North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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November 6, 2013

Breaking Away: FOCUS Gardendale says school system would benefit Gardendale

GARDENDALE — Another in a series of stories about the proposal to separate Gardendale's schools into its own system, and the referendum to enact a property tax that would par for it. A story about opponents of the plan appears later Wednesday.

The idea for a Garden­dale city school system started a few years as a conversation between two fathers who wanted better for their children.

“For several years, when our kids were in preschool, we bantered the idea back and forth that we would want to move to an area with better public schools when they got older,” said Chris Lucas.

His conversations were with David Salters. Lucas and Salters are the organizers of FOCUS Gardendale Inc., a nonprofit organization that is strongly promoting a city school system in Gardendale.

Lucas and Salters take issue with the fact that the Jefferson County School System ranks 65th out of 124 school systems in Alabama, according to

“Our primary philosophy is not that there’s a problem with (Jefferson) county schools, but we just know there are better public schools out there,” said Lucas.

The Jefferson County system operates about 50 schools, which means it “simply can not have Gardendale at the top of their list,” said Lucas. “But if the school system is controlled locally, we can educate our kids in a more innovative and flexible way. Local control is huge.”

Lucas said the biggest piece of the equation is funding.

“If you look at funding levels, it directly correlates to academic success,” Lucas said. “The more funding you put in a classroom, the more successful the classroom is going to be.”

If Gardendale does form its own school system, the 30.1 mills of property tax that Gardendale property owners are already paying for public education will be diverted from the county school system to the city school system.

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