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Lawmaker has plans for bill to allow Muscle Shoals residents to elect Board of Education members

Shoals Representative, Andrew Sorrell, plans to introduce the bill in a month.

Posted: Apr 19, 2019 3:37 PM
Updated: Apr 19, 2019 4:18 PM

Shoals Representative, Andrew Sorrell, plans to introduce a bill that could allow Muscle Shoals residents an option of keeping Muscle Shoals Board of Education members as appointed positions or have the positions be elected by the people.

Many parents told WAAY 31 this is something they have wanted for a long time. Right now, Muscle Shoals City Council members appoint board of education members who, in turn, appoint the superintendent.

"We all need to have some sort of representation on the school board and as parents and citizens, we feel like we are not getting that," said Michael James, who has a son in the Muscle Shoals City Schools system.

James said he feels like the board of education is not transparent. James and other parents have told WAAY 31 they feel the school system tries to keep parents in the dark about certain situations. For instance, parents still don't know why McBride Elementary School Principal Alan Willingham was placed on leave this week, then abruptly resigned. The school system said it doesn't comment on personnel matters, but said Willingham's resignation didn't have anything to do with students.

"I think there is no accountability whatsoever and that's all we want is accountability and we want to be able to know that the school board is listening to parents," said James.

Muscle Shoals City Schools is one of six districts in North Alabama where board members aren't voted on by the people. The other four school districts who have appointed board of education members are, Madison City Schools, Guntersville City Schools, Tuscumbia City Schools, Sheffield City Schools and Arab City Schools. 

"I'm not passing a law that says Muscle Shoals has to have an elected school board," said Shoals Representative, Andrew Sorrell. "All I'm doing is giving Muscle Shoals the options to pick for themselves. I don't see how anybody could be against letting the people decide for themselves what they want."

Sorrell will introduce the local bill in about a month. Alabama state law says he must advertise it for four weeks in the paper. If it goes through, there will be a special election. Sorrell said he tried to have the measure put on a primary ballot so it wouldn't cost extra money to have a special election, but said Alabama law bars that option.

"It's not going to cost more than a few dollars per person for the entire city, and I think it's well worth it. Gadsden did this last year. They voted on this and their citizens wanted an elected school board," said Sorrell. "It's been a long time since Muscle Shoals has had the opportunity to choose for themselves if they have an elected or appointed school board."

James said, as a tax payer, he would gladly welcome any costs with the special election, because he wants parents' voices to be heard.

"I feel like we don't have any representation and to have an elected school board, I believe things will change in the direction they need to go," said James.

WAAY 31 reached out to Senator Larry Stutts, who also represents the Shoals. He said he plans on backing Sorrell's legislation.

The president of the Muscle Shoals City Schools Board of Education told WAAY 31, "This is only to give the citizens of Muscle Shoals the option to vote, but there other cities that Mr. Sorrell represents. My question to him is why only Muscle Shoals to vote on elected school board and if we are consistently a top performing school is there a need. Lastly I asked Mr. Sorrell to contact Alabama Association of School Boards to get additional information on his decision so an informed decision can be made. As a school board member I have and will always base my school board decisions on what is what is good for the children of Muscle Shoals City Schools and what the law allows."

If this legislation goes through and voters decide they want to elect their school board members, the first election will be held in August of 2020.

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