Anniston mayor puts out feelers on link between community college, city schools
by Tim Lockette
Oct 25, 2013 | 3513 views |  0 comments | 81 81 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart has been reaching out to Gadsden State Community College for help with the city's struggling schools – though a scheduled meeting to discuss those efforts was scrapped Thursday.

Gadsden State Community College spokeswoman Kay Smith Foster said Thursday that Stewart had planned to meet with Gadsden State officials and state schools Superintendent Tommy Bice at 1 p.m. Monday, to discuss possible collaboration between Anniston City Schools and the Ayers Campus of the community college.

Foster didn't share any details of the proposed Anniston/Gadsden State partnership, but did say community college officials are "excited to be part of this plan."

Stewart, however, said late Thursday afternoon that the meeting had been cancelled.

"That meeting's not going to happen," he said. "Some of the parties were not able to come."

Asked which party wasn't able to make it, Stewart said, "No comment."

Attempts to reach Anniston schools Superintendent Joan Frazier for comment Thursday were unsuccessful. Attempts to reach officials of the Alabama Department of Education late Thursday afternoon were not immediately successful.

Anniston's schools have struggled mightily in recent years. Only 65 percent of the school system's students graduate on time, and Anniston High failed to meet state goals in standardized testing for several years in a row. Earlier this year, Anniston Middle School was placed on a list of "failing" schools where students' families can qualify for a state tax credit if they transfer to another school.

There's significant support for inviting local colleges to partner with the school system. A poll of Anniston residents, conducted over the summer by Jacksonville State University with funding from The Anniston Star, found that 77 percent of Anniston residents wanted the school system to work with colleges to improve student outcomes.

Stewart said he has long wanted to set up a partnership between the community college and the city school system, though he didn't offer specifics on the nature of the proposed partnership. He said he had the idea long before the Star/JSU poll.

"I've been looking at Gadsden State for more than a year," he said.

It wasn't clear when the proposed meeting would be rescheduled.

"We were excited about some of the opportunities to come out of a partnership between the community college and Anniston," Stewart said. "But not at this time."

Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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