Against the Grain II

Gadsden County School Board delivers a blow to Gretna

Vaughn Wilson

For decades, Gretna Elementary School stood on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as a central piece of the Gretna community.  It was so much more than a learning facility to the just over 1,700 residents of the quaint township.  Located on the east side of Gretna, it would be one of the very first remnants of the city seen by residents and visitors on their way into town.

In 2017, the Gadsden County School Board by a 3-2 vote passed a measure to consolidate the district and send the kids of Gretna Elementary to nearby Greensboro in an effort to raise the educational profile.  It was a deafening blow to the spirit of the residents of Gretna, who packed out the school board meeting in an effort to plead for their school.

For the four years since, the residents of Gretna have challenged their city commission to try to gain control of the area.  While some wanted the elementary school to come back, even the current commissioners knew that doing so was more than a long shot.  

City of Gretna Mayor Jeff McNealy was consistent in asking the Gretna Commission and city manager Antonio Jefferson to make a big push for the property, as he felt it was imperative for the property to remain in the city’s fold.  Citizens would often ask at Gretna City Commission meetings if the city was making efforts to acquire the property, to which the commissioners would say that they were in talks, but ultimately the county’s school board would make the final decision.

The facility, however, was a central part of Gretna’s society.  Without a large enough venue in town, it was used for celebrations such as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, which had outgrown the confines of City Hall and was annually held at the Gretna Elementary School cafeteria.

Several gatherings were held at the facility, including informational meetings from Creek Entertainment, proposals from the League of Cities and other events that required multitudes of Gretna residents to gather.  There is no other place that can house hundreds of Gretna residents within their city limits.

On top of losing the school, they now have no place to gather as the Gadsden County School Board awarded the sale to a private institution, while the City of Gretna had pleaded for the opportunity to purchase the area.

School board members are elected to make decisions for the betterment of the citizens and districts to which they represent.  Part of making a decision for an individual or group of individuals is listening to what help the individual or entity desires.  Making a decision without listening to what really may help is unwise leadership.

Unfortunately, now the residents of Gretna will have to live with a piece of their culture…the place where most of them went to elementary school…the place where fun and important gatherings happened…the visual storefront of the community, is taken away.