Eddie Tyler, Baldwin County Board of Education Superintendent, spoke at the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Series on Tuesday, Aug. 21 at the Foley Civic Center. Tyler gave the community an end of the year review for the 2017-18 year, as well as a look ahead at the things to come. Currently, the Baldwin County Public School system exceeds 32,000 students, with an approximate budget exceeding $400 million for the county schools. Last year’s senior class earned $83 million plus in scholarships, while there were three perfect ACT scores coming from Baldwin County.
“The health of the school system goes a long way in the health of the economics of Baldwin County,” said Tyler. “The health of this school system translates into industry, health care, jobs, and quality education.”
Recently, the starting teacher salary has increased in the county by five percent, after the state gave a 2.5 percent raise, and the Baldwin County Board of Education matched the raise. Tyler also reported that it takes approximately $20 million a month to run a school system, with a two-month reserve in case of a disaster such as a hurricane hitting the area.
Multiple construction projects have been completed, from Elberta Elementary classrooms to Fairhope High classrooms. According to Tyler, it appears that Fairhope High School will become the largest 9th-12th grade school in the system. Many other construction projects are planned, including a new Bay Minette K-6th and the new K-6th in Foley.
“We borrowed $60 million for these projects,” said Tyler. “Our board and the county commission worked with us and approved the request after we identified our projects. So we will spend the $60 million over four years, while paying back $15 million each year. At the end of those four years all the facilities that we’ve touched are paid for. No bonding, no additional tax money. Then we go back to the county commission and the board and see if they like what we did. If they do, then we’ve got the second building phase of $60 million identified, the schools identified, and we’ll do it again.”
Tyler said they plan to borrow two more times after the first four-year plan is complete, for a total of $180 million in the 12-year building and improvement campaign.
Towards academics, Tyler stated over $1 million has been approved over the last few years for reading coaches in schools, as well as extra training for teachers in the Dyslexia Initiative. Guided Reading Programs have been started in select middle and high schools, while high schools are providing the majority of their courses in yearlong format rather than semester format.
Tyler spoke about the 21st Century Afterschool Childcare offered in Baldwin County, the largest provider of afterschool childcare in the state.
“There are 12 grants serving 13 schools, while 15 schools are self-funded, where the parents pay around $30 a week for their children to stay after school,” Tyler said.
For instructors, Tyler as well as Assistant Superintendent Hope Zeanah host the Aspiring Instructional Leader Program, which they have taught over the past three-years. The program is voluntary and offers real time learning experiences to teachers.
“Many who have done the program were promoted to assistant principals because they had this on their resume,” said Tyler.
Towards safety efforts, an active shooting training was held, and social workers have been added to target areas. Nurses have been given automatic access controls on all campuses for emergency situations, while visitors must show their ID before being allowed to enter into schools in order to help keep threats out. Another big topic for the school system has been the addition of an SRO on every school campus, thanks to a partnership between the Baldwin County Sheriffs Department and the Baldwin County Public School System.
For more information on the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, their upcoming events, or membership details, check out their website at www.southbaldwinchamber.com.
For information on the Baldwin County Public School System, you can visit their website at www.bcbe.org.