Pelham leaders received mixed feedback on city school study

Dr. Ira Harvey presents the results of a Pelham school system feasibility study during a June 3 public hearing at the city's Municipal Courtroom. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Dr. Ira Harvey presents the results of a Pelham school system feasibility study during a June 3 public hearing at the city’s Municipal Courtroom. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

About 15 Pelham residents and educators during a June 3 public hearing shared varying opinions on the possibility of the city breaking away from the Shelby County School System.

The more than three-hour-long hearing, which was held in the Pelham Municipal Courtroom during the Pelham City Council’s regular meeting, drew a crowd of more than 100 to hear consultant Dr. Ira Harvey share the results of the city’s school system feasibility study.

After Harvey’s presentation, several residents voiced opinions for and against Pelham forming its own school system.

“We’ve got everything in place to start our own school system. I say we strike while the iron is hot,” said Pelham resident Richard Poff.

City resident Roberto Rodriguez shared similar sentiments.

“The problem with the county schools is they all pull from each other. You spread the money across all the schools,” Rodriguez said. “We want better schools so we can draw more people and better businesses to our city.”

Councilman Ron Scott said a city school system would allow Pelham to more directly control it school offerings.

“We could guarantee full accountability in matters concerning education (with a city school system)” Scott said. “Not a single one of us (council members) has any input on what happens in the Shelby County School System.”

Others expressed reservations about Pelham breaking away from Shelby County Schools.

“I don’t like how all of a sudden Shelby County is so bad. Someone sit down with me and tell me what is wrong and why it can’t be fixed,” said Moseley Johnson, the vice president of the city’s Beautification Board. “I am very upset about this.”

Michelle Hall, the Shelby County School System’s middle school and secondary program area specialist, said she was concerned Pelham may lose county offerings such as the School of Technology or funding for continuing teacher education.

“If we are going to do it, we need to do it better,” Hall said. “I want to make sure we’re not painting a glossed-over picture of these are all the things Shelby County is not providing when they are.”