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Druid Hills High School student: Annexation will wipe out what made my school great

Druid Hills High School senior Jacob Pierce shares his view of the proposed neighborhood annexation that would splinter his high school.

Jacob is student body president at Druid Hills, part of the school's International Baccalaureate program, and one of Georgia's delegates to the U.S. Senate youth program.

In college next year, Jacob plans to major in economics or public policy with hopes of pursuing a law or other graduate degree. "After college, I hope to get involved in politics at a local level and then move to the federal level," he says.

By Jacob Pierce

There’s no point in sugarcoating it: Annexing Druid Hills into the Atlanta Public Schools District is a very bad idea.

If Druid Hills is annexed into APS, nearly 80 percent of the current students at Druid Hills High School would find themselves without a school to attend, and they are disproportionately black, Latino, and international students. This means Druid Hills would suddenly be without one of its greatest assets: diversity.

Druid Hills is now a majority-minority high school — more than three-quarters of the students are non-white – and, as such, it is home to incredible diversity.

The students at Druid Hills come from all corners of the globe, from the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal to the Latin American country of Nicaragua to the newly independent country of Kosovo. Having students from almost every continent allows all students to increase their own cultural awareness and understanding of the world around them.

Exposing students to diversity at a young age is important because it enables them to hear from those who have different perspectives and experiences. This, in turn, permits students to become better innovators, and prepares them to tackle the difficult problems confronting the world today.

Some in the Druid Hills community were unhappy the DeKalb school board narrowly defeated the attempt to establish a Druid Hills Charter Cluster. In an attempt to “stick it” to the district, some cluster proponents have instead elected to push for annexation.

I understand many are frustrated with DeKalb County. Their frustration stems from a central office that seems to ignore the needs of the students, so to some extent that frustration is justified.

But it's important to remember who will be impacted most by the potential annexation: the students in the Druid Hills cluster schools. Some students will lose a high school, and others will lose an opportunity to be in a multiracial environment.

Where will those kids who will not be annexed go to high school? What will happen to the teachers now at Druid Hills? These are just a few of the things that need to be considered as this push for annexation is being made.

 I see annexation as a zero-sum game. Druid Hills gets annexed into APS but at the cost of destroying a community and robbing a school of  the diversity that makes it special. What pains me most about a possible annexation is that my sister, a freshman, and her friends might not experience the sense of cultural immersion that takes place at Druid Hills.

Our high school is a microcosm of American society; so many different cultures call the school home. I would hate for my sister and other students to be denied this experience because of a vendetta a few parents have against the district for denying their charter cluster.

The proponents of annexation subscribe to the notion that by being a part of APS, their children will be better off. I reject this notion because these kids will not be better off in a homogeneous school.

They will not be better off in a school where all they hear is English spoken in the halls and where they are surrounded by people who are culturally similar to them. They will not be better off in a school where everyone looks like them.

Moving Druid Hills to APS will not mitigate the frustrations of many parents, but simply move them to another school district. If those pushing for annexation were as zealous about reforming the DeKalb school district as they are about leaving it, they could make real change in DeKalb, change that would benefit all students, not just a few.

When I graduate in May, I will be more than prepared for the real world because I’ve been exposed to people of different religions, nationalities, and cultures during my four years at the school. This has made me a more tolerant and open-minded person.

Don’t deny other kids this learning opportunity by annexing Druid Hills.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.