The Clay County Board of Education monthly meeting turned into a heated argument as all hope seemed lost for a community desperate to have a vacant historical building turned back over to them, that might never happen now.
For months now, the citizens of the Washington Heights community and Springhill congregation have attended every Board meeting and addressed the its members with their good intentions if the facility was returned to the community.
However, at a recent meeting, a Representative from TCR Head Start also addressed the Board about attaining this very same building in an effort to expand their services to the women and children of Clay County. To make this happen, this Representative was asking the Board to submit a letter of support for this project so they could hopefully attain a $900,000 grant for renovations and to bring the building up to code. Last night, the Board approved to submit this letter of support for TCR in a 4-1 vote with BOE member Arthur Oliver abstaining.
Washington Heights supporter, and also Springhill Pastor Rev. Tramaine Solomon asked the Board to clarify exactly what the approval of this agenda meant for his community, Supt. Walker explained that this just meant they would issue the letter of support for TCR so they could move forward on attaining the $900,000+ grant funding for the proposed project, but that the community could still possibly have a chance to get the building back, if the grant fell through. However, the supporters present were not happy with this decision and asked point blank if this meant that all of their efforts were futile. This is the conversation that took place:
Rev. Solomon: “So, what you’re telling us is that we have all wasted our time with coming here for the past six months, that our requests are null and void?”
Supt. Walker: “No, we have approved for TCR to allow to attempt to get their grant, which is all this letter is for. If they don’t get their grant, then they won’t be able to utilize the building. Certainly down the road, you still may get a chance to get the facility back if this doesn’t happen.”
Solomon accused Walker of going back on his word by telling them if they followed all the proper steps, then the community would have their building returned to them.
Solomon: “So, your telling us that our request has been denied at this point? All of y’all (Board members) can look up to us, we’re talking to the Board as a whole. Don’t look down at us, please. We want you to look at us and tell the members of this community, including Mr. Elijah Wood, who years ago, was an original Board member of the Clay County Training School and was among those church members who gave land for this school to be built. There are people in this room who went to this school and their lives are invested in this building. Its recorded in the old minutes of this school where the Board wouldn’t even allow black people to buy shares in this school, and the people of this community had to pool their money together to buy coal and supplies. This Board has no right to give this building away to anybody. In 1929, people of our Church gave so much acreage of their personal property for this school to be built. This Board hadn’t put anything into it. So, what you’re telling us tonight is ‘To Hell with our blood, sweat and tears’ because you’re going to endorse someone who may or may not get a grant and even if they do, may not stay there long-term. You didn’t tell Mellow Valley that and you didn’t tell Bibb Graves that either, even though I know you weren’t in the Chair then.”
Walker:” I believe it is in the best interest of education and to the community and the Board to pursue this avenue at the time. Now, certainly, if they don’t get this grant, we will look into a different direction.”
Solomon: “We never said we didn’t want HeadStart in our community, we just don’t want y’all in the leasing business. Give us the Building that needs to be is this community that these people have worked hard for and we will lease it to HeadStart. The whole reason this building is in the condition that its in now is because the community takes pride in that building. All of these other buildings ( former schools) have pretty much been vandalized and ours is in good shape.”
Walker: “I don’t dispute that this is a good community.”
Solomon: ” So, because of that, here we are slapping this community in the face. Administration after Administration have told them they would get this building and here we are, slapping them in the face once again.”
Walker: ” I’m sorry that you feel that way, Mr. Solomon, but I feel that HeadStart would benefit this community greatly. ”
Elijah Wood: ” If HeadStart is going to benefit the community greatly, then why don’t you give the building to us and we will lease it them and we can use it at the same time, because they won’t need the entire building. What you’re doing now is only benefiting HeadStart, you’re not trying to benefit us. So, if you give the Head Start the building, then we have no control over it. But if you give it to us, then we can both benefit. Y’all are not being fair to us.”
Solomon: “Put yourself in our shoes.”
At this point, Chairman Davidson asked for a motion to adjourn, which was not made.
Terry Heflin:” You can adjourn, but we ain’t going nowhere, we’ll be back every meeting. This is not the end, because we’re not giving up so you better prepare for a fight. Every meeting, we’ll be here.
Wood: ” We need to hear something from you now.”
Walker: ” I’ve explained and I don’t know what else I can do. I think this is the direction that is best for the community.”
Wood: ” Do the Board members all feel the same way because we only have one member from our community up there.”
BOE member Greg Denney:” Mr. Wood, it was brought up for a letter of intent to be sent in and it was voted on with a 4-1 vote and that’s all we can do. If they don’t get the grant then it’s back to square one and that’s all I know to tell you.”
BOE Member Donald Harris: ” Then, we have to have it appraised. Why should we spend a whole bunch of money having it appraised when you have an organization willing to spend nearly a million dollars on it.”
Heflin: ” They’re not going to spend a dime on it. You gotta get the money to spend it.”
Harris: ” They just gave us a proposal to spend over $900,000 on it and provide 7 jobs. It sounds like a good deal.”
Solomon: ” So, we’re hoping and wishing is what we’re doing. I mean, you own a hardware store and you know what that means. Its a potential that it will and a possibility that it won’t.”
BOE Chairman Shane Davidson: ” They want a long term lease and we’re a broke school system.”
Solomon: “That’s not our fault. Raise taxes. Put a one cent sales tax in there because I know people will pay that if it goes to education.”
This brought about a slight chuckle from a couple of the Board members.
