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February 8, 2013

Structure of county schools’ Section 16 steering committee revealed

The Cullman County Board of Education has officially established a steering committee for the recently obtained Section 16 property, pulling back the curtain on how the new advisory board will be structured.

Voters approved a measure in November 2012 to give the school system control of 321 acres in Joppa, 122 acres in Chigger Ridge and 435 acres on Smith Lake that could be worth several million dollars.

Officials have pledged to develop or sell the property, then place 90 percent of revenue from the land into a trust that will be used as a new source of revenue for the system. Funds will be split between both local school systems, with the county receiving 83 percent and the city allocated 17 percent based on student population.

The board also promised to establish an advisory committee to help develop the land, which they made official at a recent meeting. The new committee is expected to hold its first meeting by the end of this month.

The new 13-person advisory board will include nine voting members. The other four non-voting slots will be comprised of the county school superintendent, city school superintendent, county school CFO and the city school CFO. The nine voting positions will be appointed by the four ex-officio members.

Though the committee has officially been established, county schools’ superintendent Billy Coleman said the board’s line-up has yet to be finalized.

“This is just approving the process that takes place to set up the committee,” he said. “We want to try and have a meet and greet with potential candidates by the end of the month, then announce who has been appointed.”

The board is seeking local business, industry and community leaders to serve on the board to help generate plans and ideas to develop or sell the property. No business associated with a member of the board will be allowed to work on the project in any capacity.

“We’re not really looking at educators, but for economic folks that can work on this project,” Coleman said. “We know it’s not going to be easy, but we’re coming into this without any preconceived ideas. We’re just looking for people who have had success who want to come back and help our school system. I feel the less we tell them what to do and how to do it, the better.”

The new board will serve in an advisory capacity, meaning it technically has no authority and will have to refer recommendations to the school board. But Coleman said the board will seriously consider any recommendation that is passed on.

“We’ll have great respect and trust their opinions and the recommendations they make,” he said. We’ll give a close evaluation to it. We want to do what’s best for our school system and protect the long term vision of this land to help our school system for years to come.”

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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