Rep. Prince Chestnut presents $1.75 million check to Selma Schools

Published 4:33 pm Thursday, June 29, 2023

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Rep. Prince Chestnut came to Selma City School’s aid on Thursday.

Chestnut presented Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Zickeyous Byrd and the school district with a $1.75 million check to help with the continuing rebuilding from the January tornado.

Byrd, SCS board members Johnny Moss, Tanya Miles, Phylis Houser, and Danielle Wooten, faculty and staff wanted to make sure that Chestnut knew how important this check meant to them.

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“In this role, I have learned you have to have certain people on speed dial,” Byrd said. “One person who is definitely on my speed dial is Representative Prince Chestnut. He is better known today as our gap filler. After some phone calls and meetings and giving him everything that he needed, he went to work. Today I am proud to say the gaps at Selma City Schools have been filled.”

When the tornado hit Selma on January 12 the tornado damaged the School of Discovery Preparatory Academy (formerly Knox Elementary) and forced its closure of the building for the remainder of the 2022-2023 school year. Nearly 240 of the school systems students were displaced by the storm. As the children and their families continue the long process to put their lives back together, the supplies and support needed will change.

“The students won’t ever forget it,” said Chestnut. “They will remember the tragedy, but hopefully, they will remember the response and how their community came together.”

Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, Minority Caucus Chair Barbra Drummond, and Rep. Kelvin Lawrence were in attendance as part of the celebration in honor of the work that Chestnut had put in to make such a big impact on Selma City Schools.

“You see all the news reports about Autagua and other counties throughout the State of Alabama about the storm damage. Representative Chestnut brought all the leaders into the community to see it firsthand,” said Byrd. “He was able to convince them that there are needs in Selma that are greater than just tornado damage. He was able to convince them of the needs of Selma in general.

Byrd said that the funds will be a big help in many of the things that the schools need to repair since the tornado.

“Our system has made great progress in the months since the tornado, but it has been challenging. These funds will allow the continued recovery and rebuilding that we have started,”

He also described some of the ways that the funds will be used in the near future.

“This is going to be able to help us speed up our rebuilding process and finish up some construction projects such as replacing H-VAC systems and replacing a floor,” Byrd said. “ Those were things that were trying to get in terms of priority items done first and trying to stretch the dollars that we had. This is going to definitely allow us to speed up that process and try to get everything completed all at once instead of in phases.”

During the process of getting the funds available, Chestnut praised Byrd for his timeliness in getting him accurate information that he could use in Montgomery.

“The superintendent was super diligent and got me everything I needed and I’m thankful for that,” Chestnut said. “It’s not always easy. All local governments don’t operate the same way. Selma City Schools has a wonderful superintendent who is Johnny on the spot and he responds swiftly whenever I contact him about something and gets me what I need so I can help.”

Originally the legislation approved $1.2 million, but fate intervened.

“We had a meeting and it was the meeting before everything went public,” Chestnut said. “ I saw that we were on the list. At first, we were on the list for about $1.2 million. I was extremely excited about that. A week went by and I went into the chairman’s (Dan Garrett )office and he was meeting with the leader of the ETF senate. He (Garrett) comes out and talks to me ‘ Prince, I know we said $1.2 million but we are going to bump you up. We are going to take you up about $400-500.”

Since the tornado, Chestnut has spoken about building Selma back better than it was before. He feels the check will be a big help to not only the school system but the city.

“The start is making sure we have superintendents that are responsive and answer the call of duty and then actually will do something above and beyond just the minimum,” Chestnut said. “I also think in education we have to be able to connect education on the K-12 level to the junior colleges. The junior college system is truly the lifeline of a lot of communities. I believe we really have to get people prepared for things like service work and work for the companies that are existing. So there are so many of the high-paying jobs in the area where the people don’t actually live in the community…if we can have a K-12 system that is getting children prepared especially with a really strong vocational system then they can go K-12 to the junior college, get the training that they need, then go right out into the workforce.”