Parents launch School Watch Committee at CMS

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Black parents who believe their daughters were unfairly eliminated from the Columbiana Middle School cheerleading squad during recent tryouts say they will take their concerns to the U.S. Department of Justice if necessary.

Several of the parents were among the 65 residents present for the organizational meeting of the Shelby County Schools Watch Committee held last week at Macedonia Baptist Church in Columbiana.

Founded by Virgil Perkins and his sister, Maxine Perkins, and Floyd Lilly and his wife, Karen Lilly, the watch committee grew from concerns over the March 9 cheerleading tryouts.

Thirty-one students, seven of them black, competed for a spot on the squad. One of the 10 chosen was black, they said.

Unhappy with the response they received from school officials, Maxine Perkins said she and others launched their own investigation into the school system’s &uot;practices and procedures&uot; and found many of them to be unfair.

She declined to give further details.

The Rev. Bobby Harris, acting as adviser for the watch committee, said the group has been in contact with the Shelby County Board of Education, and parents are now are awaiting an answer to their concerns.

&uot;If we do not receive those answers in a positive way, then we’re going to the big house,&uot; Harris told the crowd, which responded with enthusiastic &uot;amens.&uot;

Harris said later he was referring to the federal justice department and the Alabama Department of Education, offices he called upon once before in 1992 when he was passed over for the position of principal at Thompson High


&uot;If we don’t get the proper response locally, then we’ll go nationally. We’ve done that before at Thompson High School, and we’ll do it a Columbiana Middle School,&uot; he said.

Citing historical examples such as Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up a bus seat and the birth of Jesus Christ, Harris told the crowd not to be discouraged,

that even the most &uot;resounding&uot; events start out small.

&uot;We’re going to start a fire here tonight. It may not seem like much, but it’s going to mushroom and mushroom and mushroom until you’ll have parents calling wanting to know when the next meeting is going to be,&uot; he said.

Harris and others emphasized they have no plans at this time to demonstrate and that the watch committee is a Christian organization not intended to promote rioting or division.

As Maxine Perkins said, she and others must consider Columbiana their home.

&uot;Columbiana is a wonderful place to live and raise your children, and we don’t want to change that,&uot; she said.

Also at the meeting, organizers passed out packets to representatives of local predominantly black churches that contained information on accessing scholarships and grants as well as phone numbers for county school officials and information about school board meetings.

Harris and others encouraged parents to get involved in their children’s schools and asked them to attend upcoming meetings of the Shelby County Board of Education and the CMS Parent Teacher Student Organization.

The next meeting of the PTSO, at which officers will be elected, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on April 22.

&uot;Our efforts tonight and all our efforts should be to save the children,&uot; Harris said. &uot;Not just for black and minority children, but we should fight for all children who have gotten a raw deal.&uot;

Harris closed the meeting by asking parents to be patient in awaiting resolution to their problems with the school system over the cheerleading tryouts.

&uot;We’re not going to solve it tonight, but we’re going to get it solved,&uot; he said