The two sides in the Gardendale school separation haven’t been able to agree on much, but they have signed off on a timeline for moving forward in the process — with some prompting from a federal judge.
The four parties that are now a part of the case — the Gardendale City Schools, Jefferson County Schools, U.S. Department of Justice and the attorneys for the original plaintiffs in the county’s original desegregation case — submitted a schedule to U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala last Friday.
The new schedule:
• March 30: Gardendale’s attorneys were to submit to all of the other parties their proposed separation plan, and how they plan to comply with the federal court’s original desegregation order. This document includes where the negotiations with the county system have gone so far.
• April 15: The plaintiffs in the Stout case, who are represented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund, as well as the Justice Department, will respond to Gardendale’s plan. Their responses are confined largely to how the plan would affect desegregation compliance.
• April 22: Gardendale responds to the requests by the plaintiffs and the Justice Department.
• May 4: All parties meet to discuss the plan and the responses, and how desegregation compliance is affected.
All parties also requested that Haikala appoint a U.S. magistrate judge to adjudicate any “discovery issues” that might arise in this case.
The parties met on March 24, at Haikala’s direction, to start the ball roiling on moving the separation process through her court. The case is taking that path in order to expedite the proceedings, and keep Gardendale on track for taking over operation of the local schools on July 1. In that effort, the new system has dropped a lawsuit it filed in Jefferson Circuit Court against JefCoEd, in which it essentially accused the county system of delaying the process.
As a result of the new timeline, a previously-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, March 31 with State Supt. Dr. Tommy Bice, JefCoEd Supt. Dr. Craig Pouncey and Gardendale Supt. Dr. Patrick Martin was canceled.