Timeline - Page 11964: Rosalind Blalock vs. Lee County Schools. District found operating an unconstitutionally racially segregated school system.

1970: Beginning of Court Ordered Desegregation in the Lee County Public Schools utilizing Boundary System.

1970-1995: Issues during this time period included frequent changes in Boundaries, lengthy bus rides for minority students, and inability to achieve unitary status under the existing system.

1995: Adopted the policy of school choice in order to achieve unitary status utilizing a Unitary School System Advisory Committee (USSAC). Included a combination of boundary changes and magnet programs pending implementation of managed choice within three years.

1996: Controlled Choice Plan adopted for implementation in the 1998-1999 school year.

1997-1998: School District makes last boundary changes for the school year.

1998-1999: School Choice implemented with three attendance zones. Magnet programs served all three attendance zones. Unitary Status achieved.

1999-2004: Federal monitoring for full compliance of Unitary Status based upon School Choice plan.

2003-2004: The current Plan for Student Assignment was approved by the School Board. The Plan was modified for zones and subzones, replication of programs for equal and more convenient access, and elimination of race as a criteria for student assignment.

2005-2006: Current plan for student assignment implemented for the first time

2006-2007: Plan updated: Waived the non contiguous sub-zone assignment principle under certain circumstances and implemented the sub-zone preference as an additinal factor

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2007-2008: Plan updated: Clarified the qualifications for assignment waivers and modified the mix of educational facilities and opportunities in each zone through the addition of new schools.

2008-2009: Plan updated: Language improved for clarity and understandability, term “attractor” changed to “magnet.” Reference to racial and ethnic guidelines and racial isolation as assignment criteria removed or modified. Constitutional class size limits added for school instructional capacity. In-zone transfers restricted and precluded in final quarter of school year.

2009-2010: Plan updated: Distinguished between sibling guarantee and sibling preference. Sub-zone preference implemented in 2006-2007 eliminated. Processing of eligibility pools was shortened to fifteen days after school year begins. Employee waivers restricted based upon capacity and impact on class size. Dunbar High redefined as East Zone school with multi-zone magnet seats. Shift in geographic sub-zone boundary between E-1 and E-2 resulted in Manatee Elementary and Oak Hammock Middle becoming E-2 schools.

2010-2012: No recommended changes

2012-2013: Plan updated: Added preference for middle school students applying to specific high schools, language clarifying that similar magnet application preferences end when schools are no longer magnets, a second proximity zone preference for elementary and middle school students residing between approximately 2 and 5 miles from each school, and committed District to study potential for adding an additional assignment preference based upon parent involvement.

2013-2014: Plan updated: Added high school Cambridge Academy Program (AICE) as a choice magnet requiring specific entrance criteria.

2014-2015: Plan updated: Clearly defined the various types of waivers, documented waiver qualification information, and updated the waiver review/approval process. Updates also included establishment of systematic enrollment deadlines for special high school programs to occur prior to batch lottery process and a move to a longer, single formal school choice application period followed by a single batch lottery assignment process.

Historical Background

Dunbar Community SchoolIn a 1964 lawsuit, a federal district court found that the District was operating an unconstitutionally racially segregated school system in which students and faculty were assigned on the basis of race and access to parts of the school curriculum was limited on the basis of race. The court ordered the District to desegregate. Over the next 35 years the District, under the supervision of the court, made numerous more and less successful efforts to move towards becoming a unitary school system.

In 1997, the District adopted a controlled choice plan that subsequently allowed it to become unitary in the area of student assignment. In 1999, the District entered into a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs in the desegregation case. The court approved the settlement and released the District from its jurisdiction.

As part of the settlement agreement, the District agreed to complete the implementation of the School Choice Plan over a five-year period. The School Choice Plan was designed to foster school improvement and to provide diverse enrollments in the District. As a result of implementing the School Choice Plan, the District accomplished both of these goals.

The Process of Plan Development

As the requirement, under the desegregation settlement agreement, to implement the former School Choice Plan drew to an end, the School Board adopted Policy establishing a Student Assignment Task Force (the “Task Force”) to review information and develop options for the District with respect to adoption of a student assignment plan to be implemented after expiration of the settlement agreement. The Task Force, which was composed of a diverse group of members from the Lee County community, worked during the 2002-03 school year and the Fall of 2003, studying the former School Choice Plan and numerous student assignment plans from other school districts and developing five options for the District’s consideration. Each of the five different options presented to the School Board, the Unitary School System Advisory Committee (the “USSAC”), and the public supported continuing in some form a student assignment system premised on parental choice.

Goals for the Plan

What emerged from the process in 2003 and 2004 was a broad consensus around four overarching goals for the District and its new student assignment plan. These goals were improving student achievement, ensuring educational equity, promoting the educational benefits of diversity, and managing growth effectively. The District remains committed to these important goals.

Achievement – Responding to the primary concern of Lee County residents, The Plan is designed to continue to improve student achievement by fostering a healthy competition among schools and by providing stability for students. It promotes the effectiveness of the District by ensuring that all schools serve students with varied achievement levels. By avoiding the existence of schools with high concentrations of lower-achieving students, all schools continue to maintain high expectations for all students, demand excellence, and provide the necessary support for students who need it. Ensuring that students from varied achievement levels are fairly distributed throughout the District helps all schools meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (“AYP”) goals of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (“NCLB”).

Equity – Lee County parents and guardians also are concerned about fairness. The Plan is designed to continue to give every student an equal opportunity to attend a quality school of their choice by providing an educationally equivalent range of programs, curriculum, and instruction in all schools in each zone. In addition, using all facilities at a similar utilization rate and maintaining them equitably, will promote fairness.

Diversity – Many Lee County residents value diversity, and the District strongly believes in its educational benefits. The District defines diversity broadly to include a number of factors: gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, academic achievement, language ability, and exceptional education needs. It is well established that schools with such multifaceted diversity contribute to a number of educational values. Experience in a diverse classroom better prepares students for the work force and trains students to better exercise their civic responsibilities. Education in a diverse school environment enhances students’ values by bringing them together in ways that can reduce racial fears and stereotypes, teaches students how to interact comfortably and respectfully with people who are different from them, and prepares students to be better neighbors, colleagues, and citizens in our multicultural, democratic society. Diversity in the student body also helps to improve teaching and learning for all students by encouraging a multiplicity of viewpoints. Moreover, placing disadvantaged students in diverse classrooms in which teachers have high expectations for all students, can positively affect their educational achievement and long-term prospects, without negatively affecting the performance of other students. In addition, diverse enrollments can improve preparation for employment and post-secondary education by teaching students the value of different perspectives, how to function in multicultural business and educational settings, and how to communicate effectively in our increasingly heterogeneous domestic workforce and expanding global marketplace. In contrast, high concentrations of poverty, high percentages of low achieving students, and racial isolation can all cause or contribute to serious educational harms. It is widely known that many of the conditions associated with poverty present significant challenges for educators. Research has shown that when high concentrations of poor students are assigned to any given school, the academic achievement of all students in that school may be adversely affected. Similarly, students who are not achieving on grade level, present significant challenges for educators, and high concentrations of such students can have a negative impact on all students in the school. Finally, as the District has learned through its own history of desegregation, students at racially isolated schools not only miss-out on the educational benefits of learning in a diverse environment, but also may suffer additional educational harms from such isolation.

Growth – The Plan also responds to growth and demographic shifts within the District and provides equitable use of the capacity of all schools. Even in the face of dynamic changes, The Plan allows the District to continue providing the stability in assignments that the families in Lee County desire.