HARVEST, Alabama - The community involvement in Monday night'sCommunity Engagement Meeting at Sparkman High School maybe lasted five minutes,leaving dozens of residents upset and disappointed.
They had waited about an hour and 45 minutes to give inputabout the location of the new high school in the Monrovia area, but afterdeflecting several questions about the future school, Madison County SchoolsSuperintendent Dr. David Copeland thanked the crowd for attending and ended themeeting.
Aleta Stender, president of the Sparkman Parent TeacherOrganization, said residents had a right to expect a chance to give input andhave questions answered. The previous Sparkman cluster engagement meetinginvolved sharing test scores and a financial report and the one last spring wasa public forum.
"We have gotten off the rails as for what we're accustomedto," she said.
The consequences from the lack of community involvement atMonday's meeting is it gives residents a reason not to come the next time thePTO encourages them to show up, Stender said.The biggest issue at the moment is where the county system will build a million Monrovia high school intended to relieve crowding at Sparkman, one of Alabama's largest public schools.The county school board released a statement late last monthsaying it is "in the process of gathering information and negotiating anagreement" to purchase land for the new high school, which is supposed toopen in August 2016.If those negotiations fail, the board said it has identified a fallback site.
School leaders would not confirm the location of either parcel, but the minutes from a Jan. 21 community advisory board meeting say the top choice is a site on the east side of Alabama 53 between Douglass and Kelly Spring roads.The meeting essentially was a showcase of school updatesfrom all nine schools within the Sparkman cluster. Many parents were there tosee their children from Monrovia Elementary School choir and Monrovia MiddleSchool band perform or to hear news from their respective school. About halfthe gathering had departed before Copleland asked the remaining crowd if theyhad questions.
A couple ofquestions were not related to the new school site; several others were.
Copeland repeatedly answered he was not at liberty to givethe location of the two potential sites for the new high school or go into details about the process. When asked if the school was going to be ready by August 2016, , he said he hoped so but was unsure if that timetable was still achievable.
After the meeting, the superintendent said Monday's meetingwas meant to be a chance to for each school to share some of their keyaccomplishments from the school year, just as had been done with the otherdistrict clusters.
He said he hopes there will be a public input meeting aboutthe school site but that would be up to the school board.
"That's not a superintendent's decision," he said.
Madison County District 4 Commissioner Phil Vandiver was at the meeting and said hewas upset the residents didn't get a chance to voice their concerns whenclearly many were there for that purpose.
"The people in this district have come to me wanting input,"he said. "It wasn't done to the degree I thought it should be."
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