Gardendale, Alabama is a majority-white city that happens to be located inside a school district that’s majority black — but that may soon be about to change.
NPR reports that Gardendale is in the process of trying to leave the Jefferson County school district to create its own independent district. Despite the fact that Gardendale just happens to be a mostly white city, local officials say that its decision to leave the mostly black school district has nothing to do with racism.
“If we had our school system, with a local superintendent, and a local board that lives in town, that you see when you go shopping or at church,” argues Gardendale Mayor Stan Hogeland while making the case that having an independent school district would lead to greater accountability.
Nonetheless, if Gardendale manages to pull off its exit, it would significantly hurt Jefferson County because the city’s tax revenues would no longer be available to fund the school district.
Additionally, argues Jefferson County schools superintendent Craig Pouncey, Gardendale’s exit would badly hurt the district’s work in trying to make its schools less segregated.
“Diversity actually builds strength in my opinion,” he tells NPR. “Because it opens people’s minds. Now, I’ve seen where our schools, particularly in the last two years, have really thrived on that diversity.”
While voters in Gardendale voted to flee Jefferson County years ago, the city is waiting on a federal judge to rule whether its plan violates the civil rights of the district’s black citizens.