UPDATED: ‘Enough is enough’: LaFayette protest calls for Superintendent Casey Chambley’s resignation during school board meeting
Published 11:22 am Thursday, August 24, 2023
LaFayette teachers and city leaders chanted “No equity, no peace,” calling for the resignation of Superintendent Casey Chambley during Wednesday’s Chambers County School District board meeting. The group of teachers, L-TAD, held the rally to protest the ruling on the high school desegregation case and the decision of the district’s superintendent.
The Chambers County School District’s plans involve the consolidation of LaFayette High and Valley High into a new high school that will be constructed in Valley.
“Enough is enough,” said Ty Smith, LaFayette High School teacher and organizer of LaFayette Teachers Against Displacement. Ty Smith has been vocal about her disapproval of the decision to transport LaFayette students to Valley for school every day.
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Ty Smith said the decision upholds 50 years of educational inequity and systemic oppression.
During the meeting, Unite CEO Travis Smith addressed the board about the 21st Century grant that was meant to provide funds for afterschool programs at J.P. Powell and Eastside Elementary. The school district chose not to pursue the grant. Dr. Shelia Jones, director of elementary education, said in a statement to the VTN that their decision was based on the low participation in current CCSD after-school programs with the tutoring program only at 60-70%.
“We think in our best interest and in the interests of Chambers County School District that Casey Chambley resigns immediately from office,” Travis Smith said. “We no longer as a community have faith in you to lead this district. We also don’t think you’re mentally fit to carry out these duties.”
In a prepared statement to the VTN, Chambley said they were told Unite’s grant opportunity would only be accessible to Eastside Elementary and JP Powell Middle School students. He said Auburn University never confirmed an intent to partner with the district.
“Myself, the CCSD, and our Board will continue to work daily to advance and improve the educational opportunities for all students in our district,” Chambley said in a prepared statement. “We will not be canceled or forced to make decisions based on emotion, speculation and the distortion of the truth.”
Dr. Tyler Nelson, Director of Career Tech, said in a prepared statement he began writing grants for the district earlier this year. Nelson said the district is pursuing the 21st Century Grant internally.
“I want to be clear that we are pursuing the 21st Century Grant that Dr. Smith mentioned, however, we are doing it internally and not through Unite,” Nelson said. “This allows us to decide, without external influence, how we use those funds to benefit the students in our district.”
This year, Nelson said they were awarded $524,295 in grants with an additional $650,456 in review.
Travis Smith’s initial accusations were made in a heavily shared Facebook post from Aug. 15.
“Oftentimes we decide to not entertain allegations or comments from individuals attempting to weaponize social media and use it to drive personal agendas without knowing or checking facts,” Chambley said.
Travis Smith and the rest of the rally were peacefully escorted out of the building by a sheriff’s deputy after they began chanting, “no equity, no peace.”
“Ma’am if you choose to do whatever you do, that is my right to stop that because that ain’t what the agenda item was,” said Board President Jeffery Finch, who was speaking directly to a VTN reporter.
Ty Smith said L-TAD’s goal is for Chambley and the board members who supported the Valley location for the new consolidated high school to leave office.
“The only success is Chambley walks away and resigns,” Travis Smith said before the meeting. “That’s the demand.”
LaFayette City Council members Toney Thomas and Tammie Williams were among the eight protesters. According to Ty Smith, the superintendent declined to meet with the city council to discuss the purchase of the former J.P. Powell building.
“We’re not settling for equality,” Ty Smith said. “We want equity.”
The commute for some students in the county could be as much as an hour every morning.
Chambers County School District Attorney Bob Meadows said during court a third-party analysis showed that the commute to Valley would be proportionally lower than to LaFayette because of the population density of the county.
Smith and other teachers have fought the decision since last year when the board of education’s decision was announced. The first protest took place in LaFayette on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and another took place in Montgomery outside of the district courthouse.
“Until we have equity, there will be no peace in LaFayette, Alabama,” Ty Smith said.