Community weighs in on Pelham City Schools

Members of the Pelham community met in small groups to discuss the directiona and future of the new Pelham City School System during a May 1 community forum. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

Members of the Pelham community met in small groups to discuss the directiona and future of the new Pelham City School System during a May 1 community forum. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON /Staff Writer

PELHAM—The Pelham Board of Education held a community forum on May 1 to gather the input and ideas of the Pelham community about the direction for the new Pelham City School System.

In addition to parents, teachers and interested Pelham residents, the forum was attended by Interim Superintendent Dr. Tim Alford, newly hired Superintendent Dr. Scott Coefield and Pelham Board of Education President Rick Rhoades, along with other important community leaders such as Mayor Gary Waters and City Council President Rick Hayes.

The forum was directed by Dr. Marcia Burke of Burke Enterprises LLC, a strategic planning firm that has guided many other school systems across the state.

“Our purpose tonight primarily is to hear about your dreams and visions for the new school system,” Alford said to a full audience at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena.

“I came here to listen tonight, not to talk,” Coefield said, adding he was “very impressed” by the community turnout.

Those in attendance were split into smaller groups to discuss in detail what they hoped to see in the new school system, what they would like their children to learn and areas that needed to be improved upon.

Many of the items raised during the community forum echoed those brought up during the April 24 Steering Committee meeting, such as a desire for “effective” student-teacher ratios, modern technology and infrastructure and continued commitment to ESL and special education programs.

Some important new concerns were raised as well, notably a concern regarding access to the Linda Nolen Learning Center. The LNLC provides services and support for children with significant special needs throughout Shelby County. Although located in Pelham, the LNLC is part of the Shelby County School System, and parents expressed worry about losing access when the Pelham City School System separates.

The May 1 community forum was only the first opportunity for Pelham residents to provide their input. On May 2, three surveys will be available on the Pelham City Schools website, Pelhamcityschools.com, and will be open for anyone to take until May 22.

“We want everybody to take the surveys,” Burke said, adding that all information from the community will be used by the Steering Committee and inform their decisions as they create the strategic plan for the school system.