Pictured above from left to right is the guest speaker and program char Abby Adams
Story by Gator Kincaid
LAFAYETTE- On Tuesday, Gordon Stone, Mayor of Pike Road which is a suburb of Montgomery, and Executive Director of Higher Education Partnership in the state spoke on a topic that resonates throughout the community to LaFayette Rotarians on the subject of Higher Education, and the opportunities that it can generate.
In 2004, Stone who at that time served on the Pike Road Council attended a meeting with the Planning Director of Montgomery. A meeting that forty people attended including Stone and a meeting that would end up changing the trajectory of Pike Road.
At that time, Pike Road had a population of 250 and was under the control of Montgomery, and could easily zone in Pike Road through police jurisdiction. How do we annex?, asked residents of Pike Road. Over 900 would sign a petition to come into Pike Road as a resident. In November 0f 2004, Pike Road grew from a population of 250 to 1300. However, this small town celebration was far from over, because Stone and the city had bigger aspirations.
What do you want from your city?", asked Stone to the residents, to which they replied with the following:
We want to have a plan and know where we are going, and what we are going to look like when we get there.
We like our quality of life, and we want to try, and maintain it.
We don't want to be overtaxed for services but don't want to be able to not receive services either.
We want to see people in Pike Road have the confidence to go to public schools.
The mayor and council then went to work to try, and implement those requests into action. Education, quality of life, services, and planning to this day are the building blocks of that community's sucsess.
"We had growth, we had the opportunity, we just had to manage it accordingly, and were able to do so through effective budgeting. We were to do so through control spending. Give people the opportunity to do what they want to do, and then support the heck out of it", said Stone.
Stone and his colleagues were then forced with the challenge of building a school. Something the residents have been asking for, however, is no small feat for any municipality let alone a new one.
Form a city school system:
To do this a city must have 5,000 residents, and at that point, Pike Road had an estimated 1300. Of those 1300 residents, they would recruit by way of petition, as well as a referendum in 2006, and by 2009 the city of Pike Road would have over 5,000 residents.
"We talked to everyone we could. From backyard porches, and living rooms, as well as neighborhood association meetings. We were able to bring people to a common understanding that if we can invest in our own children, we can create an alternative for public education", said Stone.
The city of Pike Road did just that, and in 2010 formed a school system, and since then has become the fastest growing municipality in Alabama. Education has been the cornerstone of that growth. Today there are 4 schools in the Pike Road School System and an estimated 2,600 children.
"The point of that story is that whether you are in Pike Road, Montgomery, or right here in Chambers County, we have common denominators for success in Alabama. People want to believe in their education models, and that model is that every child has the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Dream big, educate big, and do big", added Stone.
The state of Alabama currently ranks 46th in the nation in per capita income. The poverty rate is the seventh worst.
The debate over school consolidation in Chambers County has taken many twists and turns. Investing in the future is never easy, but wouldn't you rather invest today, and hope to see the benefits of that investment, rather than not, and prepare for the disappointment?