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Analysis | AEA/MPS agreement with state was best possible outcome

Josh Moon

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Sometimes, a win is a less devastating loss.

That was the case this week for the Alabama Education Association and a group of Montgomery Public Schools parents and employees who filed suit to block the sale of historic Georgia Washington Middle School to the Pike Road School system.

After the Alabama Supreme Court last week overturned a circuit court ruling and created new law giving the state superintendent the broad power to make land deals and sell off property belonging to local school districts, blocking the sale of GW became an instant longshot.

So, instead of pushing forward with a motion asking the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision — a motion that almost always fails, particularly with Alabama’s high court — AEA attorneys worked out a compromise with new state superintendent Eric Mackey.

In exchange for the AEA dropping its reconsideration motion, Mackey agreed to a deal that guarantees no reduction in force within MPS and also guarantees that there will be no outsourcing of the system’s custodians, maintenance workers and bus drivers.

In addition, Pike Road will be forced to honor certain historical considerations specific to GW, including devoting an acre of land to a park in Georgia Washington’s name and offering MPS the first right of refusal should Pike Road ever decide to sell the property.

Also, 8th-grade students attending GW this year can still attend Park Crossing High, and students in lower grades at GW can do so in the future but transportation will not be provided by MPS.

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“We felt like that under the circumstances, this was the best possible outcome for MPS and our defendants,” said Theron Stokes, AEA associate executive director.

It’s actually better than that.

Given the Supreme Court’s ruling, there was no legal leg to stand on. And had the state and Mackey played hard ball, they probably could have made the sale in the future without a single concession of any kind.

But this deal moves things along more quickly, possibly allowing Pike Road an opportunity to get students into the building by next fall, and it also buys Mackey some much-needed goodwill in Montgomery. Or, to be fair to Mackey, it buys the position of state superintendent some goodwill, since much of the ill will was brought about by his predecessor.

Hopefully, this is a signal that the ongoing intervention into MPS is moving from a contentious affair to a more collaborative one — as was promised from the outset.

Regardless, though, the deal reached this week will keep dozens of hard-working Montgomery residents in jobs and with health insurance. And it will protect a historical property.

It’s not the outcome many in Montgomery wanted.

But it’s the best they could get.

 

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