Answers not found at the City School System Forum

The City School Forum held Tuesday, Feb. 22, left many residents with more questions than answers. The heated debate over the possibility of Greenville pulling away from the County School System and establishing a City School System came to a head during the question portion of the forum.

The forum was announced as providing the results of a study commissioned by the Greenville City Council. However, the three consultants, Nash Campbell, attorney; Susan Friedman, retired superintendent; and Jean McCutchen, retired chief school financial officer, did not have any information to provide regarding a study commissioned for Greenville. They provided a step-by-step guide to how a city school system is developed and how other school systems were established in Alabama and their experiences with those school systems. A few school systems referenced included Gulf Shores, Trussville, and Pelham.

Several people were concerned with how children who do not live within the city would be able to continue attending Greenville High School. Freidman said that in every school system she has helped with changing over to a city system, the current children were grandfathered in to continue attending their school. The decision is ultimately up to the city school board to make the final decision once formed.

“It is a negotiation,” Freidman said. “It is a back and forth and everyone comes to the table to determine what is best for the kids.”

One resident asked for the cost analysis for setting up the City School System. Freidman said the study for that had not been completed and would be the next step if the city council votes to proceed with the next steps.

The question was asked if the speakers had ever worked on a feasibility study on a county Greenville’s size, which is a fraction of the population size compared to the other school systems mentioned.

“That would be part of the research we need to find,” said Freidman. Nash Campbell and Freidman said they had not worked with a changeover as small as Butler County.

The possibility of a tax increase following the City School System opening was another question many in attendance wanted answered. The committee said that a tax increase was up to the city. “They can do that now,” said Nash Campbell about the council’s ability to institute a tax increase. He also confirmed that he only knew two cities that did not implement a tax increase following the formation of a city school system.

“Let me first say how disappointed I am, knowing the fact that tonight we really didn’t receive (any information),” Jae’ques Brown, District 4 Commissioner, said. “This information we received, we could have looked on Google and gotten.”

Brown went on to say that Nash Campbell was hired the second Monday in November and told the committee that he was under the impression that they were going to be getting the information to present to everyone that night.

“I thought you would be gaining facts, statistics, money, all that good stuff. I thought that would be presented to us today.”

He went on to make the following statement to the city council. “We keep saying that Greenville High School has an average of a D. My question is what as a city school system can we do to change that D to a C? What is it as a city school system that we can do differently than Butler County School System to make this school system so productive and better than the current school system? My next question is, why now?”

A Greenville resident called on Mayor McLendon to stand up and answer the questions of the room that only the mayor could answer. The mayor was asked directly, “why now,” and “has the move to a city school system already been decided?” Mayor McLendon did not acknowledge or answer any questions raised at the forum.