Anniston board of education sets school consolidation planning meeting
by Patrick McCreless
Feb 20, 2014 | 5027 views |  0 comments | 99 99 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Darren Douthitt
Darren Douthitt
Developing a school reorganization plan will be the Anniston Board of Education's goal during a special retreat March 1.

The board set the three-hour work session from 9 a.m. to noon March 1 at the Anniston City Meeting Center during its regular meeting Thursday. There the board expects to create a plan to consolidate facilities in a school system grappling with declining enrollment.

"Ultimately what will happen is I will put the board on a fast pace on what to do and how they want to proceed," said Superintendent Darren Douthitt. "We will have a plan of action and come to some sort of agreement on it."

Douthitt said he hopes the board will vote on the plan as soon as possible. There will be no vote at the March 1 meeting.

"This has been beat around for some time," Douthitt said of the topic of consolidation. "We want to expedite this ... we do not want to keep students and teachers in limbo."

Board member Mary Klinefelter agreed with Douthitt on moving forward with a school consolidation plan.

"We need to do this as soon as possible," Klinefelter said.

The board started discussing possible school consolidation more than a year ago to address declining student enrollment and save money. In May, the board voted to close the Anniston Middle School and sell it to the city, which could then use the site for possible retail development. The board then planned to use the money to convert Cobb Elementary School into a junior high school, sending all sixth-graders to the remaining four elementary schools.

However in January, the city said thanks but no thanks to the middle school purchase, saying the site would be too expensive to develop. The city's decision forced the board to start over with its school consolidation plans.

The 30-minute board meeting was Douthitt’s first as superintendent; he assumed the duties of the post Monday. Previous Superintendent Joan Frazier will stay on as a consultant and will retire at the end of the school year.

"I felt good about how smooth the meeting went and am thankful I've been given the opportunity to take the system to new heights," Douthitt said.

Douthitt said he has spent his first days on the job meeting with faculty and members of the community.

"I've been team building with staff, visiting principals and talking with people ... met with foundations ... wanting to share information about how to improve the schools," Douthitt said. "I'm open to meeting with anyone who wants to share information related to helping the schools."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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