MCPSS mix-up causes controversy over school rental policies

Mobile County Public School System logo. (WALA)

MOBILE, AL (WALA) –

The Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) is in the for-profit business of renting out its facilities, but one local business owner worried she was almost overcharged.

So FOX10 News Investigates worked to get some answers.

The owner of a dance studio in west Mobile, Kallie Etheridge, of Kallie’s Cheer and Gymnastics, said two different school officials told her two different prices for the rental of the same building – the Davidson High School Auditorium.

It was a mix-up that almost ruined her studio’s annual dance recital, which she held at the auditorium last Saturday.

She had reserved the auditorium for the event several months ago, but as time got closer for payment, she said Davidson High School tried to charge her more than $1,300 extra in fees she did not expect.

So, she went to the MCPSS Executive Director of Facilities, Tommy Sheffield, for clarification.

"So Mr. Tommy gave me a Mobile County contract, with his price on it, he said this is what you are to pay, do not pay another dime over this," Etheridge explained.

That contract, signed by Sheffield, shows the agreed upon price was only $1,000, instead of the $2,350 Davidson High School had tried to charge.

"So I did what I was advised to do," Etheridge said.

Etheridge paid only $1,000, but on the day of the recital, she said no Davidson staff showed up to let her in the building.

"I’ve never in my life had a panic attack until that moment," she recalled. "By the grace of God we had the custodian’s phone number and thankfully he let us in."

So FOX10 News Investigates wanted to know, how much does it cost to rent from MCPSS, and which school official had it right?

FOX10 News obtained a copy of the rental policies, which shows high schools are allowed to charge a minimum of $1,000 a day.

While a spokesperson for MCPSS declined to speak on camera about the issue, she did say that individual schools have full discretion when it comes to charging extra fees. So, the spokesperson said Davidson was in the right.

The school system spokesperson also said she’s not exactly sure why Facilities Director Sheffield told Etheridge not to pay Davidson’s fees, except usually Sheffield’s secretary handles rental concerns, and that’s one reason why he may not have not have known the full policies in place for facility rentals.

FOX10 News Investigates also tried calling Sheffield to get further clarification, but have not heard back.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to rent an auditorium from MCPSS, click here to see full paperwork required, so you will know what to expect.

All content © 2018, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.

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