School board conducts annual public meeting

Published 6:16 pm Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Several people addressed the Chilton County Board of Education during an annual public meeting May 20 about an enrollment freeze at Thorsby School and plans to build a new school in Thorsby.

THS Principal Russ Bryan spoke first, saying the school was placed under a freeze several years ago to alleviate overcrowding problems.

Bryan said the school’s enrollment had reached more than 900 students before the freeze took effect.

“Last year, the largest class we’ve ever had graduated,” Bryan said. “I’ve got 70–80 leaving on one end and 40 entering on the other end, so my reduction of students is in the elementary now. For the first time ever since I’ve been there, we have more high school students than we have elementary students.”

Bryan said the freeze, if prolonged, could lead to a reduction of elementary teachers, most of which would be tenured.

“I have room in elementary, K-6, and I’m open to that,” Bryan said of lifting the freeze. “If we open up enrollment at the high school, that’s what’s causing problems right now.”

Thorsby resident Tom Bentley addressed the board about Thorsby’s need for a new school.

After being elected mayor of Thorsby in 2000, Bentley said a board member approached him about building a new school in the next few years, but the project never came to fruition.

“There are a lot of folks in Thorsby, and we want a personal commitment from somebody who will build us a high school,” Bentley said. “We love that school. I’ve got three grandchildren, and I want them to go to school at Thorsby, and I want them to graduate from Thorsby, and I want them to graduate out of a brand new high school that’s about 10 years old. I’ll work night and day to get that school.”

Allen Payton, a member of the school system’s Capital Planning Committee, expressed support for lifting Thorsby’s enrollment freeze and speeding up the process of securing funding for a project to build a new school.

“This freeze, we feel like, is stifling the growth of the community, much less the school,” Payton said. “I know that it’s been on top of the pile for years and years. Anything we can do to speed it up, trying to move forward with it, we would appreciate it.”

Mark Stephenson, assistant principal at Clanton Intermediate School, addressed the board about unexpected news he received about possibly changing positions before the new school year.

“I’m not one to ever come down here to complain about anything … but I’ve been at Clanton Intermediate for 12 years, and this morning I received a phone call that I was probably going to Isabella as the assistant principal there, which I do not feel is fair to me, to give me no say in it,” Stephenson said. “I also don’t think it’s fair for Mr. [Ricky] Porter to have myself forced upon him, where he does not get to make a choice about who he has as assistant principal. I’m not understanding exactly why I’m getting moved, and I’m not understanding why we let some principals post their assistant openings and some do not get to.”

Stephenson said he had not been reprimanded and always performed his job to the utmost of his ability.

“For me to be moved against my wishes, I feel like it’s not the right thing to do,” he said. “I think this needs to be fair across the board.”