The City of Athens received notice this week that a local law calling for seven school board members was "impliedly repealed" more than 20 years ago, meaning two of the city's current school board positions could soon be no longer.
Athens City Council had asked Mayor Ronnie Marks and City Attorney Shane Black to consult with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's office after a review of the legislation revealed a conflict between the local law passed in 1972 and a general law passed in 2000. Marshall sent his opinion on the matter to the city Tuesday, saying the general law was the one the city should follow.
That law calls for each city school board to have five school board members, with exceptions for Class 4 municipalities and local laws that were adopted "pursuant to a constitutional provision (that) provides otherwise," according to Marshall. In the case of Athens City Schools, the city's population isn't large enough to qualify as Class 4 — it's currently a Class 6 — and it was not adopted pursuant to a constitutional provision.
With this in mind, the City Council now has a resolution on the agenda for its Monday meeting that, if approved, will remove two school board positions and bring the number back to five. Since two of the school board members' terms were already due to end this year, they will be the positions to go, according to the resolution.
Marks told The News Courier on Friday that several residents had filed applications and letters of interest for the positions. He said Monday's decision will be "not just a vote of City Council making this decision," but a legal opinion saying the City must follow the general law.
That said, the opinion is not the same as a court ruling, so the option remains for council members to disagree with Marshall's interpretation of the law and vote to keep a seven-member school board.
Other options include voting to reduce the school board to five members while the City seeks a vote from the people to pass a new local law or until Athens has doubled in population, at which point it would qualify as a Class 4 municipality.
Athens City Council will next meet 5 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers of City Hall, 200 W. Hobbs St., for a work session. The regular meeting, which will include the resolution vote, is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, seating for in-person attendance is limited and the option to view the work session or regular meeting via live stream is available. Visit athensal.us to view the agenda and bit.ly/AthensYT to view the live stream via YouTube.