MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange made a call to action for the community to get involved and encouraged new faces to run for the five spots on the county school board.
Strange and members of the community came together Thursday to discuss the plight of the public-school system and the upcoming June election to fill five board seats. He sounded what he termed the "clarion call" for action.
"We have a clip we want to show you," Strange said.
Strange played a four- minute clip of the interim state school superintendent, Dr. Ed Richardson, highlighting a public school system in disarray, a school system under intervention that seems to have spiraled out of control.
"The board interfering with the day-to-day operations and I will tell you they have. Can you imagine what happens if you lose your accreditation? High school graduates will not be eligible for federal funds. The average ACT score is either 14 or 15. I should point out the average for the state of Alabama is 20," said Richardson.
Richardson also said the Montgomery County School District lost nearly 800 students this year. That means the school district lost $1.5 million in state funds.
When the video ended, the mayor said action has been long overdue.
Three families that had or will have children in the school system joined Strange.
The first speaker, Bethany Garth, a Montgomery resident and mother to two young girls, said she and her husband want to be involved in the school system but not at the expense of a quality education for her girls.
"Whether our children are in public or private we are interested in offering a quality education to every child in Montgomery," Garth said.
Carey and Dawn Owen talked about the experience their oldest son had in the public-school system. Kerry said his son broke down in the car one afternoon and expressed how unhappy he was in school.
Carey said his son told his younger siblings that middle school and elementary school were different because "you're going to meet people who do not like you, you're going to have teachers who do not invest in you and that he was sincerely unhappy."
"While we wanted to support the school system and invest in the community, our children were not going to be the experiment or the sacrifice in order to do that," Kerry Own said.
The third speaker was Aquan Robinson, a business leader on the south-central side of the city and father to MPS first grader. Robinson expressed the difficulty in deciding to keep his child in school or having an "it takes a village mentality" and supporting other children who have parents who cannot be involved.
"I understand that there is an importance and you need leadership from parents in the school system. It is so important that we be involved in what is going on," Robinson said.
The purpose of these speakers and the meeting, Strange said, was to give the community a voice and to find qualified candidates to apply for the board seats.
The mayor also announced the launch of a website, EducateMGM.com, to educate the public on the upcoming election and for those who are interested in applying to become a board member. He stressed the importance that citizens know about the election and for their voices to be heard, not those in leadership.
"Let our citizens determine who is it they would like to have representing their districts for the board of education," Strange said.
Meanwhile, the Montgomery County Board of Education is expected to interview and possibly vote on interim superintendent candidates Friday, Montgomery Public Schools spokesperson Tom Salter confirmed. The board is scheduled to meet Friday at 3 p.m.
Larry DiChiara and Eddie James Hill are candidates for the position, according to sources familiar with the situation. The sources didn't want to be named because they aren't authorized to release the names of the candidates.
DiChiara is the former Phenix City superintendent who led the Selma intervention. No information was immediately available about Hill.
None of the candidates have been interviewed. Those interviews will happen at a work session Friday, with the possible vote to follow.