The Conversation

By Dale Landry
Special to the Outlook

The upcoming election here in Leon County, has serious implications for our community and who we elect will have a serious impact on the quality of life for many neighborhoods and our community as a whole. One in particular, is the office of Superintendent of Leon County Schools. Though many issues related to education are directly impacted by who is best to lead our schools, one is foremost and critical in this election and that is the future of a high school on the Southside of Leon County.


Bordered by Apalachee Parkway and Pensacola Street to the north, there is ONLY one high school on the Southside of Leon County and that is James S. Rickards High School.


Bordered by Apalachee Parkway and Pensacola Street to the north, there is ONLY one high school on the Southside of Leon County and that is James S. Rickards High School.

Since 2008, I have been involved with the building of a new high school on the Leon County Southside. When Bellevue Middle School was closed, I met with then newly elected Superintendent Jackie Pons and expressed that the African-American community would not allow another school in the predominantly African American neighborhoods of Leon County to be closed without a legal battle. During that conversation, he agreed not to close another school and also committed to build a new high school in southern Leon County to replace the aging Rickards High School. He has actively demonstrated his commitment to building the new school and worked to insure it remained near the existing Rickards in support of the southern Leon County neighborhoods.

However, during this campaign, a number of falsehoods and distractions including a call for the new high school to be built in northeast Leon County has impacted the future of building the new high school in southern Leon County. Further, Rocky Hanna, another candidate has openly stated that he will not build a new high school in southern Leon County, even stating “for every 1 person who wants a high school on the Southside, he has 10 who do not want one built there….” It is clear, that Mr. Hanna will not build a school in southern Leon County. Should the school not be built, Rickards will go the route of Leonard Wesson Elementary School and be closed for students, and high school students from the southern Leon County will be bused to Godby, Leon and Lincoln High Schools. Property values will bottom out as people moving to Leon County will likely want to live in areas where their children can attend schools close to their homes and not be bused. Businesses likewise will relocate to where people live. Southside Tallahassee/Leon County will be economically devastated.

The School Superintendent race is critical to the economy of southern Leon County, and specifically to the numerous neighborhoods located there. The building of the new high school is paramount. As this election draws near, I am reminded that following the historical election of President Obama in 2008, one of his first acts was to do a televised speech that would allow children to view it during the school day. One of the candidates for Superintendent supported and actively engaged all schools in Leon County to afford the students to participate in this historic event. One of the other candidates, refused to allow the students at his high school to view it. This election we must be careful not to allow these events to happen again as we will witness another historic event with the election of our first female President. We need to insure all of our children can participate after this election and allow the new James S. Rickards High School to be built in southern Leon County.