The Gulf Shores City School Board voted unanimously Feb. 5 to name Suzanne Freeman as its interim superintendent.
GSSB President Kevin Corcoran said the appointment of Freeman would be of help to the fledging city school system in many ways.
“Dr. Freeman can provide us a lot of guidance in this new position, and would help speed up our negotiating process with the Baldwin County Board of Education,” Corcoran said.
Baldwin County Schools officials have said they would not move forward with negotiations with the Gulf Shores board unless a superintendent was put in place. The position of the Gulf Shores team has been a superintendent was not necessary to undertake negotiations.
“Dr. Freeman is imminently qualified to help negotiate this,” Corcoran said. “This will also help alleviate concerns of the Baldwin County Board of Education regarding us having a superintendent to start negotiations. Although we don’t share that view, we don’t want to spend the weeks and months necessary to fight that scenario.”
Freeman was the superintendent of Pike Road City Schools from July 2014 to June 2017. She previously served as superintendent of Cullman City Schools and Trussville City Schools. Prior to that, she had also worked for the Auburn and Opelika City School Systems in Lee County.
In 2008, Freeman was named as state superintendent of the year by the School Superintendents of Alabama. In 2009, she was one of four finalists for National School Superintendent of the Year.
She has worked as an educational consultant across the state since her retirement from Pike Road in 2017.
On Jan. 8, the Gulf Shores City School Board voted to pay Freeman $35,000 to serve as its education consultant during the negotiations between the city and the Baldwin County School System.
According to Gulf Shores City School Board Attorney Bob Campbell, Freeman’s pay will remain at the same rate in her new role as interim superintendent.
Corcoran said appointing Freeman as interim superintendent would not slow down the board’s search for a permanent superintendent.
Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler said in a statement he looked forward to working with Freeman on the split negotiations but said he felt there was still a hurdle to deal with involving the proposed separation date for the new Gulf Shores City System.
“We are pleased that Gulf Shores has agreed with our position, and Alabama law, which requires they have a superintendent to form a school system. Now we must come to agreement on a realistic separation date - realistic being more than five months away.
“As superintendent, I must be confident that we are making decisions for what’s in the kids best interest and not ours nor the politicians. Schools in the area are overcrowded and I have nowhere to send 600 children. Since last year I have been clear that we would not have facilities available until next year, 2019. We stand committed to an official separation for next year.
“I believe that everyone is served better by us working in partnership with time and planning, as opposed to a rushed transition. I look forward to meeting again this week and making progress towards resolution for these families.”