Parents of Immanuel School students listen as new school officials speak about the school’s future Tuesday at the school gymnasium. From left, Amanda and Joseph Grissom, of Columbus, and Antwann Richardson and Shondolyn Richardson, also of Columbus. The Grissom’s are the parents of Savannah, 9, Sarah, 7, and Shelbe, 5. Antwann Richardson is the father of Jace Richardson, 5, and Shondolyn Richardson is the mother of Samuel Richardson, 12. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
April 9, 2014 10:24:03 AM
As the transition to separate Immanuel Christian School from Immanuel Christian Church continues, the schools' advisors are reassuring parents that the school will remain open.
Local businessman Billy Thomas and seven other members of the newly formed school board met with parents Tuesday night to discuss the future of the school as well as answer questions on the current state of the school.
Thomas will serve on the board with Joseph Minga, Joe Studdard, Rex Gillis, Lanita Davidson, Ron DeLoach, Ronnie Harrington and Jeremy Barndre. A ninth member will be added at a later date, Thomas said. Scott Singley will serve as the board attorney and Pat Davidson will serve as the school's accountant. Neither will serve in a voting capacity, Thomas said.
During the hour-long meeting, Thomas repeatedly said, "This school will not close," which was met with a round of applause.
Thomas told parents how the separation of the church and school came to be.
When headmaster Joe York unexpectedly resigned last Monday, Thomas said he approached Pastor Charles Mullins about the future of the school. As a result of that meeting, Thomas and several local businessmen decided to step in and help the school become its own entity, completely separate from the church. Sunday, Immanuel Church voted to sever ties with the school. While the deal is not yet final, the paperwork will be completed in the coming days, Thomas said.
Thomas stressed that he and fellow businessmen were not buying the school.
"There have been some rumors that have gotten started that there were seven or eight local businessmen who were going to buy the school and turn it around and that's really not so. There are a few businessmen who have come together to help transition this school in becoming owned by itself. The school is already its own individual entity now."
Davidson explained to the crowd how the transaction worked. According to Davidson, the church will sign away the school in exchange for the school absorbing a debt of approximately $625,000.
"The church owns the deed tot his property and they own the related debt. The deal is real simple," Davidson said. "The church has said to the school, 'We will convey the real estate...in exchange for you taking on this debt which is $625,000.' That's mighty gracious of them because they're giving up potential equity in this property that they might could sell it for later. That's their investment in this school."
In addition to explaining the inner workings of the transaction, Thomas also reassured parents that the school would continue to be a Christian school.
"This school is going to be here from now on. This is God's school and He always finds a way to make things happen."
He added, "Nothing is changing in this school."
Gillis agreed, saying, "We need a place where we can openly talk about Jesus Christ in the classrooms and in the hallway."
During a question and answer period, parents asked about the possibility of a name change as well as changing the school colors and uniforms. Thomas said no decisions have been made but those matters will be decided in the near future.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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