Gadsden County School Superintendent Roger Milton made a surprise announcement at Monday night’s School Board workshop that there will be no reconfiguration done in the coming year (2017-2018).
Milton had sat through the five board members’ comments at the workshop when he was given an opportunity to speak.
He told the board and about 75 people present at the Carter Parramore cafeteria where the workshop was being held that this was all about leadership and that his plan had not been thrown together.
Milton reminded the audience that his plan was a way to maximize the district’s facilities.
The school board has met over the past few weeks at seven schools across the county to allow community members to speak on the superintendent’s plan.
Board Chairman Isaac Simmons was the last of the board members to speak prior to the revelation from Milton that there would be no changes next year.
Simmons stated he thought that the reconfiguration proposal was too much, too fast and wanted more time to work on the plan.
Simmons told the audience that he had been on the board for 19 years and understood the operations of the school district.
He warned that even with a reconfiguration there would be no “warehouse of money” for the district to work with.
For the first time board member Charlie Frost gave his recommendation for a plan which primarily included making East Gadsden a 6-12 school leaving West Gadsden a 6-12 school. Then closing down of Shanks Middle school and combining George W. Munroe and Stewart Street schools as one school at the Shanks facility as well as closing Gadsden Elementary Magnet school and sending those students back into the district.
Also for the first time, board member Audrey Lewis made a proposal that included possibly selling East Gadsden or turning it into a technical school and adult education center as part of her idea.
Lewis brought up the idea of having an additional half-cent sales tax as a way of creating more funds for upgrades of facilities adding that she wanted to try and keep schools in neighborhoods.
Board member Tyron Smith liked the superintendent’s plan saying that it had been well prepared and thought out.
He said the plan had included input from the district’s staff and was about trying to best utilize the current facilities.
Smith said that a school needed at least 300 students to pay the bills, and that in his decision he will always consider school population as a determining factor and whether
a school will pay for itself.
He warned as well, that any plan that would involve building a new school was not a sure thing because of the current political environment.
He added that the district would need to look at the cuts coming down the pike for schools across the state.
Board member Steve Scott said this was one of the hardest decisions he has made and said he would base his final decision on three major factors: Will this decision promote early learning centers, an issue he felt was vital to the school district? By combining schools will it offer better pay for teachers and allow the district to bring in higher-qualified teachers? Will it eliminate underused and aging facilities?
He said he would examine his decision from all sides.
Scott made an observation that what had been missing from some of the meetings had been the “silent majority” that did not come. He added that as he had observed when it was brought up about transportation, that those that opposed shutting down Chattahoochee, Gretna and St. John Elementarily Schools had no consideration for other schools being affected by closure.
He said that argument can’t be used one way and not the other.
He added that most of the objections he heard had been about transportation and convenience and his concern was about the educational welfare of the school district.