Speakers favor Pelham school system
Chelsea parents push for de-annexation
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
The majority of the about 30 speakers at a July 8 public hearing on a possible Pelham school system said they support the idea, but many Chelsea parents said they want no part of it.
The hearing, which was held at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena and drew more than 200 people, was the third hearing since consultant Dr. Ira Harvey unveiled a feasibility study on the proposed city school system.
Most of the Pelham parents who spoke said they were in favor of the city separating from the Shelby County School System.
“The vision the city has I believe in. I do believe we can do it,” said Pelham resident Stephanie Wallace.
“With all respect to the people who run our schools, I think our community needs a specialized school system that will take care of Pelham problems,” said Pelham resident Rick Rhoades. “For me, schools are not only the windows of the community to the world, it’s the soul of the community.”
Pelham High School teacher Rebecca Burnett said the city’s students “deserve better.”
“We have phenomenal students who deserve better facilities,” Burnett said. “It’s not our teachers, it’s not our students, it’s our facilities. They are being left behind.”
However some Pelham residents encouraged the city to allow residents to vote on the matter, and said they felt the process is being rushed.
“You talk about accountability. For the love of God, let us vote on this,” Pelham resident James Owens told City Council members. “If not, I voted y’all in and I’ll vote y’all out.”
Chelsea parents concerned
As with the June 17 public hearing on the proposed Pelham school district, Pelham residents currently zoned for Chelsea schools said they don’t want to be rezoned for Pelham schools if the city separates from the county school system.
Most of the Chelsea parents live in neighborhoods off Shelby County 11, and said they do not want to make the long journey each day to Pelham schools.
Lee Jordan, representing the Windstone subdivision, presented the council with a petition to de-annex from Pelham during the hearing.
“If you guys want to build a school on the moon, I’m all for it,” said Chelsea parent Chris Dunn. “But we don’t want any part of that.”
Pelham Council President Rick Hayes said he does not support de-annexing Chelsea parents. Hayes said he would like to work with the Shelby County School System to allow Pelham residents zoned for Chelsea schools to continue attending Chelsea schools if Pelham forms its own school system.
Hayes said he would “personally support” Pelham residents currently zoned for Chelsea schools if the city can’t work out an agreement with the Shelby County Board of Education to allow them to continue attending Chelsea schools.
According to state law, it would take the approval of the Shelby County probate judge and a Pelham citywide vote to de-annex a neighborhood from the city.
Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven, who attended the public hearing, said Chelsea can’t consider annexing the residents until they are de-annexed from Pelham.
“Pelham has the first move before Chelsea can move,” Niven said.