Solomon:” Put yourself in our shoes. For one second, think that if you were not who you are, If this was your community and your parents or grandparents that slaved and sweated.”
Davidson: ” The building’s not going anywhere, it’s still going to be in the community and it’s going to have $900,000 spent on it.”
Solomon:” You’re still missing the point. The Building may still be in the community, but it will not belong to the people whose blood, sweat and tears were put in it.”
Heflin: “All of those others where the communities were given back to, the state bought the properties for. This property was given by us, our forefathers. This was the only school system in Clay County that was given the property was donated to build a school. Not Mellow Valley, not Bibb Graves, not Little Heflin.”
Harris: ” Little Heflin was donated as was Mellow Valley.”
Denney: ” It was declared non-used property. Mr. Wood, I’m going to always vote of what’s good for the children.”
Heflin: ” What children? Head Start can’t fill spots now. They’ve been out begging for kids to show up. They even came to our church.”
Denney: ” Can you prove that?”
Heflin: ” Ask Coach Oliver. He spent years on that Board.”
Solomon: ” See, you’re talking to the wrong ones, we know what we’re talking about. We know more about HeadStart that y’all do.”
Heflin: ” If they can create 7 jobs, so can we.”
Solomon: ” I’ve been in the community several years. Y’all done slapped these people too many times. Slapped in the face over cheerleading, now we finally got a black cheerleader. Now, this building. We ain’t going down without a fight. Everytime you turn around, we are going to be here.”
BOE member Arthur Oliver: “Mr. Walker, and to the supporters, I am highly disappointed in your decision to give this property to the Head Start program. The people in this room at this time remember a former Board member, Rev. Staples, who told this Board over 20 years ago to give this property ever became vacant, he wanted it give back to Springhill Baptist church. Head Start has already employed all of its employees and they’re bringing them with them. The times and the conditions they had at Clay County Training School. Former Supt. Mr. Reynolds told this Board on several occasions when we were in the process of building Central High School and the disposal of this school on the back burner until he got this school completed. And then, of course, you took the seat and you see fit to do something I’m very disappointed in. There are too many things involved in the situation.”
Solomon: “And as the one who speaks for my community and as a Pastor, I’m disappointed. These are not the same words that we had when we had that first initial meeting. In this process, Your word has changed. And because of that, my respect value has now dropped because of that. And I’m not going to say that behind your back, I’m saying that to your face. You have not kept your word. But we’ll be here at every meeting, a roomful of us. Because some decisions you make, you need to think of the price that was paid for it. Everything ain’t always dollars and cents, Mr. President. There are some decisions that should be based on the blood, sweat and tears that was put into it. We didn’t just elect you for dollars and cents. I challenge each and every one to go home and think about this. Put yourself in these people’s shoes and in the shoes of a man who ran the bus during that time, when the school board only paid for a ton of coal for black kids to go to school for a whole year. Put yourself in the shoes of people who had to scrape together pennies and change for their kids to go to school. Also years ago, there was a teacher’s home built to go along with this school, and y’all sold it. We don’t even know how this entity sold something that didn’t belong to them. We know about this situation, we’ve done our homework. We know more about the inside track of Head Start than y’all do or you will ever know. I’ll pray for each and every one of you that God will help you do what’s right.”
Wood: “But y’all still don’t see fit, your mind is made up. But this ain’t the last of it. ”
The meeting was then adjourned.
The following agenda items were approved during this session:
1. Recommended by the Superintendent, approval of the agenda.
2. Recommended by the Superintendent, approval of the minutes from the April 28, 2016, meeting. (See attachments)
3. Recommended by the Superintendent, approval of the Financial report for April 2016
4. Recommended by the Superintendent, to increase the 2016-2017 Student Lunch Price to $2.10 from $2.OO(Required by the USDA)
5. Recommended by the Superintendent, to increase the 2016-2017 Employee Lunch Price to $2.65 from $2.55.(Required by the USDA)
6. Recommended by the Superintendent, to increase the 2016-2017 Adult Visitor Lunch Price to $3.10 from $3,00 (Required by the USDA)
7. Recommended by the Superintendent, approval for CNP Director, Juanita Riley, to send bid request for milk and milk products for the 2016-2017 school year.
8. Recommended by the Superintendent, approval for CNP Director, Juanita Riley, to send bid request for bread and bread products for the 2016-2017 school year.
9. Recommended by the Superintendent, approval of the changes in the Student Code of Conduct handbook. Changes are in red, (see attachment)
10.Recommended by the Superintendent, approval to draft a letter of support for the Cheaha Regional Head Start to expand Head Start services within Clay County by allowing the use of the Lineville Vocational School.
11.Recommended by the Superintendent approval to accept the bid of $350.00 for the 1964 dump truck that was declared surplus. Bids were opened May 17, 2016 at 10:00AM and this was the only bid received.
12.Recommended by the Superintendent, approval to accept proposal for repair of roof of the Lineveille gym from Daugherty Construction and Roofing for $4,300.00 to remove all existing screws and replace with new oversized lifetime screws.
13. Recommended by the Superintendent, approval of (8) eight Personnel Action Items, which included the following:
This concluded the agenda. The Board then agreed to enter in to executive session.
Central High School of Clay County will hold graduation exercises Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 7:00PM
Board members will be given a revised copy of the Sick Bank Policy for review.
Central Junior High and Central High School have achieved 2016 National Beta School of Merit status!
Central Junior High has received a grant for Chrome Books for 7th Grade.
Our next regular Board Meeting will be June 28, 2016 @ 4:00 PM