Gardendale considering creating new school system

GARDENDALE, Ala. (WIAT) – Another city is pushing to break away from a county school system to start its own school district. This time it’s Gardendale.

Gardendale’s mayor says the split would bring new opportunities and responsibilities to the city. The plan is tied to a $10 million property tax increase.

“The system will depend on if the people vote it in or not,” said Othell Phillips, Mayor of Gardendale. “With a school system you create a a a want from the families that are outside of the city wanting to move to the city which helps property values which also improves education. If we handle it locally we can control funding locally, improve the curriculum.”

The  Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools says there will be no hard feelings if Gardendale does split off, but there might be some hard choices ahead for the fledgling district.

He estimates there would be 2000 students which represent about 6 percent of the county district’s student population.

“But it will be more expensive in some areas. That’s why they will have to offer more or have more tax money available. Because we have some economies of scale,” said Dr. Stephen Nowlin, Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools.

“I went to Gardendale and so did all of my children, but I, I’m not sure what effect it would have on the kids from Mt. Olive,” said Ron Harding, Mt. Olive Resident. “I hope they will still be able to come into Gardendale.”

In less than 15 years, Leeds and Trussville split off from Jefferson County Schools. In Shelby Count, Alabaster launches its new school district this fall, and Pelham is also looking at the feasibility of splitting off from Shelby County Schools.

As for the trend,  Phillips sees it as a positive sign.  The superintendent sees the challenges ahead.

“Of the very highest scoring in terms of test scores districts in this state out of the top 4 or 5 that you have 4 of those  pay a lot more in taxes than the surrounding school systems,” said Nolin.

“Well I’m kind of indifferent about it. I don’t know what is really going on with it however if they feel like it will better the community I’m all for it,” Cheryl Prewitt said.

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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