Shelby Academy teachers still not paid

By KATIE HURST/ Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO — A year after the closing of Shelby Academy, a former teacher is still trying to make ends meet after not being paid for the last three months of teaching during the 2008-2009 school year.

Jacqueline Curtis, former Shelby Academy English teacher, said she hasn’t heard from the school since the fall of 2009, when they informed her they would not be able to supply her paycheck.

In a letter from the school, Curtis and other teachers were given the option to make the missing paycheck a tax-deductible donation to the school to help it pay off its debts, she said. Curtis declined.

“The ironic thing is that we had all signed our contracts for the 2009-2010 school year,” Curtis said. “We were under the impression that things were going good with the school.”

The school closed before the fall semester in 2009 because of financial trouble.  School officials stated they would attempt to reopen the school in the fall of 2010 after raising funds to repay debts.  June 1, 2010, seven board of trustee members resigned after school members voted against selling the school building to help raise those funds.

Today the school stands empty and Curtis said she’s still trying to recover from the loss of about $4,500. Curtis said nearly 20 other former teachers are out similar funds. The teachers would like to see the school building sold and the proceeds used to pay the money owed them, Curtis said.

“I’ve talked with the other teachers and we’re planning to meet and have a discussion to see where to go,” she said. “It’s a valuable piece of property, it seems unfair that it’s just sitting there and not benefiting anyone.”

Curtis was unemployed for nine months before finding a part-time job. Between her loss of paycheck and unemployment, she said her family has been forced to cut back and is currently trying to refinance their home.

“It’s been a game of catch-up and so far I haven’t caught up,” she said.

Curtis said the lack of communication from the school has been frustrating.

“No one is up there during the day,” she said. “The only people I’ve come in contact with are former teachers and they have the same questions as I do.”

Although the school’s website remains open, the main phone number has been disconnected. Remaining members of the board of trustees did not immediately respond to requests for interviews.

Curtis said she feels there is not much she can do about her missing paycheck. Other teachers have looked into hiring lawyers, but Curtis said that’s not an option for her.

“I don’t have the funds to go to a lawyer,” she said. “It would cost me more to hire someone to get that money. We’re kind of between a rock and a hard place. We need the funds but don’t have the resources to go after them.”