Brookhaven is full of potential.
Dist. 2 DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader talks about a lot of the development potential elsewhere in this issue: Town Brookhaven; the Brookhaven/Dresden Drive Livable Centers Initiative; the lower Buford Highway corridor. But nothing has more potential to transform this community than Cross Keys High School.
The good news about Cross Keys is that the DeKalb County School System says the long-overdue renovations at the school will begin with some demolition Aug. 1. After all the delays and broken promises, no one should believe it until they see it, but at least there’s reason to hope.
And Cross Keys families have survived on hope for a long time.
As an online reader notes in the feedback below, Cross Keys gets an unfair rap.
The student body is overwhelmingly minority, mostly Hispanic, many of whom are not native speakers of English. Most of the students are classified as economically disadvantaged. Because of the gerrymandered district lines running along Buford Highway, some students must endure driving all the way from Spaghetti Junction to attend Cross Keys.
For all that, it’s clear a lot of real learning is going on at Cross Keys. Test scores are improving, and graduation rates are strong. We’ve found many outstanding youths to highlight as Standout Students.
The county school system hasn’t shown it supports the efforts of students, teachers and administrators to overcome the educational challenges at Cross Keys, but much of the blame lies not at the Central Office, but in Brookhaven itself.
Somehow over the decades, the connection between Brookhaven and its only public high school has crumbled along with the floors, walls and ceilings of the school. Perhaps energy that could have helped make Cross Keys a model of educational excellence instead was expended to direct children from some of Brookhaven’s nicer neighborhoods to more highly regarded Chamblee High or private schools.
The school’s resulting downward spiral is not surprising because Cross Keys fell below the critical mass of parental and community advocates required to force the school system to pay attention and take action.
But the community at large has paid a price as well, and not just in property values. I think there’s a reason Brookhaven remains a vague idea while neighbors such as Dunwoody and Sandy Springs have incorporated and Chamblee and Doraville try to expand.
A town needs something to unify it, something to rally around, something to believe in. Brookhaven doesn’t have a dominant company to play that part, and although Oglethorpe is working hard to connect with the community, it’s tough for such a small school to take on such a big role.
A high school, where generations have connections and rally behind the athletic and academic endeavors, is ideal for creating unity, but it can’t happen if so many families in the community have no stake in the school.
Cross Keys needs Brookhaven to buy into this reconstruction project, but Brookhaven itself needs this project to succeed if the community is ever to reach its potential.