Longtime educator and former school board member Hazel Fournier, members of the Elizabeth Chastang family and about 400 others attended the recent ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for the new Chastang-Fournier K-8 School in Trinity Gardens.
Chastang Middle School and Brazier Elementary combined in August to form the new state-of-the-art Chastang-Fournier K-8 School, which serves about 700 students.
The $15 million, 93,000-square-foot facility is a flagship construction project of the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners that beautifully faces Interstate 65 in Mobile. The school – built as part of a $100 million construction campaign – features collaboration labs, science labs, a modern media center, a band room and a full-size gym.
“I know the people in Trinity Gardens are very proud of the facility,” said school board member Dr. Reginald Crenshaw. “When students have nice facilities, they are motivated to focus on trying to do better academically.”
At the new school, Crenshaw said, students have state-of-the-art technology as well as school leaders and a staff that will work to make sure all students receive a high quality education. “This is a wonderful opportunity for them,” he said.
Members of the community said they are proud of the women for whom the school is named.
Elizabeth Chastang began teaching in Mobile County in the 1930’s, earning a salary of just $28.33 per month. She taught in rural areas and saw a need for a school in Trinity Gardens, establishing one in a shack in the middle of swamp land there in 1945.
In 1946, then-Superintendent Sidney Phillips saw the poor conditions of that school and promised, “Chastang, I’m going to get you out of this mud and water.” The school board rented a small house until a school building was completed on Berkley Avenue. That school burned in 1959. A new school opened in 1970. The school became Chastang Middle School in 1986.
More than a dozen members of Chastang’s family attended the dedication.
“I’m sure she would be overjoyed if she could be here today,” Ruben Pace said of his aunt. “She really would.”
Hazel Fournier began her career as an educator in Mobile County Public Schools in 1951, serving children for five decades before spending 18 years on the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners. She retired in 2008.
Fournier built a reputation for her firmness as an attendance officer, visiting the homes of students who skipped class. As the school system integrated, Fournier became a “crossover” attendance officer, being assigned to work at predominately white schools. She trained teachers how to relate to students of other races.
In 1977, she testified about integration before the U.S. House of Representatives. She was also instrumental in establishing Mobile County’s magnet schools in the 1980s.
Fournier said she was humbled to have her name on the school.
“I hope that every child who comes through here will be successful,” Fournier said. “I want them to have high expectations of each other. I want them to be proud to attend Chastang-Fournier and to love every minute they are in the building.”