Tag: Gardendale schools

The End: Gardendale Drops Fight to Form Its Own School System

The city of Gardendale has waved the white flag.

City leaders have decided not to appeal a ruling by the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals that denied their effort to break away from the Jefferson County Schools and form their own municipal school system.

The end to the four-year battle came when Gardendale Mayor Stan Hogeland, one of the original proponents of the system, and Gardendale Board of Education President Michael Hogue notified JefCoEd by letter Wednesday that they were not going to continue the fight for a separate school system.

“We received a letter late this afternoon from Mayor Hogeland and President Hogue that notified the Jefferson County Board of Education that they intend to submit to the council their notification that they will not pursue an appeal,” JefCoEd Superintendent Craig Pouncey said Wednesday night.

Hogeland said there were several factors that led to their decision.

“The biggest determining factor was the ruling we received from the 11th Circuit,” he said. “All of the legal experts truly felt like that was our best chance to win. When that ruling came out so unfavorably to us, a lot of people in town felt like, ‘Hey, enough’s enough.’ … These are not anti-tax people; they are pro-Gardendale City Schools (people) who visited the courtroom of (U.S. District Judge Madeline) Haikala when they poured in arm-in-arm with the board and the city. They said, ‘We were with you and we supported this all along, but we’re tired.’” Read more.

Gardendale Resident Files Class-Action Lawsuit Seeking Return of Property Taxes Meant for City School System

A resident of Gardendale has filed a class-action lawsuit against the city and Jefferson County alleging that property taxes are being collected illegally for the city’s efforts to form its own school system.

The suit was filed Friday on behalf of Jay Campbell and others who have paid property taxes in Gardendale since the city school tax began to be collected in 2014. It alleges that the 10 mills of property taxes collected by the city to fund the proposed system are now illegal, since a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the city’s effort to form the system earlier this month.

Alternatively, if the court finds no fault with the Gardendale school tax, the suit asserts that the county’s 8.8-mill property tax for schools has been collected from Gardendale property owners illegally, since Alabama law prohibits double taxation for schools.

The suit asks that the tax revenues collected so far and held in escrow be paid back to taxpayers. Read more.

Gardendale School Board Explores Cost-Cutting Measures While Debating Next Legal Step

Members of the Gardendale Board of Education met Monday night in special session, getting together for the first time since losing a decision on their efforts to form a separate school system.

The city has been trying for more than four years to break away from the Jefferson County Schools, but their effort has been blocked by federal courts, which agreed with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s argument that there was racial motivation behind the proposed split.

The board Monday approved two steps to save money while awaiting the next move, including trying to negotiate an early termination of the lease for the board’s office suite so it can move into city-owned space. Read more.

Federal Appeals Court Denies Gardendale’s Breakaway From Jefferson County Schools; City Board Says “Fight is Not Over”

Updated – Saying that the move was motivated by discriminatory intentions from the start, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down the city of Gardendale’s attempt to break away from the Jefferson County Schools and form its own municipal system.

In a decision published Tuesday morning by the Atlanta-based court, a three-judge panel found that U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala “committed no clear error in (her) findings of a discriminatory purpose and of impeding the desegregation” of JefCoEd schools, but that Haikala erred when she handed down a ruling that allowed a “partial secession” of the city’s two elementary schools, while allowing the middle and high school to stay under county control.

In a press conference at the Hugo Black U.S. Courthouse in Birmingham, Gardendale officials vowed that they would continue their fight to establish a municipal system.

Jefferson County Superintendent Craig Pouncey, on the other hand, was pleased with the decision and said he hoped it would allow his system to move on with projects that have been on hold because of the case. Read more.

Federal Court of Appeals Judges Grill Attorneys for Gardendale, NAACP in Hearing

ATLANTA — Both sides in the Gardendale school separation court case faced a panel of three federal judges at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, and those judges weren’t always buying what the attorneys were selling.

The oral arguments were part of the latest step in the legal process of Gardendale’s proposed separation from the Jefferson County School System, which would result in a municipally operated system with four schools. The plan is opposed by JefCoEd and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Both fear the separation would harm the county system’s efforts to achieve full and final legal racial desegregation and end federal court supervision that began in the 1970s.

Last April, U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala ruled that Gardendale could go on with the formation of its system but could take control of only two elementary schools at first and would gain complete control when she was satisfied that desegregation issues had made sufficient progress. She also found that the reason the city wanted to separate was racially motivated.

