Byrd parents shocked, surprised

Published 11:19 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

The front of Byrd Elementary School, which is in conversations about closing in 2013. -- Tim Reeves

Tuesday’s announcement by Selma City Schools superintendent of education Donald Jefferson that Byrd Elementary School was among three schools mentioned for possible closure in 2013 was a surprise to many. But, to Byrd Elementary Parent Teacher Organization president Dorothy Reeves, she was more than surprised. She was both shocked and offended.

“I could not believe what I read in the newspaper,” Reeves said referring to Wednesday’s article listing the three schools. “There is no reason they should look at closing Byrd. Absolutely no reason.”

In addition to Byrd, Jefferson mentioned closing School of Discovery and the Phoenix School.

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“What makes it worse is I had a meeting with Dr. Jefferson in December about the rumors that had been swirling around about closing Byrd,” Reeves said. “I sat down with him and said our parents were concerned about the rumors and he flat out told me that we had nothing to worry about. That Byrd wouldn’t be closed.

“I went back to the parents and said there was nothing to worry about,” Reeves said. “I told them the rumors they had heard were just that; rumors. Now I know that wasn’t the case and that those rumors were true.”

Messages left for Jefferson Friday for comment on the meeting with Reeves were not returned.

“I’m hurt and concerned,” Reeves said.

As for Selma school board member Frank Chestnut Jr., whose district includes each of the three schools targeted for closure, Tuesday’s announcement was a shock as well.

“I was completely taken off guard considering all the options that were on the table that Byrd Elementary School would be mentioned,” Chestnut said.

One item both Chestnut and Reeves mentioned was the future of neighborhood schools like Byrd and the impact of closing the school would have on the surrounding community.

“When campaigning for this seat, I mentioned to residents the importance of having viable neighborhood schools like Byrd. Facilities that area children can look up to, can strive to go to and succeed,” Chestnut said. “What do we do if we close Byrd? We’re going to board it up and give drug dealers and users another place to go. We’d create another eyesore that would damage the surrounding community.”

Reeves’ frustration was also tied to the school’s track record of academic achievement and historical impact.

“Why select such a historic school like Byrd,” Reeves asked. “It’s good academically. Again, why Byrd?”

The school board’s regular, public meeting will be held Thursday, ironically, at Byrd. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. and the public is invited, but will not have a chance to address the board. Jefferson had said a series of public hearings would be scheduled in the coming months to give residents and supporters of each of the schools mentioned — School of Discovery and the Phoenix School — a chance to ask questions and make comments.

“I expect there will be a very large, very passionate crowd at Byrd Thursday evening,” Chestnut said. “I would expect them to be there in force and bring with them their ears to hear just what might happen to their school and to the other schools.”

As for Reeves, you can expect her and other members of her organization.

“I will be there for sure,” Reeves said. “I am upset. Very upset.”