Daphne says no to possible city school split

5-2 vote goes against second phase of study


An independent city school system will not be moving forward in Daphne, after council members voted overwhelmingly last week not to grant funds for the second phase of the city’s school study.

The vote came after a two-week delay by the council to allow Daphne residents a chance to read the first phase of the study and give their feedback to the council and mayor.

Several residents spoke before the vote, but none of them spoke in favor of a possible Daphne city school split.

“Separating is not going to solve it at all,” Daphne resident and parent Brandy Robertson said. “Until you get in the schools and see what the problems are, you don’t have a clue. A report isn’t going to tell you everything that is needed.”

Daphne realtor Starke Irvine, who also served on the Community Task Force that advised the Baldwin County School System, said the county school system has taken steps to improve.

“We have some wonderful people who work for the county school system that are doing their best to fix the problems we’ve had in the past,” Irvine said. “The current administration has taken the task force plans and are doing the best they can with them.”

Councilman Robin LeJeune, who has been one of the proponents of the study and a possible Daphne city system, said he is a parent with kids in the system who didn’t want people to feel his push for the study showed a disdain for the teachers.

“It’s not about the schools being bad,” LeJeune said. “My kids are getting a decent, good education and the teachers are doing wonderful things in the schools.”

LeJeune said his main issue was local control.

“It’s about how big is too big,” LeJeune said. “At what point does the amount of students continue and continue and we don’t have local control?”

Councilman Ron Scott, who has remained opposed to any possible split, said he hoped the council would be able to work together to solve educational issues together despite the strong differences in opinion.

“This has been a difficult issue,” Scott said. “We all want the best for our kids, but disagreed on what that might be.”

Scott said he could see a future where Daphne might want to create its own system, but that day was not now.

“When that happens, it’s going to be driven by the citizens,” Scott said. “At that point, they might be willing to pay whatever it takes to support such a system.”

Councilman Joel Coleman said the economics involved in the decision gave him pause.

“I just felt the debt we would incur was too big an obstacle for me to support it,” Coleman said.

The council voted 5-2 not to move forward, with Scott, Coleman, Joe Davis, Pat Rudicell and Tommie Conaway voting against the second phase.

Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler said the school system respected the council’s decision not to move forward and said he hoped to move forward working with the city to continue work on improving Daphne’s schools.

“We look forward to strengthening our partnership with Daphne as we continue to build a better education system for Baldwin County while respecting the taxpayers who fund it,” Tyler said.

Conaway took time during her council comments to remind residents that the city would be seeking applicants for its educational advisory committee that she hoped would focus on helping educational needs in the community.

“We need to move ahead with the educational advisory committee,” Conaway said. “We have things we want to help out with on our schools.”