Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Merging schools: Gadsden superintendent praises consolidation of high schools


Bob Russell will tell anyone who asks about the success of consolidating Gadsden’s three high schools into one.

Tuesday he offered a report to the Anniston Rotary Club.

“As you go around the state, people talk about (consolidation) all the time, but they’re too scared to do it,” said Russell, a 38-year veteran of education and Gadsden’s superintendent for the past eight years. “People come to us to see how we did it.”

Consolidation talk in Calhoun County pops up sporadically and is generally met with a chilly reception.

But the state could soon offer millions of dollars from a bond issue specifically for consolidation efforts. Clay County is examining the possibility of combining its two high schools. And with dwindling enrollments in Anniston, it could be a topic for a new superintendent to address.

In Gadsden, the City Council and mayor approved a one-cent sales tax in 2002 to produce about $1 million a year for 20 years to help the schools get a bond for a new, consolidated high school.

Russell said he began a series of dozens of community meetings to discuss combining the former Gadsden, Litchfield and Emma Sansom high schools.

“Certainly, the most difficult thing was getting people sold on our idea,” Russell said. “We knew we could get the kids. The adults are the people who have things to say.

“We had lost enrollment over a 10-year period, and we weren’t teaching the things in our system to compete with other high schools.”

See the full story here.

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