Shelby Academy expected to close doors

Shelby Academy will close pending membership approval, according to the school’s attorney Mitchell Spears.

The school’s Board of Trustees plans to hold a membership meeting July 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s gymnasium.

“Due to financial setbacks attributable to declining enrollment, Shelby Academy has been forced to discontinue its operations,” a letter from Spears said. “A meeting of its members will be held … to consider dissolution of the corporation, satisfaction of its obligations and liabilities and distribution of its assets.”

Board members did not believe the school could reopen with its current student numbers, which have decreased from 211 students in 2005 to 100 last August.

Board members gathered at a special board meeting Tuesday night after the school learned the previous week that its benefactor, whose name has not been disclosed, was no longer able to financially back the school’s credit line, according to board member Cindy Wingard.

“We were left facing a payroll that could not be made and teachers that were due their checks the next day (July 1),” Wingard said. “We felt like we were obligated to make a decision and let the teachers know … If we hadn’t they would have found out today, if they were to come in to pick up a paycheck.”

Phone calls were placed to the faculty Tuesday night. Letters are expected to be mailed to parents from the school’s attorney Mitchell Spears of Montevallo. Wingard said the board will honor any 12-month contracts the school has with teachers. Efforts to reach Spears for comment on the situation were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Despite rumors circulating through the spring that the school would close, faculty had been assured that it had dodged a bullet this year. One of those who was hopeful for the future is basketball coach and alumnus Kevin Smith.

“Being an alumni and a coach, I hate to see it went as far south as it did. I thought we were in a good place,” Smith said. “The money situation kind of came out from under us.”

Before Tuesday, the school was preparing for the upcoming academic year with registration scheduled for Aug. 10. A horseshoe tournament was set for July 11 to help raise funds for the school but has now been canceled.

“There’s a lot of people being affected. There are a lot of people that this is just a bump in the road, and they’ll move along. There are some that are already gone who are probably glad to hear the news, but there are a lot of us who have been here for all of the right reasons, as far as the best education and the right opportunities for our kids. We’re the ones hurting through all of this,” said Wingard, who was one of the school’s first students when it opened in 1970 and returned to send her kids to school there.

While the word is official, Wingard’s husband John, who serves as athletic booster club president, said he’s not ready to accept it.

“As a parent I’m totally disappointed. I wish I had the funds to prop up the school myself, but I don’t. If I had them I’d do it,” he said. “We’ve been here 11 years, and at this point in time, I haven’t given up that the doors won’t be open … I wish I could find about 20 people who would be willing to pony up some money, and we’d continue on.”

At the time of its closure, the school was searching for its fourth headmaster in four years. Former school headmaster Steve Zaslofsky, who aimed his efforts at increasing enrollment, passed away May 25, and Haygood said his passing was another blow for a school trying to rebuild.

Zaslofsky had hoped to increase the school’s enrollment numbers to 165 by what would have been the school’s 40th anniversary in 2011. The school awarded diplomas to 14 seniors, its last graduating class, May 22.