That partial decision didn’t satisfy either party. Gardendale appealed to the 11th Circuit, asking that they rule in favor of a full takeover right away. The NAACP wasn’t happy, either, arguing in their cross-appeal that the racial-motivation finding should have disqualified the city from breaking away.

The three-judge panel peppered attorney Aaron Gavin McLeod, representing Gardendale, with numerous questions about how the split would affect not only JefCoEd’s efforts to achieve complete desegregation, but also its finances. Justice William Pryor, in particular, seemed visibly dismayed at why Haikala’s “split decision” came to be.
“What law empowers a district judge to impose a partial separation that no party asked for?” he asked McLeod. Read more.

Gardendale School-Separation Arguments Going Before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday

The latest step in the long-running effort by the city of Gardendale to form its own school system is a stop at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

On Thursday morning, a panel of three judges will hear oral arguments in an appeal from attorneys for the Gardendale Board of Education, as well as a cross-appeal from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Both are appealing a ruling U.S. Circuit Judge Madeline Haikala issued in April, in which she determined that the city’s efforts to break away from the Jefferson County Schools was racially motivated. However, the ruling still allowed Gardendale to take control of the two elementary schools, with the provision that the city could take over Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools some time later, after Haikala could determine that no racial discrimination of any kind was present.

Gardendale’s appeal says that Haikala should have given the city full control of all four schools from the start. The NAACP counters that her determination that racial motives were involved in the formation of the system precludes the courts from allowing the breakaway to take place at all. Read more.

‘Resegregation of Jefferson County’ Forum on School Breakaway Case Calls for Legal Changes

Calling for changes to state law governing a city’s ability to create its own school system, opponents of Gardendale’s breakaway effort say the issue isn’t simply about black and white, but a dilution of education resources and limitations on choices and chances for students.

“We’re not picking on Gardendale. We’re just trying to stop this train,” said Margaret Z. Beard, president of the Jefferson County Retired Teachers’ Association, one of the panelists at a Tuesday night Call to Action Forum at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church.

The north Jefferson County town of Gardendale’s effort to break away and form a new municipal system, which began five years ago and is now pending in the federal courts, was at the center of the discussion at the forum, titled “The Resegregation of Jefferson County.”

A petition circulated at the forum calls for an amendment to the Code of Alabama “to change from 5,000 to 25,000 the population a municipality must have before control of schools … shall be vested in a city board of education.” Read more.

Spelling Their Name Right Isn’t Enough for Gardendale School Supporters Tired of the Limelight

When organizers of an effort to separate Gardendale from the Jefferson County School System began their work, they had no idea it would attract so much attention from national news media — or that much of that attention would be unfavorable to their cause.

The effort to break away and form a new municipal system, which began five years ago and has since landed in the federal courts, has been covered by well-known media such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. The latter aroused the ire of parents of Gardendale High School students when a photographer was allowed to work inside the school. Additionally, reporters from online outlets that specialize in educational issues, racial issues or both have also focused on the city and the separation effort.

Last month alone, two stories were published nationally about the Gardendale breakaway, both casting the effort as part of a larger issue of resegregation in urban public schools. Read more.

Round Two: Gardendale Board, NAACP File Briefs With Appeals Court in School Breakaway Case

The opposing sides in the ongoing Gardendale school-separation case have thrown their first punches in the second round of their fight.

Attorneys for the Gardendale Board of Education and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund have filed briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, arguing from opposite sides why they think the ruling by District Judge Madeline Haikala to give Gardendale control of two elementary schools should be thrown out. Read more.

Federal Judge Nixes Plan to Adjust Attendance Zones for Two Elementary Schools in Gardendale

A federal judge has denied a request by Jefferson County Schools to change attendance zones for Gardendale and Snow Rogers elementary schools.

U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala ruled against the request in a hearing Thursday morning. JefCoEd officials wanted to shift the boundaries between the two schools’ zones to move students away from Gardendale Elementary — which has suffered from crowding in recent years — and send them to Snow Rogers Elementary, which has available space.

Earlier this year, Haikala ruled that the two elementary schools could be put under the control of the new Gardendale Board of Education, as part of the city’s long-running effort to break away from JefCoEd and form its own municipal system. That decision has been appealed. Read more.