Madison County School Board discusses site work for new high school, Massey allowed to speak

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - The Madison County Board of Education discussed site prep work for the new high school at a meeting on Friday, despite the incoming superintendent's concerns the system can't afford to build the new school right now.

Matt Massey, the superintendent-elect, was allowed to speak.  He said he is concerned about the cost of the new school and did not feel the system can afford the huge cost right now, $49 million.  The new school is slated to be built across from Legacy Elementary School in the Harvest/Monrovia area.

Matt Massey (WHNT News 19 File)

Matt Massey (WHNT News 19 File)

Board member Jeff Anderson said the board voted many times to approve the project.  Anderson said he understands the financial concerns, but the funds are legally committed.

WHNT News 19's Kristen Conner and Steve Johnson attended the meeting and report the main discussion today was about site work and who would do it -- a private contractor or county crews.

The board voted 2-2 on a motion to choose a private contractor, which would have cost $1.2 million.  The motion failed, so it was decided county crews will do the site prep.  However, it will take longer, possibly several months longer.

Madison County Commission representatives were present and pledged their support for the new school.  They also said they will expedite the work as much as possible.

Previous reports

Thursday, Massey issued a statement blasting the board and current superintendent Dr. David Copeland for making "poor decisions that are putting the school system's financial stability at risk with little public input."

He also said Thursday he was denied the chance to speak at Friday's meeting. Again, he is being allowed to speak today.

Copeland’s office published notice of the meeting 24 hours in advance but requires citizens wishing to address the board to give written notice at least 72 hours in advance, effectively eliminating public remarks, Massey says.

Madison County School District spokesperson Geraldine Tibbs said she was not aware of Massey's comments but would only say the board is following policy in regards to calling the special meeting. She said it is not clear if the board will allow public comment during the meeting or not.

"Cryptically described as ‘Administrative Action for Site Work for New High School,’ let’s call this what it is:  David Copeland and the Board of Education trying to spend $46 million of your taxpayer dollars on a project we don’t need and can’t afford," Massey told WHNT News 19.

Massey continued, "We as a community cannot stand idly by while poor decisions are being made with our taxpayer dollars that will have long-lasting and serious consequences on our entire system."

Massey defeated both Copeland and Ronnie Blair, principal at Sparkman Middle School, in the Republican primary election in June.  He does not face a Democratic challenger in November, so he essentially won the election.  Massey won't take office until after the Nov. 4 election is over, though.

“When you’re trying to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, I don’t believe you do it on your way out the door, with very little notice, without public input and while everyone is distracted by fall break.”

16 comments

  • Bob

    How was Dale Strong involved in the school land deal? Friend of his? People demand to know, but of course WHNT hadn’t the guts to ask.

    • Bill

      You’ve hit the nail right on the head. Dale Strong, Tommy Battle, Copeland and John Hayes are all inn this together. It’s called ” you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. The ” Huntsville Mafia ” is alive an well in Madison County. Madison County residents deserve better from their elected officials!!!

  • Jimmy

    Does the area not need a new high school? I have to admit, I have moved out of state and don’t know the state of Sparkman right now. Last I recall the 9th grade building helped relieve stress but Sparkman as a whole was still busting at the seems.

  • Nuclear Mike

    How about the rape of the 14 year girl that was allowed to happen by School Officials??? Who will lose their state/county job & retirement for such a criminal decision??

  • Melanie

    The school has been bursting at the seams for years. A cheaper option has been explored twice. The 9 th grade school, which was an expensive bandaid, and a high school proposed on the other side of 53. This is not a new idea. Sparkman is horribly overcrowded. It is not responsible to leave it that way. I have lived in the Monrovia area for over 30 years. This must be done and NO ONE is going to come out squeaky clean on this. The Monrovia community isn’t going to like being re zoned. Someone is making the hard but NECESSARY decision to do this.

  • Lisa

    That’s right Nuclear! I was following this story closely and a whole lot of information has not been reported locally. It sure has been quiet.

    • Mommy

      @Bob It was not Dale Strong. The last was previously owned by the Pettus family. It was the safest option for students.

  • Mommy

    Mr. Massey,
    Are there any other schools as overcrowded as Sparkman High School in this school system? Why has this issue been neglected for so long? Why have so many new schools in the New Market area been built while neglecting the overcrowded situation at SHS? A good leader would address the issue as to how to alleviate the overcrowded school instead of complaining about costs which have been sent by the federal government for building the school. I would like the answers to these questions.

    Monrovia Mom

  • BG

    Monrovia/Harvest doesn’t need a new high school? Matt Massey has either never been to Sparkman or he is lying. Glad I don’t live in Monrovia anymore. No way I would send a child to Sparkman in it’s current state.

  • Shs teacher

    SHS enrollment is down; it peaked around 2010. The proposed dividing line between the two schools is completely biased, effectively splitting that “haves” and “have nots”. This will be the downfall of Sparkman. I don’t know of any teachers who support the split.

  • SHS Parent

    The MCBOE has multiple HS in it’s system that need facility upgrades (have needed for years) to even come close to what is offered to Huntsville and Madison City school students (much less what Scottsborro or Cullman have). Putting the system $46 million in debt to build a new PARTIAL HS facility (they do not plan to have sports facilities or band facilities as there is not enough money for these) while abandoning the existing schools (The MCBOE has OPTIMISTICALLY stated that going in debt for the new HS would keep them from making any facilities updates to the existing schools for another 10 years) is at best, financially irresponsible.
    If the MCBOE has committed to borrow that money, they could use it to upgrade and expand all existing schools to handle the student populations WITHOUT increasing the yearly operating costs for the duplicate staff, equipment and and maintenance that a new facility would demand.
    It cost around 1.5 MILLION dollars a year to operate a school the size of Sparkman HS. Not ONCE has the MCBOE told the public where they intend to find that much EXTRA money every year for EVER … to operate a new HS.

    I guess the plan was to go so deep in debt on a new HS that then the public would be forced to raise their taxes to pay for operating it.

    • SHS Teacher

      I agree; if we had the funds to create two equal schools, similar to BJHS andJCHS, then split Sparkman. If we cannot equitably split among economic and racial lines, along with programs (Academies, bands, AP Courses) then don’t split. Embrace Sparkman’s size and diversity. Build a Fine Arts wing between the high school and S9 and become the 2nd best school on the state- to match the 2nd largest school in the state!

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