RUSSELL COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - Just hours before the school year starts, concerned parents and voters are getting the conversation going, talking about a potential change to their school board in the very near future.
"This is vital, this is important," one mother said, stepping up to the microphone inside Gaines Chapel AME Church.
"We're trying to educate you, not lead you or sway you. We just want you to be informed so you can make a decision."
Currently, Phenix City Council appoints all school board members, but should enough voters check yes on the ballot box August 28, the people would decide who they want to represent them.
Monday, Russell County NAACP leaders hosted a forum, sharing information with voters before they head into the booths.
"A large number of people want it changed to a voted board of education," said Stephen Robinson, NAACP executive committee member, "because the board would be more accountable. Then there are some that feel the way things are now, should go on. We want to give an opportunity for the citizens to decide for themselves."
Parents and voters also began weighing the benefits of electing a school board, such as a democratic process with added accountability, versus potential disadvantages like a low voter turnout and added political partisanship.
Still, those gathered in the forum, including NAACP Chapter President Rev. Alfonza Seldon, said they will tell their friends and neighbors to vote and make their mark on this referendum.
"People may not think this is important, but it's very important, " Seldon said. "Just as any election is important for us to exercise our right to vote. Whether you are for it or against it, it's important you exercise your right to vote."
If voters say 'yes' to the referendum, future school board members in Phenix City would receive a salary. As for the board's layout: two school board members would be elected from each of the three city council districts and one would be elected at-large.
Still, these changes would not go into effect until the 2020 elections, when voters would then officially vote for school board candidates.