The Dothan City Schools Board may ask the city of Dothan’s leadership to sign over ownership of all remaining school properties if the superintendent’s recommendation is approved Monday.
Superintendent Phyllis Edwards has asked the board to write a letter to Mayor Mark Saliba to formally request the transfer.
“So, what this does, now that we’ve reorganized, allows us to kind of get our foot in the ground and go ‘OK, these are the properties we’ll be using, and these are the properties that will be on the school line items’, if you will,” Edwards said.
In the letter, the board also will formally return two school properties, Grandview Elementary and Montana Street Magnet, to the city.
“For the ones that we’re not using, we certainly don’t want them to sit empty,” Edwards said. “So the city has a broader base with which to work in terms of other folks and what they might want to do with the buildings. It’s never a good optic to let a building sit.”
The city was prepared to take over ownership and sell all three school buildings no longer in use, but Edwards said she had other plans for the former Cloverdale Elementary School building.
“I’m holding Cloverdale because, honestly, I feel like we have some issues with remediation that we need to work on, and I want to have that in order to make sure that at some point, and we’re not ready yet, but if we’re able to, rather than wait until summer school, it would be great to be able to do some remediation work throughout the school year,” she said. “I’m asking if we can maintain that property.”
The city holds deeds to all properties in the school system that are paid for, including Dothan Preparatory Academy, Dothan High School, Carver, Beverlye, Dothan Early Education Center (formerly Honeysuckle), Girard Primary, Girard Intermediate, Kelly Springs Elementary, Selma Street Elementary and Jerry Lee Faine Elementary.
Highlands, Hidden Lake and Morris Slingluff schools were bought jointly by the city and the school system in 2000, although the district retains those deeds.
“We work cooperatively, and it’s always good practice for the school system, if we take care of a property, that in fact we own it,” Edwards said. “Sometimes, the way things grow up is that the city systems (government) often have the property and they control that yet the school is using it and takes care of it, maintenance-wise.”
If the letter is approved by the board at Monday’s board meeting, it will just be a first step in getting ownership of the school properties, each worth millions. Meetings with the city manager and attorneys, and a vote by the city commission will still need to take place.
“I think it’s something that will be a benefit to the city as well as the school system,” Edwards said.
The school system is still in the process of moving the technology center’s servers and equipment from the Dusy Street location to space at the former Honeysuckle building.
The city has declared its intent to release a request for proposals for anyone interested in the grounds, Randy Morris, director of general services for the city, previously told the Dothan Eagle.
“Once they’re received, the City Commission will decide what is in the best interest of the community and move forward with accepting whichever proposal,” he said. “They’re very large parcels and very large buildings, and (it) requires a large budget to cover just maintaining them as well as paying for utilities.”
Morris said that anyone interested can buy the properties — nonprofits, developers — as long as they can provide proof of finances enough to cover all necessary costs.
He said the city may discuss a lease, but it would prefer to transfer the title to someone with the best interest of the surrounding community.
“It is required for people to tell us how they want to use them and show funds for how they plan to maintain them,” he said. “We don’t want them to become neglected or rundown.”
It is unclear now how much they are worth or how many acres are in each parcel of land, but Morris did list how much each building is insured for, including contents, and the square footage of each:
» Montana Street Magnet School: $5.02 million, 41,746 square feet.
» Cloverdale Elementary: $4.3 million; 36,067 square feet.
» Grandview: $6.24 million; 54,659 square feet.
» Central office buildings, including Young Junior, which is not for sale: $10.14 million; 49,752 square feet.
On Thursday, board members convened in their new boardroom at the newly renovated auditorium of the Dothan Early Education Center for the first time. All meetings moving forward will be at the Honeysuckle Road location.
The central office headquarters is still at the Wells Fargo building on Ross Clark Circle, but Edwards said plans are still moving forward to get all staffers moved inside the DEEC, a process that could take about a year.
Other action items from the meeting included:
» The school board unanimously approved the appointment of Chief Operations Officer Dennis Coe as interim chief school financial officer while the Alabama Department of Education seeks candidates for the position. Chief School Financial Officer Mike Manuel’s last day is scheduled for year’s end.
» The board approved the $3,500 sale of a parcel of land south of Highlands for equipment use.
» Edwards handed out her annual Superintendent Awards of Excellence to Alicia Hales, supervisor of exceptional student services; Jimmy Baker, a teacher at Selma Street Elementary School; and Sheryl McNeil, office secretary at Carver School of Math, Science and Technology.