Opinion: Calera’s next step forward

Published 1:19 pm Monday, November 27, 2023

This past Monday, Calera voted, after a few wild council meetings, to fund a study led by Dr. Ira Harvey that will investigate the feasibility of the city’s potential split from Shelby County Schools.

I want to preface this by saying that I think Dr. Brooks and Shelby County Schools have always done the best they can when faced with the management of an immensely difficult task. I think Calera Parks and Rec Director Seth Gandy said it best when he said, “It’s a very difficult job, and I would not want that job at all.”

I think most appreciate the work SCS has done in the county as a whole, but sometimes it’s impossible to meet every need all the time. Calera is now looking at a scenario where they might be better served to leave that school system and begin their own, and it is a situation solely based on what might be best for the kids who attend their schools, no one can blame them for entertaining the idea.

Out of all of the members of the community that came to speak at the open council session, only one of them was a student. As she spoke in favor of the study and a potential school system separation, I found her statements and delivery to be the most influential by far, and the shift in the air in the room was unmistakable.

It was clear just how badly her, and the classmates that came to support her, want a school they can be proud of. What struck me even more so, was that these students were thinking ahead and not for themselves but for the future students of Calera.

As I sat quietly in the audience, I couldn’t help but think back on how my own hometown had separated from Shelby County Schools prior to the start of my senior year of high school in 2013.

When I went to Thompson High School, I never felt as if it was in a great deal of need. Looking back on it, I realize that it really was. The lightly chipped floor tiles, missing stall doors and the trailers parked outside of the school for extra class space never felt like they were incredibly egregious problems at the time, they felt to me more like dashes of flavor that were to be expected in a public school.

That aside, all of these issues together did amount to a slow death by a thousand cuts of the school spirit. We knew we had it better than a lot of other places, most maybe, but we knew we could do better and have better.

In all honesty, I remember clearly that the only thing I was truly concerned about was whether or not Alabaster starting its own school system might mean that my history class would be getting new books. I had to share mine with my best friend because the school only had a select amount, and those we did have weren’t guaranteed to have front covers or all of the pages.

After the separation, when we came back to school, I remember the disappointment when I saw the new floor tile, fresh paint and new stall doors but the same old and tattered books. It’s a weird rant and grudge I’ve carried with me for years.

That being said, Thompson High School underwent rapid progress, and by the time my brother graduated from Thompson it wasn’t even in the same building, and he tells me that they eventually did get around to the new textbooks.

While I’ve never been one to really rank a school’s performance on its sports, I do have to also make note of the fact that Thompson went from having a football team so outrageously fantastic that we only went to watch the band play to being a dominant powerhouse that has more than a good chance of getting their fifth state championship this year. Which is insane, as I seem to recall making the observation that my school’s football team hadn’t won the championship since the early Reagan administration when I went there.

I can’t deny how magnificent the new Thompson High School is, just as no one can deny the fact that its current state holds its origins in that already decade old decision that led Alabaster to form Alabaster City Schools.

Because I have seen firsthand what a study done by Dr. Ira Harvey can result in, I can’t help but say that I hoped for Calera’s vote to go the way that it did. I want students in Calera to see the same rapid progress and educational advancement that Alabaster saw.

Those results will entirely depend on a long list of factors we won’t know for some time, I hope Calera’s current seniors can look back at their alma mater and proudly stand and talk about how far it’s come a few years from now. While that isn’t entirely dependent on Calera starting its own school system, it’s a step in a direction for a community that can’t afford to stand still.