On Sunday, ESPN Sportscenter will air an investigative documentary about Tuscaloosa’s Central High School. You may know Central High as the home of Lester Cotton, one of Alabama’s newest, elite recruits. But the school, itself, has a storied history that Alabamians should pay attention to.

In its heyday, Central was heralded nationally as an exemplar for school integration, excelling both academically and athletically. However, in 2000, a federal judge released the Tuscaloosa City School systems from its court-ordered desegregation mandate. Central no longer served as the “central” high school for Tuscaloosa, as the district divided into three smaller schools. As a result of gerrymandering, the once integrated school is now 99 percent black. The school that once boasted several national merit scholars recently was placed on the list of Alabama’s failed schools.

Several other school districts in the state are looking to get out from under federal desegregation oversight, so I will be interested in how the documentary explores Tuscaloosa City Schools as a cautionary tale.

Of note, the Hoover school board announced this week that they will delay plans to charge students fees to ride school buses and redraw school attendance zones, while they await a federal judge’s review of whether the Hoover and Jefferson County school systems should remain under federal oversight when it comes to desegregation.

Are Alabama school districts picking winners and losers among school systems, through gerrymandering? If the federal courts decide that Hoover and Jefferson County no longer need oversight with regard to desegregation, will these communities undergo a shift similar to Tuscaloosa’s?

Courtesy: John Hammontree