They already tore down the historic 1909 O. M. Roberts building so it is effectively closed as of now. The students are being sent to Mount Auburn PK-3 and Mata 4-5.

History
History

That proves that DISD lies!  The school shouldn't be on the closure list..it doesn't even exist!    Some people don't know that the school was demolished after 2.6 million tax dollars in renovations.   Yes, the students are being bused over to the "14 year" old Eduardo Mata.  Eduardo Mata will be closed once the new O.M. Roberts is constructed due to low enrollment numbers.  More of YOUR tax dollars will become dust in the wind!  Thanks DISD!

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I'm confused, why is the brokester DISD so hell-bent on building an expensive new school and then closing it down?

Ross3700
Ross3700

Construction from bond funds...lifeblood of Dallas...

Ross3700
Ross3700

Construction from bond funds...lifeblood of Dallas...

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