Lawyers for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and for the Gardendale Board of Education agree on something. They both want Gardendale’s takeover of two elementary schools in the city to be delayed by federal courts.
The Gardendale board filed two separate motions Tuesday, one of which informed the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it intends to cross-appeal the decision of Judge Madeline Haikala that allowed the new system to take over operation of the two schools for the coming academic year. It also asked Haikala to stay her own ruling, delaying the order’s implementation until the board’s appeal and that of the NAACP are handled by the appellate court.
Gardendale is appealing Haikala’s late April ruling because it feels she should have ruled entirely in its favor, allowing it to take control of all four JefCoEd schools inside the city’s limits, including Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools.
Gardendale Superintendent Patrick Martin said in a press statement Tuesday, “The Board has now filed a cross-appeal because we too believe there are aspects of the court’s order that should be reviewed by the Eleventh Circuit … . The Board will demonstrate on appeal that no one’s civil rights have ever been endangered by Gardendale’s separation efforts. With its own case on appeal, the Board hopes that ultimately it can deliver what our community has worked so hard for: a school system operated by an accountable and locally appointed board of education.”
Haikala’s ruling, and an addendum issued shortly after the original order, stated that there was racial motivation for Gardendale’s attempts to separate from JefCoEd. But she still allowed the city to go forward with a limited plan to operate Snow Rogers and Gardendale elementary schools. After three years, the Gardendale board could apply to the court to operate the middle and high schools, if Haikala was satisfied that various racial issues had been resolved.
Last week, the Legal Defense Fund – which has represented the original plaintiffs in the landmark Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education desegregation case from its beginning in the 1960s – filed its own appeal with the 11th Circuit. It also asked for a stay of Haikala’s order while it argued that Gardendale should not be allowed to break away because of its racial motivation.
If the Haikala order is not delayed, Gardendale faces an uphill battle in converting the two schools from county to city operation in time for the 2017-18 school year. The first teacher work day is Aug. 4, and students are scheduled to return Aug. 10.
The cutline on the photo of board members has been changed to correct Michael Hogue’s first name.