Montgomery mayor proposes funding to create city school system - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

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Montgomery mayor proposes funding to create city school system

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year includes up to $200,000 in funding to create a Montgomery City School System. (Source: WSFA 12 News) Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year includes up to $200,000 in funding to create a Montgomery City School System. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year includes up to $200,000 in funding to create a Montgomery City School System.

If the Montgomery City Council approves the budget, the funding would be used for an educational consulting contract that would create a foundation for a new school district. 

“What that really means we will go and find some attorneys and financial people to evaluate the process about what it takes legally and financially to have our own city school system,” Strange explained.

That contract would likely be a multi-year agreement that would handle all aspects of the new school district, including advising the city on the separation of assets from the county, which involves the State Department of Education.  

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“At a minimum, it would take you two, probably more realistically four years to move from where we are today to start a city school system,” Strange said.

The concerns over Montgomery’s public schools have grown during Strange’s last eight years as mayor.  This year, the state launched an intervention to take over the district’s failing schools.

This new funding would put a framework in place to take over the school district should the state give the city control of the school system when the intervention is complete.  Strange is an advocate of the intervention and hopes that it will continue. 

“We have been dissatisfied where our education has gone over the last several years,” Strange said.  “We’ve got pockets of really quality education, we’ve got magnets you can look at, LAMP, Forest Avenue, Baldwin, BTW.  All those rank high, but that’s about 7,000.  We’ve got 23,000 that we’ve really got to pay better attention to. We’ve not been successful working with the local board of education to accomplish that.”

Strange believes a city system would be good for business. In the past, unrest at the district level has been a detractor for economic growth.

“Over the years the education system in Montgomery has been one of the biggest knocks we have gotten from the military,” Strange said. “We ought to have great public schools that are traditional schools, that we would love for them to go and get a great education.”

Logistically and financially many unknowns accompany this process. Immediately, the city must account for four schools that are not inside the city limits and how to educate those students. From there, the focus will shift to finances. 

“How much is it going to cost, and how much is going to come from the state on a per pupil basis, and what the delta is that you have to match,” Strange questioned. “That’s how you are going to decide how you are going to match that delta.”

Strange wants to meet each school’s specific need and is open to exploring options with charter schools and community schools. 

“The secret to success I believe is putting good principals and teachers and parent involvement, along with the child who has an expectation to learn,” Strange explained. 

Strange doesn’t know the full state of Montgomery’s Public Schools but believes real change must occur.

“We have not had any internal look,” Strange explained. “The most look, the only internal look, we’ve had was the surveys that were done in the last month or so.  When you have Park Crossing for instance, that have on average 24 teachers absent, give us a break. Out of 60-65 teachers, you can’t have that percentage of absence like that. Somebody should have known about that, somebody should have been taking action. For those teachers who are doing a good job, who are getting up every day, and those principals that are making a different, we want to give them the tools and resources that they need.”

Strange cited the desire to recreate “community schools” for the campuses that deal with extreme poverty. Community schools would address the needs of the whole child and their family, making health care, mental health care, parent training and critical resources available on site. 

“Community schools means you partner with the community in certain areas to remove the roadblocks to teaching, whether it be health, food hunger, medical, you partner with the community to have that capability at the school,” Strange said.

If the budget passes with the funding in place, Strange would seek to create an advisory committee that could potentially become a future board of education to work alongside the consultants and local residents to make this school system a reality. Strange envisions a very open, deliberate public forum throughout this process. 

Still, he believes battling the unknown will be the biggest issue that lies ahead for this possible school district. 

“Uncertainty, what’s around the corner; how do you get there, and what does it cost,” Strange cited as the biggest issues ahead for the city with regard to the system. “At the end of the day, uncertainty and change is difficult.

“Let’s embrace change, let’s think out of the box and do it. If we need to put charter schools in the equation, so be it. We have the authority,” Strange said.

There’s no word when the Montgomery City Council will vote on the 2018 budget.

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