Group opposing formation of Alabaster school district

Published 4:24 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A group of several Alabaster residents recently formed a Facebook group opposing Alabaster’s consideration of breaking away from the Shelby County School District and form its own city school district.

In early August, several residents started the “Stay in Shelby County” group, which can be found online at, or at As of Aug. 17, about 90 people were supporting the group.

The formation of the group came a few months after the Alabaster City Council voted to have a feasibility study conducted on the possibility of forming the city school district. The results of the study are scheduled to come back in early September, but a member of the Stay in Shelby County group said he believes the council members have already made their decision.

“Some of the rhetoric that I am hearing from members of the City Council lead me to believe that some of (the council members) have already determined what will happen before the study has been completed,” said Billy Hughes, an Alabaster resident and member of the group.

However, Ward 6 Councilman Scott Brakefield, who has been an outspoken proponent of forming a city school district, called Hughes’ comments “a little premature.”

“I think that is an inaccurate statement,” Brakefield said. “I am a firm believer that if we can take our local tax revenue and put it to better use in Alabaster schools, we should form our own school district.

“But to characterize the council as a whole as having already made up its mind, I think those assumptions are inaccurate,” Brakefield said.

The group is also urging the City Council to put the decision on whether or not to form a city school district to a citywide vote instead of voting as a council to break away from the county.

“In my opinion, it makes more sense to stay part of the county school system. But if they put it to a citywide vote, and 51 percent of the city says they are in favor of breaking away from the county, I’m OK with that,” said Brent Copes, the principal of Calera Middle School and member of the Stay in Shelby County group.

Some of Copes’ family members are also employees of the county school district and are on the county’s Board of Education. Two of his children currently attend schools in Alabaster, and one is set to enter kindergarten next year, he said.

Alabaster City Attorney Jeff Brumlow said Alabama law requires a city council or commission to vote to establish a city school district and appoint members of the city’s school board unless the city is given special permission by the Alabama Legislature to hold an election on the matter.

“As a general rule, municipal school boards always have to be appointed by the city,” Brumlow said. “The only way that can change is through a special act by the Legislature.”

Alabaster officials previously said raising the city’s sales tax by 1 cent could help fund a new high school building.

Copes said he would like to see the city raise the sales tax but remain in the county school district.

“The county offers so much in the form of support for our schools,” Copes said. “If we put that extra tax money into Alabaster schools, Alabaster could have some of the best schools in the state.”

Brakefield said forming a city system would allow Alabaster to have greater control over the money going to its schools.

“I hate it, but this is a polarizing issue,” Brakefield said. “I hope we can just focus on what both sides agree on, and that is ‘What is in the best interest of our children?’”