Southside’s schools face examination

Parents, Leon County Public School officials and community leaders met Thursday to address the concerns of south side student’s education.

Diane Cox, an adjunct professor in FAMU’s department of computer information systems and president of Rickards High School’s Parent-Teacher Organization, planned the Southside Comprehensive Education Planning Meeting.

One of Cox’s chief concerns is although the area’s children have been promised a new elementary school, the south side’s high school is also in need of replacing.

“This meeting is about south side schools comprehensively, not just Bond Elementary School,” she said, as she addressed the group.

The forum opened with an address by LCPS Superintendent William Montford, who fielded questions about rumors of a high school being built in the new Southwood subdivision.

“It is only a rumor that we’re going to build a new high school in Southwood and let Rickards dry up and go away,” Montford said.

Although Cox maintained that the meeting was “about south side schools comprehensively,” the first hour of the meeting was spent discussing the inequalities at Rickards and the desire for LCPS to allocate funds for a new facility.

Several members of the community stated that until educational facilities and opportunities improve on the south side, further development may be hindered.

Jerome Hoffman, a Tallahassee attorney in attendance at the meeting, made a suggestion about stimulating growth by addressing the school’s needs.

“I think that what needs to happen is a comprehensive look at what city and county officials want to do with the south side revitalization efforts and work the school into the plans,” he said.

Meanwhile, some school board members have opposing opinions about the Rickards facility.

“Rickards has always been treated as a [second rate] school,” said Maggie Lewis, board member for district three. “It was built in a hurry with inferior materials,” she said. “There has not been a new high school built on the south side in nearly fifty years. In order to enhance education on the south side, a new high school is needed.”

While Lewis announced that a new Rickards facility was her second priority during the board’s annual retreat in January, Sheila Costigan recently pointed out that it would be financially irresponsible for the board to build a new facility rather than to repair the old one.

“The decision to build a new school needs to be based on health, safety and overpopulation issues. The state will only match funds for that. I have not seen one document from anyone in charge that proves we need to build a new Rickards high school,” said the district one representative.

Lewis and Costigan are two board members whose districts both include Rickards.

Meredith Clark can be reached at ms_mclark@hotmailcom.