The city of Gardendale, Ala., is giving up on its plan to split from the Jefferson County district and operate its own school system.
Al.com reports that the city and its school board have decided not to appeal last month's ruling from a federal appellate court that blocked Gardendale from forming its own system.
A three-judge 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel said the city could not form its own district because it "acted with a discriminatory purpose to exclude black children from the proposed school system."
The city's decision not to appeal the ruling is an about-face from the city's earlier stance immediately after the appeals court decision two week ago. Gardendale officials had vehemently disputed that it had any racial motives for trying to split from the county and and said it would pursue an appeal.
Gardendale Mayor Stan Hogeland says the decision to not appeal is based on multiple factors.
Lawyers advised city leaders that the chances of Gardendale winning an appeal were extremely low. In addition, many Gardendale citizens seemed "ready for this to be over with," the mayor says.
"A lot of citizens are just tired," Hogeland says. "I would hope anybody that looks at this and say that had to have been a tough process," he said, noting the first feasibility study done in hopes of establishing a school system happened in 2012.
Hogeland and Gardendale School Board President Michael Hogue informed the Jefferson County school board in a letter that Gardendale would not appeal:
For the past couple of weeks, the members of the Gardendale City Board of Education, the Mayor and Council of the City of Gardendale have heavily weighed the concerns and comments of the citizens of Gardendale following the ruling from the United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit. Upon the consent and full support of the Mayor and Council of the City of Gardendale, the Gardendale Board of Education will not pursue an appeal of the ruling from the United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit. This letter is to inform you that legal [counsel] from the GBOE will be in short course filing an official notice with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama notifying the court that Gardendale will not make any request for rehearing; nor will we appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is our desire, over the coming months, to explore collaborative ways of all of us working together so as to support our students, parents, school officials, educators and staff members as well as to foster the educational opportunities for the children who attend schools in Gardendale. It is our intent to also financially supplement the educational opportunities for all students assigned to Gardendale Schools.
The City of Gardendale has supported the schools in Gardendale with resources from many city departments for decades. That support was uninterrupted throughout this process, and it is our intention to continue offering resources as we have in the past.
Gardendale residents voted in November 2013 to pay for an independent city school system. A lawsuit filed last month after the 11th Circuit ruling calls for the city to reimburse taxpayers.
"Gardendale has publicly stated that it has been segregating the proceeds of the Municipal Taxes, in furtherance of its effort to form a legally recognized school district," the lawsuit contends. "The reality, however, is that Gardendale has been using funds collected from the Municipal Taxes for (1) paying school administrators to supervise a non-existent school system, and (2) funding lawyers to prosecute a catastrophically, and now finally, unsuccessful effort to form a splinter district."
Hogeland says he hopes the funds collected from the tax can go to Jefferson County Schools to benefit the schools in Gardendale.