HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Huntsville Board of Education held a special called meeting Wednesday morning to discuss the latest in the school rezoning case. Monday, the judge in the case ordered both sides to go to mediation.
Read our blog below of the board meeting. Public comments were not allowed at this meeting, but will be at the July 17 meeting. The meeting centered on board members asking the school board’s attorney about the next steps in the process, and what to expect with mediation.
The meeting is underway. You can watch it LIVE here: http://whnt.com/on-air/live-streaming/
Board President Laurie McCaulley called the meeting to order and the board immediately went into executive session to discuss pending litigation.
Our live stream through Huntsville City Schools’ ETV will resume as soon as the board finishes with its executive session. No word how long that will go.
9:31am – the board is still in executive session.
Board meeting has started again. Dr. Casey Wardynski is speaking. http://whnt.com/on-air/live-streaming/
Dr. Wardynski is addressing different points of the judge’s ruling. Where the judge agreed with Huntsville’s plan and where she didn’t, and what needs to be addressed to find solutions.
Wardynski talking about different positive notes of the ruling, with test scores, Pre-K program and other advancements.
Wardynski said construction will begin soon on McNair and Jemison.
Other school construction programs will continue as well, he said.
The goal, Wardynski said, is to establish a roadmap with the goal of creating a unitary school system. Both parties will meet and try to establish this roadmap by Christmastime, Wardynski said.
Judge made no ruling on assignment plans, but directed both sides to go to mediation with the Department of Justice, and Judge Ott overseeing the process.
Board president Laurie McCaulley asks Attorney JR Brooks who will be present during mediation. Brooks said the attorneys for both sides, and possibly board members, the superintendent, etc. Board would make the decision on whether full board would be included, or specific board members, etc.
Board member Jennie Robinson asks Attorney Brooks if a December timeline is possible, to meet the judge’s order. Brooks said he hasn’t established any meetings yet with Judge Ott or other parties. He says it is possible, yes, by the end of the year to reach an agreement.
Robinson asks if we will appeal the judge’s ruling, based on a number of questions she’s had from the public.
Brooks says the judge’s order is to enter into mediation, take some things off the website, etc. (which has been done.) That’s the judge’s order, and she’s hasn’t made a ruling on anything else. So, that’s not right for filing appeal, Brooks said, because the judge hasn’t issued an order that would adopt a certain school reassignment plan. (It’s not appealable at this point, Brooks said.)
Attorney J.R. Brooks
Brooks said he doesn’t sense there’s any interest from the board or the superintendent to appeal at this point, so he doesn’t plan to pursue that.
McCaulley asks about Judge Ott, and who will pay him. He’s a federal magistrate judge, and Attorney Brooks says he believes Ott will be paid by the federal court system for this service as a mediator.
Board member Mike Culbreath about the process of mediation. Brooks said mediation is common these days, where a judge orders both sides to meet. “This is very usual,” Brooks said. Brooks said he’s had cases with Judge Ott before. “He’s an experienced mediator, from my own personal experience,” Brooks said.
More questions about the timeline, by board members. Brooks said we do NOT expect an order about Huntsville getting unitary status by the end of the year. The goal for mediation is to establish a roadmap to unitary status by the end of the year.
Brooks said this will not be an easy process. He said it’s clear by the judge’s order that changes are required (changes by Huntsville City Schools to meet the Department of Justice’s proposal) and that’s what will be hard, Brooks said.
School board meeting just ended. No public comments were allowed today since this was a special called meeting. Public comments will be allowed at the next board meeting on July 17.
Reporter Daniela Perallon will have more coverage in our newscasts throughout the day, including reaction from people who attended the meeting.