Tuscaloosa City Schools school board chair Lee Garrison said the following in a press conference on Thursday, March 2, 2017. View the supporting documents regarding the matters discussed.
I am here today to discuss a very important issue that has been floating around our community for months. After the Board of Education voted in December of 2015 to approve the Strategic Plan, there were individuals in our community that were not completely satisfied with the entire plan as it was passed. We as a Board understood that the plan we passed was not perfect, however with almost 2 years of professional input and community debate we passed what we thought was best for our community’s children and their future.
On March 28, 2016, a complaint was called into to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management about dust emissions coming from a concrete plant across the street from Central Elementary. Dr. Mike Daria became aware of this complaint when he had his quarterly meeting with City Officials in early December 2016. On December 5, 2016, Dr. Daria received an email from the City Attorney with information that the City had received about this complaint due to the fact that the complaint mentioned Central Elementary. Dr. Daria and his Team worked with school board attorney Dave Ryan to further investigate. On January, 10, 2017 Dave Ryan sent an email to the school board with his findings that the concrete plant was in compliance and has been in compliance since 2004 when they were cited by ADEM. The facility is on ADEM’s field patrol route.
It is obvious that this complaint is politically motivated due to the fact that individuals in the community wanted to see one new elementary school vs (2) smaller completely renovated elementary schools in the western zone. I completely understand the points of view on both sides of this issue. No one is right and no one is wrong. However, the Board ultimately decided that (2) smaller schools is the right environment for the children in that community. The duly elected Board Members from the west side of town thought that was best for their community. I will add that the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education (with support from the Mayor and City Council) has spent and will spend more capital dollars in the western zone in the last 17 years plus next 3 years than any other part of our City. A new Central High School and additions to Central High School ($38MM), a new Westlawn Middle School ($20MM), a new Technical Academy (25MM) and complete renovations to Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary (10MM), Central Elementary (8MM) and Oakdale Elementary (7MM). This totals over $100MM in investment in west Tuscaloosa. The current Board Members and all past Board Members should be commended on these investments in our children’s education, especially all current and previous Board Members from west Tuscaloosa.
The Board of Education is committed to high quality education for all 10,000+ students in our system. We take all complaints, whether politically motivated or not, very seriously. Due to the political nature of this issue we are discussing today, it is best that I speak up on this issue and not subject our Superintendent to such a highly charged political issue so close to the election on March 7. I know that Dr. Daria and our Board care deeply for all the school children of our system. Their health and safety is our #1 concern ahead of educating them. I want the parents of Central Elementary and Westlawn Middle School to know that we have done our due diligence on this issue and will continue to monitor the situation very closely. If in fact the cement plant or any other environmental or safety issue comes to our attention we will address it swiftly. In addition to that, if any business is threatening the environment of our school children, it is the business that will have to correct their actions or close, NOT OUR SCHOOLS.