OUR VIEW: Future looks bright for CCSD and its students

Published 11:52 am Wednesday, March 23, 2022

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Last week, the Chambers County School District announced a consolidation plan that it hopes would meet guidelines from the federal government, level the playing field for students across the district and better allocate resources countywide.

It’s a plan, if approved, that would include combining LaFayette High School and Valley High School next year, under a new name. There are other consolidations planned, but most of the community has focused on the VHS/LHS combination. If this goes into action, there wouldn’t be a LaFayette High School any longer. There wouldn’t be a Valley High anymore.

And, somewhat understandably, many people were upset. When you start talking about changing tradition, it gets people angry. That goes for anywhere in America, not just Chambers County. We all have pride for the high school we went to, the town we grew up in, etc. When those things start changing, it doesn’t feel very good.

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But the truth — and we know some of you aren’t going to want to read this — is that the Chambers County School District has been spinning its wheels for nearly three decades. There’s been this dark cloud from the federal government, which has been seemingly very patient in waiting for CCSD to reach unitary status — essentially meaning the schools are not segregated by race.

For years and years — much of it unintentional — the school system has kicked the can down the road. The years have flown by, and for better or worse, the time for action is now. There’s no more road. This is it. Either CCSD handles this situation now or they have to litigate it, which will cost even more. Whether it is or not, litigation also feels like an uphill battle.

And while Superintendent Casey Chambley is taking the brunt of the criticism, the truth is that regardless of who the superintendent was at this time, this would be on the table. Something would have to be done. To his credit, Chambley has been open to questions about the plan, allowing people to be critical and trying to explain CCSD’s side. What else could people want from him?

He also clearly laid out other reasons for the plan, step by step, when we talked to him. He was honest, open and wanted to give all of the reasoning.

He noted that CCSD is using about half of its available space. It would be like owning a hotel knowing you could ever only rent out 55% of the rooms. Imagine how much money the school system is paying to heat and cool those unused rooms.

He also mentioned that the student experience at Valley High School and LaFayette High is very different. Valley has more teachers (since teacher units are based on enrollment) and therefore has more electives and more opportunities. How is that fair?

Chambley said when LaFayette High students move into what is now Valley High, the school will change its name and mascot immediately. That’s the right decision. How could he ask LaFayette to give up its school name without asking Valley to do the same?

We’ll also say that we’re not sure how this snuck up on anyone.

There were surveys requesting information from the public. There’s a school board meeting once a month. This has been talked about for years. There has been plenty of time — and plenty of ways — for the public at large to have had their say.

Now, the wheels are moving, hopefully putting to an end something that has been a problem in Chambers County for decades. Yes, a few traditions might go out the window. The Rams and Bulldogs athletic teams will probably be no more. But new traditions will be made.

Yes, there’s a lot of change ahead. Yes, it’s true that change is hard. But if we could all stop looking in the rearview mirror for a few minutes, there’s a lot to look forward to. Once this plan is put into action (it needs approval), unitary status is achieved, and schools are consolidated, CCSD should have more money to operate on.

That sure makes us believe the future looks brighter for our students. And isn’t that what this is all about?