Mayor Todd Strange weighs in on the future of MPS

Updated: Jan. 4, 2018 at 5:58 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The future of Montgomery Public Schools remains uncertain as the Montgomery County Board of Education awaits a decision on pending staffing cuts from State Superintendent of Education Dr. Ed Richardson. On Thursday, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange re-enforced his support of the state intervention.

"It's moving," Strange said. "Certainly it's not moving as rapidly as we would all like, but at the end of the day, it is moving in a direction that I think will produce financial benefits."

The school board was tasked with creating a potential budget that leaves an extra $22.6 million in its reserve fund. In December, a majority of the board members selected a budget option that cut 114 certified positions and 30 classified staffing positions in addition to $1.3 million in central office cuts. However, Dr. Richardson did not approve the board's choice. Board members said they expected his decision in early January.

Mayor Strange agreed with Richardson's decision to not approve the board's budget choice.

"That was focused more on the educational side of the equation and we don't need to be cutting teachers," said Strange.

Strange said he expects the cuts looming ahead of MPS to be "severe". Despite that, he is hopeful the intervention will be successful.

He also stated that the intervention combined with implementing charter school and new board members would hopefully put MPS on track to long term success.

In 2018, five board members' terms will be up.

"What we would love to have happen are qualified, capable, passionate people for kids, that want best results, would be in those positions so when this intervention does end in two, three, four years, that it would come back to something different than what it went into," Strange said.

He said there is a group of young professionals who are working to put forward some candidates.

The Mayor also said he would like to see what he called a charter school feeder system.

"Over a two or three-year period of time, taking eight schools or so that would feed into a particular high school," said Strange. "Let's make every one of those feeder schools into a charter school that feed into a charter high school."

Dr. Richardson said in December the state would begin taking applications for charter schools in Montgomery in January. Strange said members of the community discussed creating a charter school focused on STEM.

"That would very very good because of what we have coming in the F-35," Strange said.

He confirmed the city is no longer looking into creating a city school system. He said a successful intervention, charter schools and new board leadership with strengthen MPS. While the city is not directly pushing any of these initiatives, Strange said officials are keeping tabs on what's happening.

The Alabama Department of Education confirmed charter school applications and the window for applications will be from Jan. 16 to March 16.

Dr. Richardson plans to discuss the next steps for MPS at an upcoming board meeting.

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