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Greenville attorney addresses School Board

Savannah Reams:

Greene Publishing, Inc.

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, at a Madison County School Board special session/workshop, Superintendent Dr. Karen Pickles presented a list of recommendations to the board, including the closure of Greenville Elementary School (GES). Her recommendations were part of an effort to resuscitate the district's fund balance which, after the FTE Third Calculation, was revealed to be extremely low, placing the district at risk for a take-over by the state. In order to secure a healthier fund balance and bring it above the mandated requirement, hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending will need to be cut.

While the board did not approve the recommendation, forming a united stance that school closures should be a last resort, it was revealed by the Town of Greenville's attorney, John Reid, that the Superintendent and School Board may have violated the law by considering the school's closure without including the town in the process.

The following week, on Thursday, Jan. 24, Reid presented the board's attorney, Tommy Reeves, with a letter, informing him of an interlocal agreement between the Madison County School Board and the municipalities of Madison County, including the City of Madison, the Town of Greenville, Madison County and the Town of Lee.

Reid's letter states, "Florida law requires local school boards and municipalities to enter into interlocal agreements. The pertinent language reads, 'The county and municipalities located within the geographic area of a school district shall enter into an interlocal agreement with the district school board which jointly establishes the specific ways in which the plans and processes of the district school board and the local governments are to be coordinated.' § 163.31777(1), FLA. STAT. (2018)."

He goes on to say, "The law mandates that the interlocal agreement address the closure of traditional public schools. The specific language reads as follows: '(2) At a minimum, the interlocal agreement must address the following issues: (b) A process to coordinate and share information relating to existing and planned public school facilities, including school renovations and closures, and local government plans for development and redevelopment' … The Florida Legislature explicitly changed the process, to now mandate that municipalities have a seat at the table for such decisions."

The Town of Greenville has been given no seat at the table for decisions regarding the school's closure. Reid reminded Reeves, Pickles and the board that the interlocal agreement in existence between the district and local municipalities fails to meet the state-mandated requirement, only addressing the involvement of municipalities in the event of a new school opening. "If we intend to read section 4.1 to not address all incidents related to the closure of schools, then the current Interlocal Agreement fails to meet the minimal statutory requirements and must be readdressed," stated Reid. "Either way, the Madison County School Board may not close Greenville Elementary School without taking additional action that includes the people of Greenville."

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