Shelby Academy members vote to remain open

Shelby Academy members voted 52-10 at a special called meeting Tuesday night to keep their school alive for one last try.

It won’t be easy, though. The school is currently $576,000 in debt, and no one knows exactly how much money the school needs to reopen in August.

“You can do the pep talk, that’s fine, but if the members of the school want to save this institution, it’s going to take some hard work from everyone,” said school attorney Mitchell Spears during the meeting.

Approximately 225 people attended the meeting, which was acrimonious at times, with several people calling out the Board of Trustees for keeping quiet about money matters.

“I think the board members should have had this meeting a long time ago,” said Esther Acre, a former faculty member. “I never in my wildest dreams imagined getting this far in debt.”

Board member and 1981 graduate Clifton Garrett fired back at the naysayers, saying he’s been trying his hardest to get in touch with alumni for months, finally using Facebook as the only way to get in touch with many.

“I have asked and asked and asked for mailing lists and phone numbers. I have done my best since January to get back with alumni,” he said. “Communication is the weak spot of Shelby Academy.”

Board member Gloria Haygood said it costs $65,000-$70,000 a month to cover the school’s operating expenses with 120 students — a dollar amount that would increase if enrollment increased. The school has a small reserve of about $2,200, but money needs to come rolling in soon for the school to survive, she said.

“We just have to go back to the drawing board,” she said.

Board member Bo Winslett will chair a building committee, which will explore ways to bring funding and students to the school. The committee will meet within the next few days.

Opening in August may take an act of God, however.

“It would take a miracle,” Spears said. “There appear to be enough members here interested in keeping this school open. If that fire continues to burn, maybe they can find a way out of this mess.”