Category: Jefferson County Board of Education
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund got an early Christmas present this week, at the expense of the city of Gardendale.
In what may be the last act in the six-year-long saga of the city’s abortive attempt to break away from the Jefferson County Schools, U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala ruled on Monday that Gardendale must reimburse the LDF and attorney U.W. Clemon for costs and legal fees incurred in their effort to stop the breakaway. That effort was victorious for Clemon and his team when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Gardendale could not split from JefCoEd because the proposed split was motivated by racial animosity.
Haikala ruled that Gardendale must pay almost $850,000 in fees and expenses because their effort was in bad faith, and that awarding those fees to the LDF and Clemon “…hopefully will prompt more respectful arguments in the future.”
Walter Gonsoulin, who has served as interim superintendent of the Jefferson County Schools since the departure last month of Craig Pouncey, now holds the position for good.
Gonsoulin was selected unanimously by the JefCoEd Board of Education in its regular monthly meeting Thursday morning. Unlike previous searches for a new superintendent, this search was over and done almost as quickly as legally allowed — just four days after the deadline for submitting applications had passed.
While other African American educators have served briefly as interim superintendents for JefCoEd in the past, Gonsoulin is the first in the system’s history to hold the job on a permanent basis.
“It’s a great honor and a great privilege to be a part of history,” he said. “I’m thankful that the board had confidence in me to appoint me. We’re just ready to get to work to serve our 36,000 students.” Read more.
If everything goes according to plan, the Jefferson County Board of Education may hire a new superintendent before its students take off for the Thanksgiving holiday break. Read more.
In 1971, when the U.S. District Court first ruled that Jefferson County Schools were segregated and required the court’s supervision to integrate, most of the people who would be directly affected had not yet been born — in numerous cases, their parents hadn’t born yet, either.
But that era might be coming to an end at long last, though that end may still be three or four years away.
JefCoEd is scheduled to file a motion with District Judge Madeline Haikala that seeks to amend an order handed down in Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education, the landmark case that found the county system operated separate schools for white and African American students. The motion to amend comes after lengthy negotiations with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which originally filed the lawsuit in 1965, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Read more.
The meeting room was filled with Jefferson County Schools officials and administrators, plus mayors and other dignitaries, even maintenance workers, to see off Superintendent Craig Pouncey on his last day in office.
But perhaps none stood out more than Larry Lee — and it wasn’t just because of his brightly-colored Hawaiian shirt, liberally sprinkled with Auburn University logos.
Lee, a well-known public education advocate and outspoken blogger from Montgomery, was in attendance Thursday morning to give his best wishes to his friend, who is leaving to take over the presidency of Coastal Alabama Community College in Bay Minette.
“Craig, I didn’t know so many people were coming to make sure you got gone!” Lee joked. “Y’all had a good man here for five years, and I wish the state could have taken him away from you, and I’ve written about that…. God knows we need some leadership in Montgomery, where we ain’t got none.”
It was a history-making moment for the Jefferson County Board of Education.
The board on Wednesday unanimously selected Dr. Walter Gonsoulin Jr. as interim superintendent, making him the first African American to head the system in its 200 years of existence. Gonsoulin is temporarily replacing the departing Dr. Craig Pouncey.
“I feel humbled and honored to be chosen by the board,” Gonsoulin said after the meeting.
Gonsoulin joined JefCoEd as a deputy superintendent of school and community support in 2017. One of six deputies currently on the JefCoEd staff, he has had oversight over half of the system’s schools. Before that, Gonsoulin served as superintendent of Fairfield City Schools, a job he took in 2012 after moving from an assistant superintendent’s post in Starkville, Mississippi’s city school system. Read more.
Dr. Craig Pouncey, who has served as superintendent of the Jefferson County Schools since 2014, is leaving that job to become president of a community college headquartered in Bay Minette.
Coastal Alabama Community College, formerly known as Faulkner State Community College, announced the hiring of Pouncey on Wednesday morning.
Pouncey was hired to replace Stephen Nowlin, whose contract was bought out in May 2014 after a troubled tenure lasting 16 months.
After getting a thumbs-up from voters to extend a special tax, and after an all-clear from a federal judge, the Jefferson County School System is about to embark on the biggest school construction project in its history.
Superintendent Craig Pouncey announced the plans for the massive project, some of which is already under construction, in a press conference Tuesday at the system’s central office in Homewood.
The list includes six new schools, seven existing schools that will receive renovations and/or additions, and two athletic packages for high schools. Additionally, preliminary plans were announced for a new Fultondale High School — something the city’s residents have long sought.
After two weeks of accusations of racism and denials regarding Jefferson County Board of Education member Donna Pike, Thursday’s regular monthly meeting of the board was marked not so much by action, but by the lack of it. Read more.