Anniston High School

Students head back toward the school. Anniston City School Board and the Anniston City Council held a joint meeting Tuesday night and one of the topics was about school safety. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star) 

In the summer of 2016, Anniston voters remade the city’s maligned Board of Education. Three incumbents didn’t seek re-election. The two who did lost. Five fresh faces came aboard, leading to expectations that the board’s effectiveness — and Anniston City Schools’ future — would take a positive turn.

Something’s gone wrong.

This week, the board told the Anniston City Council that the school district was short of its entire state-mandated one-month reserve fund, a calamity school officials say has been caused in part by rising costs and a decline in enrollment and state funding. In April 2017, the district had $300,000 of the required $1.9 million, The Star’s Daniel Gaddy has reported. But not now.

What’s more, board president Robert Houston has admitted that this important elected body has failed to draft and implement a strategic plan for Anniston’s schools — a system whose high school is considered a “failing school” by the state Board of Education. This makes us wonder: What has Anniston’s board been doing the last two years?

“Apologies for the board’s lack of ability to sustain focus to make our schools better,” Houston said earlier this week. “We have not done that, because our job is to help the school prosper when all is said and done.

“It’s time,” Houston said, “to create a new culture.”

No, the time to create a new culture was two years ago when ineffective board members such as William Hutchings didn’t seek re-election and the board’s makeup totally changed, supposedly for the better. That was the board’s charge. Our expectations, like those of the community at large, rose when Houston, a successful businessman, and Joan Frazier, Anniston’s former superintendent, joined the board. We’re disappointed to hear this week’s developments, but our expectations haven’t dissolved.

The blunt truth is this city can’t improve unless its public schools reach loftier goals, and that won’t happen without demonstrable leadership from everyone involved with Anniston City Schools. That the school board president has apologized for the board’s “lack of ability to sustain focus” in its first two years is a damning statement to hear.

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