City schools hold public forum

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Parents and students voiced their concerns Monday night at a public forum held by the Selma City School Board at Pickard Auditorium.

Among the complaints was a lack of textbooks for each student at C.H.A.T. Academy, problems with the Early College Program at Selma High School, equal distribution of athletic funds among all teams at Selma High, and – with the cooler weather – what type of jackets adhere to the dress code.

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School board members also addressed the proposal for a new Selma High School.

Collins Pettaway III, a senior at SHS, asked each board member for their opinion on the proposal to construct the new school.

“Right now, we are in the process of making a feasibility plan,” said Ben Givan, board president.

Givan noted that the land acquisition which will be discussed by Mayor James Perkins Jr. and the Selma City Council tonight is a completely separate issue. “We don’t have a dog in that fight,” he said.

“I am in favor of a new high school at some point and time,” Givan said, adding that there are several steps that need to be taken, including getting permission from the state Board of Education to construct a new school.

He said the community will ultimately have to make the decision, since residents will have to pay additional taxes to pay for a new high school.

Board member Ann Fitts said she would like to see a needs assessment, but that she does not believe a new school should be constructed just because of the age of the current facility, which was built in 1939.

Fitts said a wing was constructed in 1973, another wing was built in 1983, and the library was renovated in 1999.

“It’s a long way from being our oldest school,” Fitts said. “If we do construct a new school, it should be because this one doesn’t suit our needs at the time. If an assessment shows that, I’d certainly be in favor of building a new school.”

Board member Deborah Howard agreed that there should be a feasibility study. She added

that “yes, major work needs to be done” at the facility, but the high school is not the only school that needs work.

“I don’t want to just sit here and talk about Selma High,” Howard said. “We have other schools that have needs.”

Board member Coley Chestnut said that major work needs to be undertaken at the current facility and “at some point in time, we’ve got to build a new high school.”

Chestnut said there have recently been major plumbing problems, the roof is leaking and the auditorium needs $1 million in renovations. “The main structure of the school is bordering on dysfunctional,” he said. “It’s irresponsible for us to expect our children to go to school where they don’t have access to a working bathroom.”

Dr. James Carter, superintendent of the school system, said, “I’d like to see 11 new schools. Selma High School is certainly one, but we have to be able to afford things.”

Carter also addressed many of the other concerns broached by parents and students, making notes of items he would look into.

One parent expressed concern about lack of notification for the meeting, and lack of turnout – about 30 people were in attendance.

Board members encouraged participation by parents and students, as well as teachers and principals. “If you see a problem in our schools and you have facts, we need to know,” Howard said. “We encourage parents and people in the community to come out to forums.”