Usually, it's mostly parents or neighborhood residents who attend Fayette County Public Schools redistricting meetings.
But on Tuesday, teachers at Lexington Traditional Magnet Middle School, with a show of force in black and gold school colors, were in the audience.
Some Lexington residents had balked recently about reassignment of the neighborhoods from Morton Middle School to LTMS.
But LTMS teachers said even though Morton is ranked in the state accountability system as "distinguished/progressing" and LTMS is classified as "needs improvement/progressing," LTMS' designation does not tell the whole story.
Citizens can't speak at the meetings, but teachers wanted to let the committee members know by their presence that they thought LTMS was a great school with much to offer academically and had been unfairly cast at recent meetings.
"In the last few meetings, LTMS has not been represented correctly," Cindy Brown, an eighth-grade language arts teacher, told the Herald-Leader after the meeting.
"There's an assumption that the state scores define LTMS. But that's not what defines LTMS. Our amazing teachers, rigorous curriculum, tradition of excellence and personal dedication to our students does."
"We have such a phenomenal program," Brown said. She detailed several accomplishments, including first place in the nation in a technology bowl, and a requirement for sixth-graders to take Latin.
LTMS students get an opportunity to travel to Rome and Spain, Brown said. The school has award-winning teachers, numerous championships in major academic competitions and even first-place-award winners on the television show Jeopardy!, she said.
"The accolades just go on and on, and the accolades are diverse," Brown said. "LTMS is a special place and we meet both the accelerated and non-accelerated student's needs."
Redistricting committee chairman Alan Stein said he had received many emails from LTMS parents and teachers who felt as if the school has been "erroneously maligned."
Cheryl Gregoire, a science teacher, said LTMS has a strong connection to community groups. Gregoire said that one of the ways the school was meeting its students' needs was with a specific style of learning called project-based learning.
"We can make all children successful," Brown said. "If a student needs to be challenged, we offer that rigor."
Chadwick Spencer, a Latin teacher at LTMS, said Latin courses set students up for academic success.
Spencer noted that the redistricting committee had received comments that even though some of the schools that feed into LTMS have some of the lowest scores in the state, LTMS does not score in the bottom tier of schools.
"That seems to underscore what a tremendous job we are doing," Spencer said.
But he said LTMS needs more faculty and more students. According to the district website, as of Oct. 1, there were 500 students at the school, compared to 738 at Morton.
The website said 58 percent of students at LTMS qualified for free and reduced-price meals.
Barbara Spitz, a physical education teacher, said teachers often work until 7 or 8 p.m. and ask to come into the building on snow days.
"That's dedicated teachers and we want the public to know that," said Spitz.
Some residents in the Fairway neighborhood had written to the redistricting committee that among the reasons they did not want their children to attend LTMS is that it was comprised primarily of students from lower-performing elementary schools.
Some schools that feed into LTMS have transient student populations, the letter maintained, with students moving into and out of its boundaries during the school year.
The committee has decided at this point to keep Fairway and a nearby neighborhood, Kenwick, at Morton, as well as portions of Ashland Park. The committee had earlier planned to reassign the neighborhoods from Morton to LTMS.
Some residents who live in Bell Court and on Mentelle Park, who had also been tentatively reassigned from Morton to LTMS, have been telling committee members that they don't care whether they are assigned to LTMS or Morton, but they don't think the children who attend Ashland Elementary should be split up between LTMS and Morton. They want them all to go to the same middle school.
Sharon Perry, a special education teacher at LTMS, said LTMS teachers would be happy to have the Ashland Elementary students.
"We have a wonderful school and we have a lot to offer," Perry said.
Committee members have not shown an interest in leaving Bell Court and Mentelle Park at Morton.
Stein said the committee has not acquiesced to pressure from specific neighborhoods and is making decisions that are best for all students and that align to the goals set by the school board.
Stein said he's read comments that say the redistricting committee has given in "to the more organized or affluent neighborhoods."
"It's just not true," he said.
Stein said he would agree with LTMS teachers that they have a good school.
"They are good teachers. They have a good principal and they have good programs. The numbers say they are lower performing than some other schools," Stein said. "But they are a rapidly improving school and I appreciate that they come to express that."
The committee is working on a plan to redistrict Fayette County schools to account for two new elementary schools and a new high school.
The redistricting committee meets next at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Central Office.