County superintendent shares thoughts on Alabaster school district

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Shelby County School District Superintendent Randy Fuller said an Alabaster city school district would not have a significant impact on the county schools’ budgets, but would reduce the county district’s enrollment by about 20 percent.

Fuller’s Aug. 31 comments came the same day members of the Alabaster City Council announced they would host three special meetings in September to discuss the findings of an Alabaster school district feasibility study.

A few months ago, the City Council voted to hire Dr. Ira Harvey to conduct a thorough study into whether or not Alabaster could break away from the county school district to form its own.

If Alabaster one day broke away from the county district, the budgets for the schools remaining in the county would not be significantly impacted, Fuller said.

“(Alabaster) is one of our major revenue sources, but you would take away 20 percent of our students if they formed their own district,” Fuller said. “It would reduce our revenues, but it would reduce our expenses, too. Because of that, it would pretty close to even out.”

Of the county’s more than 28,000 students, about 6,000 are currently zoned for Alabaster schools, Fuller said.

Ward 6 Alabaster Councilman Scott Brakefield said the feasibility study will tell city leaders if the county school district is receiving more revenue from Alabaster than it is spending in Alabaster schools.

“We are a huge revenue base, but we recognize that we are a big expenditure as well,” Brakefield said, noting he has had “limited to no communication at all” with county school officials since the feasibility study was ordered.

“I have heard that there is a difference in what we send to Columbiana and what we get back in Alabaster schools,” Brakefield added. “What that difference is, I don’t know. I’ve heard $3 (million) or $4 million.”

Shortly after the Alabaster City Council announced it was considering forming a new school district, the county district announced plans to construct a new Thompson Intermediate School. However, Fuller previously said the county district will not move forward with the project until the city decides if it will form its own district.

“Out of respect for the city leadership of Alabaster and their desire to start a new school district, we will not move forward with our plans to build a new school (in Alabaster) at this time,” Fuller wrote in a previous press release.

Fuller said the county district will cooperate with Alabaster officials as the city reviews the results of the feasibility study.

“They need to take plenty of time to gather input as they prepare to make their decision, and we respect that,” Fuller said. “In the meantime, we will continue to provide a quality education for children in all 39 of our schools.”