Takeover of Selma City School System immiment, unavoidable

Published 6:05 pm Saturday, January 18, 2014

In an effort to help The Selma Times-Journal readers better understand the Alabama State Board of Education’s resolution to notify Selma City Schools of its intentions to take over the system, we have translated it into terms that everyone can understand.

Whereas, the Alabama State Board of Education has lots of power and can control the public school system through the State Superintendent Tommy Bice and his staff; and

Whereas, Bice decided that the schools in the Selma City System need work. He decided there are lots of problems in the system that prevent it from meeting standards that we require everyone to follow; and

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Whereas, Bice and the people who work for him have tried to get the Selma School System to follow our rules by talking to its employees and telling the system about the problems it has; and

Whereas, the research we did asked the Selma Board of Education to send us a plan to fix the problems; and

Whereas, the Selma City Schools superintendent Gerald Shirley asked Bice to review the plan he came up with, but didn’t ask the Selma City School Board for its opinion on the plan; and

Whereas, Bice sent a letter to the Selma City School Board on Nov. 13, 2013 telling it to (1) decide on what to put in the plan and accept it in one long document; (2) apply the plan every year, for the next two years; (3) keep track of how well the Selma City School System was doing with fixing its problems every four months; (4) send Bice a progress report before March 15, 2014; and

Whereas, Bice received a totally new plan on Jan. 15, 2014 that was approved at the Selma City School Board’s Dec. 12, 2013 meeting; and

Whereas, the plan, was given to Bice way after the 21-day deadline that was set; and

Whereas, the plan wasn’t only late, but it didn’t have the document we asked for or confirmation the school system would fix its problems. The plan also didn’t have a system to track how well the plan was being put into place, like Bice asked Selma City Schools to do; and

Whereas, without including those things Bice asked them to, the plan doesn’t talk about the problems we told the Selma City School System it has. The plan also doesn’t include anything to make sure the problems are fixed; and

Whereas, the Selma City School System has to put the plan in place to (1) make sure students in Selma don’t lose an opportunity for a good education; (2) make sure Selma residents trust the school system to do the right thing; and (3) make sure the Selma City School system is obeying all of the rules we put in place; and

Whereas, Bice is requesting the Alabama State Board of Education approve a state takeover because he is allowed to and feels it’s necessary. 

Now, it’s final. The Alabama State Board of Education and Bice have decided to tell the Selma City Board of Education to think about a state take over at its next school board meeting. Before we decide to take over, we will give Shirley and his staff a chance to tell us that we are wrong. We want Shirley to prove that he can do a good job at running the Selma City School System. 

We know this might come across as tongue and cheek humor about what has become a very serious problem.

We know it’s serious and have covered it extensively since Selma High School teacher LaTangelia Williams was arrested on school campus for sexually-related charges.

This was in no way was an attempt to make light of the situation, but point out — in what we hoped was a clearer way — the details of the very serious action planned by the State Board of Education.

While the Selma City Board of Education has an opportunity to make its case to the state board on Feb. 12 for why such action is not needed, we believe their claims will be futile. The state intends to take over the Selma City School System and should.

Our school leaders tell students all the time that their actions have consequences; tests are given and graded. In this case, the Selma City Board of Education has failed and the consequence is the state of Alabama having to come in and show our leaders how they are to run the system.

As Bice said in his remarks to the State Board of Education Friday, our leaders can go one of two directions with this potential action; work together to find a solution or get told what the solution is.