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Petition supports school merger
Site wants Lawrence board to consolidate 7 schools into 1 or 2

By Kristen Bishop 340-2443

MOULTON — As Lawrence County school officials teeter on consolidation, some residents hope they can provide that final push in the "right" direction.

Barclay Key, who graduated from Lawrence County High School in 1994, started an online petition urging the Board of Education and Superintendent Dexter Rutherford to consolidate the existing seven high schools into one or two schools.

As of 7 p.m. Monday, 164 people had names on the petition. Of those, 20 said they were school system employees, and 136 said they had attended or were attending school in Lawrence County.

Barclay Key is the son of former Lawrence County Superintendent DeWayne Key, who pushed consolidation during his two terms in office from 1984 to 1992.

Barclay Key started the Web site, /LCactnow/petition.html, on Saturday, less than a week after Speake resident Kenny Gillespie presented an anti-consolidation petition to the board.

Gillespie, who has spoken against consolidation at the last two school board meetings, said he went to school sporting events to gather signatures from students, parents and school employees who were against any form of consolidation.

He could not provide a specific number of signatures on the petition, but said it was more than a thousand.

Web site sabotage

Barclay Key wrote The Daily in an e-mail that someone has already tried to sabotage the online petition for consolidation by posting expletives instead of names. One said "DeWayne Key is a pompous (expletive)."

Key said he has removed all expletives and secured the site to keep that from happening again.

The school board adopted a resolution to pursue a consolidation plan in December.

Rutherford has repeatedly stressed that consolidation is necessary for the county to broaden its curriculum and provide more educational opportunities.

The board is considering either a one-, two- or three-high-school plan.

One-school plan

All plans include the construction of a new facility. The one-school plan would require officials to build a school large enough to house the county's 1,745 high school students.

When discussing this option in 2005, officials said the new school would likely be constructed near Lawrence County High School in Moulton.

The existing facility would be used as a ninth-grade academy.

Two-school plan

Rutherford urged board members in December to adopt a two-school realignment plan that would consist of East Lawrence High School and a new school in the western part of the county.

The plan would put all ninth- through 12th-grade students currently attending Hubbard, Hatton, Hazlewood, Lawrence County High and Mount Hope schools at the new facility. Speake students would join the students already attending East Lawrence High School.

Three-school plan

The final, most unlikely plan is a three-school plan that also includes construction of a new school in the western region of the county. The plan almost came to fruition in 2005 before running into conflict with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People about where to build the school.

The dispute nearly led to a lawsuit, an expensive burden the superintendent said he would not be willing to place on taxpayers. Rutherford told board members Jan. 16 that he would not approve a three-school plan, but Chairman Bobby Diggs said the board would continue to explore all three options.

The Board of Education will hold a countywide forum Feb. 5 at the Lawrence County Coliseum to discuss consolidation. Rutherford said he will establish guidelines to maintain order and will likely ask all questions to be submitted beforehand.

School petition

To put your name on the petition supporting one- or two-high-school consolidation plans in Lawrence County, visit /LCactnow/petition.html.

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