All sides react to AL Supreme Court ruling in MPS school sale lawsuit

The case that blocked the sale of Georgia Washington Middle School has been dismissed at the...
The case that blocked the sale of Georgia Washington Middle School has been dismissed at the order of the Alabama Supreme Court. (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
Published: May. 4, 2018 at 2:41 PM CDT|Updated: May. 4, 2018 at 5:03 PM CDT
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The Alabama Supreme Court has reversed a lower court's ruling regarding the sale of Georgia...
The Alabama Supreme Court has reversed a lower court's ruling regarding the sale of Georgia Washington Middle School. (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - All sides in a lawsuit have publicly reacted following Friday's opinion by the Alabama Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal and order the Montgomery County Circuit Court to close the case that prevented Interim Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson from selling property belonging to the Montgomery Public Schools system.

The high court ordered the lower court to dismiss on the grounds that the Alabama Education Association, which brought the suit seeking to prevent the sale of property including Georgia Washington Middle School, did not have standing and that the trial court never had jurisdiction over the case.

AEA contended Richardson never had authority to sell property but the justices felt otherwise, saying:

"I write specially to express my opinion that, even if the plaintiffs had been able to satisfy the standing requirement, the proposed sale of Georgia Washington Middle School ordered by Ed Richardson, the interim State Superintendent of Education, appears to fall squarely within the broad authority granted the State Superintendent of Education by the Educational Accountability and Intervention Act of 2013, codified at § 16-6E-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ("the EAIA")."

An MPS spokesperson referred all questions regarding the opinion to the Alabama State Department of Education, but MPS Board President Robert Porterfield issued his own statement saying he was "very disappointed" and that "the court has spoken". But he added it was "now time for the citizens of Montgomery County to rise up and speak out against these actions."

Interim Supt. Richardson said he was "very pleased":

"Obviously, I am very pleased that the Alabama Supreme Court confirmed the law awarding me this authority with a school system under intervention. This will allow me the opportunity to make changes that will both convey a positive message to the accreditation agency looking into Montgomery Public Schools, as well as minimize the number of people laid off within MPS."

AEA said it was "disappointed" but would respect the decision. It released a statement that read, in part:

"While we respectfully disagree with the Court's conclusions, we respect its decision.  The court's decision will have a negative impact on all students in Montgomery who attend public schools, including those at Georgia Washington Middle School. We will continue defending the rights of our members and will not stop responding when we see actions being undertaken which threaten the quality of public education in Montgomery County, or in any public school system."

Richardson, who is overseeing the state's intervention of the Montgomery Public School system until Dr. Eric Mackey takes over the job, had planned to close some schools and put them up for sale due to the system's financial issues.

Richardson had a purchase agreement of nearly $10 million for Georgia Washington Middle School with nearby Pike Road Schools. But in late March, citing ongoing litigation, Pike Road terminated the contract and said it was pursuing "other options" to serve its students in the upcoming school year.

Pike Road had left the door open to possibly revisiting the purchase. Friday, Mayor Gordon Stone commented on the next steps:

"The Town of Pike Road has started its work to secure classrooms for the Fall of 2018. At this point, we have employed engineers and architects to design a plan for temporary classrooms. However, we have always believed that it was practical for us to purchase Georgia Washington School from MPS. If this were to happen, Pike Road students would benefit from the classroom space, Ms. Washington's legacy would be honored and MPS students would benefit from the additional resources. Therefore, if the state would like to re-enter negotiations to sell the school to Pike Road, we would be happy to visit with them and see if a deal can be accomplished."


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