Photo by Karim Shamsi-Basha.
Bluff Park Elementary students were among many schools considered for rezoning in 2014.
Having resolved a crisis by getting the Board of Education to rescind a controversial plan to charge students a fee to ride school buses, new Hoover City Schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy is now tackling another issue: rezoning city schools.
Murphy, who took charge of the Hoover school district in June, said during the Aug. 3 school board meeting that she is setting up a webpage on the city schools website that will be devoted solely to the rezoning issue.
“We are going to develop a webpage specific to rezoning,” the superintendent said. “I’ve talked to Jason Gaston [district coordinator of public relations] so that we can keep the public posted on the whole rezoning process — where we are and any feedback they might want to share.”
Murphy is setting up a Superintendent’s Advisory Council comprised of parents and others desiring to give input on school matters, including rezoning. As of mid-August, 641 people had signed up, far exceeding expectations.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Murphy said. “I am very excited that there is an interest in our community for people to interact and to share ideas for our school district on issues like rezoning.”
Rezoning is needed to accommodate growth and fix overcrowding issues. Previous superintendent Andy Craig’s proposal to redraw Hoover school zones was a controversial topic. Murphy said rezoning will happen, but she doesn’t want to rush it and wants the public to give input.
Hoover Board of Education President Derrick Murphy commended the superintendent for her plan to start a rezoning webpage. He said “it’s very important” to keep parents and the public informed.
“We’ve got to do what’s best for our students and long-term,” Murphy said. “One thing I’m thankful about regarding Dr. Murphy and rezoning is this will be a process where everybody’s included. She is formulating a superintendent advisory committee where people can talk to her personally, and the board is very responsive.”
Resolving the Department of Justice and NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s questions about rezoning and personnel will take more than a year to resolve, the superintendent said. The school board’s unanimous decision to take the June 2014 bus fee plan, which was never implemented, off the table sends a strong message to the DOJ, Murphy said.
Though the Department of Justice was concerned about the transportation fee plan, Dr. Murphy said she made the final decision to ask the board to rescind the proposal.
Like the rezoning matter, addressing the DOJ’s personnel questions will take more than a year, the superintendent said. The agency will look at racial composition of Hoover city school students compared to the racial makeup of its teachers.
“You have schools that may have 15 to 25 percent minority population but 2 percent minority teachers; those are some of the things DOJ will want us to look at,” she said. “What DOJ does not want us to do is to pick up children, say African-American children, and move them out of their community and mistreat them while we’re trying to fix something. We’ve got to finesse this in such a way that we are not hurting the very children we’re trying to help as we address the unitary status.”