MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A Montgomery circuit court judge's ruling that blocks the sale of Georgia Washington Middle School by the Alabama State Department of Education is being appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court.
Interim State Supt. Dr. Ed Richardson appealed the matter to the state's highest court following Judge Greg Griffin's March 5 order, which also blocks the closure and sale of other schools and Montgomery Public School system property.
MPS is currently under state intervention with Richardson leading the charge to reorganize the financially and academically struggling school system. As part of his intervention plan, Richard confirmed in February he would close four schools and sell one of them, Georgia Washington, to nearby Pike Road Schools for $9.75 million.
The Alabama Education Association sued Richardson and the state's intervention team, claiming he has no authority to close or sell any schools. AEA also claims Richardson has conflicts of interest due to previous consultant work with PRS.
In his appeal, Richardson contends that delays in moving forward with "intervention-related initiatives" will be "extraordinarily costly" to the Montgomery County system. He's publicly stated that if Georgia Washington Middle is not sold, he'll have no choice but to layoff 200 educators.
"The sale of the Georgia Washington facility alone will produce almost $10 million in revenue to the Montgomery System," Richardson said. "We cannot risk losing that opportunity or the long-term benefits that will be realized through other cost-saving measures that are now on hold because of the court's order."
Richardson said he's confident the Alabama Supreme Court will bring a "big picture" perspective to the issues of intervention authority and governance that are raised by the case.
"The intervention statute was intended to permit the State Superintendent to make the kind of bold, often politically difficult decisions that are necessary to get underperforming boards of education back on the right track," Richardson added. "Intervention measures that can be undermined by entrenched political interests or judicial second-guessing are doomed from the start. Our hope is that the Supreme Court will interpret the statute in a way that will permit the intervention process to work as the Legislature intended it to."
The Alabama Supreme Court has not indicated when it will make a decision on the appeal.