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Commission seeks partnership

Commissioners Sport (left) and Stephens (right) will contiue communication with the school board for a resoultion. Journal Photo/Shayla Terry

By: Josiah Askew

Crenshaw County Board of Education members said they need more information on a proposal by county commissioners to lease a board-owned facility, using it to start a vocational program.

Two of the five county commissioners attended Monday’s board meeting in the Joe R. Sport Administration Building.

Merrill Sport, District 3 commissioner, and District 2 Commissioner Michelle Stephens proposed a partnership that they said would benefit not only students of the county school district and Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, but also all county residents.

The Board of Education has a facility that could serve as the site of the school system’s vocational program. The building currently serves as the Alternative Learning Center and storage.

The Board of Education has talked about the need to create a vocational program in the past, according to Dr. Boyd English, superintendent.

The commissioners offered to remodel the building, describing this as a win-win situation for the Board of Education.

They said students of the Crenshaw County school system would benefit because the vocational programs would be housed in a state-of-the-art technology center. Technology-based programs and other trades such as carpentry, welding and plumbing would be available to all county residents and the students.

The county’s Economic Development Fund would cover the cost of the remodeling and possibly educators’ salaries. The fund was set aside to build facilities for the county.

“We are here to negotiate,” Sport said. “We would like to use our money to get this thing started.”

The commission proposed to remodel the unused facility and lease it for two years for a dollar, which would allow the commission to monitor the program’s success.

“We want to outgrow it,” Sport said. “This will give us time to see if we outgrow it and see if we need to build another facility.”

There was no mention of how much is in the fund or how much would be allocated to use with this partnership.

Board members said they would like to know more details about the program, as opposed to just the details of the agreement on the facility.

“We have not been privy to all of the information and the facts,” said Sheri Claybrook, District 2 representative for the school district. “In order to make a sound decision, we need all the facts, not just the details of the facility.”

Concern arose about the funds in the Economic Development Fund, and school board members said they want to make sure the money is used ethically and know what the money is intended for.

“I’m not ready to jump in [this partnership] feet first to go with it.”  Claybrook said.

Stephens said the decision is not that hard.

“It’s simple,” Stephens said. “ ‘Should we allow the commission to use the building?’ Let us and LBW work out the details for this win-win situation with this wonderful partnership. We just need the facility.”

Board members decided to seek more information about the partnership before making the deal with the county commissioners.

“Neither of the commissioners could answer all of the information I felt we needed to be answered,” Claybrook said. “I’m not disputing the win-win situation. I would just like to know all the facts.”

The board plans to revisit the proposal at its next regular meeting on Monday, May 15, at 5:30 p.m. at the same location.

Troy University journalism student Josiah Askew of Atlanta wrote this story as part of a project partly funded by the Alabama Press Association Journalism Foundation.