By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
BIRMINGHAM — The mother of a seventh-grade student has grown frustrated with conditions at Fultondale High School, and she’s taken her complaints directly to the top.
Melisha Smith told the Jefferson County Board of Education on Thursday evening that something needs to be done about the half-century-old facility, which this year has added the sixth grade to ease overcrowding at Fultondale Elementary.
“We believe that renovations are desperately needed, from the main building to the technical building to the grounds,” Jones said. “It is old. We have computers, but that’s about the most updated material we have.”
Smith is a former educator, having taught at a charter school in the Phoenix, Ariz. area before moving to Alabama. She was very complimentary of the FHS staff, particularly principal Dr. Stephanie Robinson. “I want that workplace and that building to reflect that level [of commitment],” she said.
Board President Jennifer Parsons suggested that board members and Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin might want to take a field trip to the schools to assess the situation. “We do feel your frustrations,” Parsons said.
Nowlin had already visited the schools earlier in the year in preparation for the sixth grade move, but he said that it will be difficult to make definite plans for a new facility until city leaders in Gardendale decide if and when they will split from the county system to form their own district.
“We are trying to balance our budget, and when we do, we are hoping to be able to borrow or build from our own funds,” Nowlin said. “If Gardendale pulls out ... for everyone from outside the city limits, we’ll have to build something different than if we’re just building for Fultondale.”
Smith was pleased with the response she got from the board.
“I appreciate the sentiment that I felt from them,” she said. “We’re not asking even for a new school — we just need renovations.”
Smith had had originally voiced her concerns at a Fultondale City Council meeting, where Mayor Jim Lowery advised her to share them with the school board and Nowlin. Two members of the city council, Tommy Loden and Josh Bryant, were also present at the board meeting but did not speak publicly.
Smith said she would be back at the next regular board meeting on Sept. 22.
In other business, the board approved a contract for Arlington Engineering and Land Surveying Company to survey the old Warrior Elementary School property to prepare it for sale. Nowlin said that the older facility was not needed, and would be sold in a few months.
The board also appointed TurnerBatson Architecture to fix a problem with dugouts at Pinson Valley High’s softball field, which is located next to Pinson Elementary. The dugouts were to be replaced over the summer.
A number of other contracts involving schools in north Jefferson County were also approved, including lawn care for Gardendale High, a supply contract between Corner High and Coca-Cola Bottling, football and volleyball referees at all middle and high schools, and cheerleading choreography and music at Mortimer Jordan High.
[Edited at 10:20 p.m. to correct Melisha Smith's name.]