Early this morning, my sons’ school was denied the opportunity to purchase the 5905 Windward property, which would have provided for perfect alignment with the school’s educational platform, purpose, and mission which is providing excellence and leadership within the scope of expeditionary learning. As a business professional and current MBA/ MPA candidate, I understand the intricacy and legitimacy of private and public concerns. However, I am saddened—not for my sons or the school—but for the Windward area.
Our request for the Conditional Use Permit, or CUP, and the eventual variance to the Master Plan would have changed the use of the area. I brought my sons to the meeting for a variety of reasons, mainly to show them how government works and how to show support for the causes in which you believe and ultimately will affect you, as well as to teach them how to interact with those who might oppose their opinions. What disturbed me was the inability of some opponents of the school’s intentions to acknowledge the proponents, especially the children. Debate and dissent are about expressing the capability to differ respectfully in opinion. Ideas are best exchanged when channeled in respectful and thought-provoking discourse. This includes verbal and non-verbal communication. To witness established professionals’ eyes quickly shoot past any connection with mine did not concern me as much as them not being able to look into the eyes of the children that this decision would influence.
An interesting twist to this land-use issue is that some of the residential perspective was shrouded and tainted by misinformation and ignorance. Amana Academy teaches Arabic to every student, but we have no racial, ethnic, cultural, or religious majority. We heard of the potential impacts from the business, residential, and educational vantage points. Both sides presented thoughtful and well-planned arguments for their viewpoints regarding how successful the school has been versus the impacts the school’s purchase would have on business as well as traffic. Though one gentleman found it “reprehensible,” our students voiced their opinions and stood as advocates of proven performance. Ultimately, the Council was challenged either to adhere to the Master Plan or to step out, with risk, to move in a visionary direction.
Being an innovator requires careful consideration, intellectual backing, and the charge to make a positive change, essentially matching courage with risk management. While voicing the need for accountability to the area’s current business owners, the Council decided in favor of the status quo and caution. Attraction and retention of revenue-generating organizations does not necessarily have to happen in the traditional sense, especially in an era where revenue-generation seems locked down in a dormant state of nonexistence. New ideas are needed. Unfortunately, the Council passed on this opportunity.
The opponents to the school’s petition, and even the Council, could learn from the leaders of tomorrow at Amana. I challenge each person and business representative who felt that the request to move to 5905 Windward would have a negative impact on the area to become engaged with this educational leader, one that consistently produces and performs above its industry’s standards and norms. Amana Academy is a “Fortune 500” of education. The school, with a foundation of innovation and vision that is practiced consistently through all channels from its executive leadership to its students, refuses to be yoked to fear and incapacity, tendrils that hamstring progress and forward-thinking innovation.
We value the importance of looking our children in the eyes, even when we have to make decisions that disappoint them, and that practice seemed absent in the Council’s decision last night. It might be the reason that the community fails to one day retain a generation of excellence we see in these students. These children are our future doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, executives, legislators, strategic planners, and decision makers. Perhaps, if the Council, as well as the measure’s opponents, had taken the time to look into their eyes, they would see it as well.
Bridgett Humphrey, Sandy Springs