Task force pitches Gulf Shores city school system

By Crystal Cole/ Islander Editor
Posted 7/25/17

The citizens of Gulf Shores want more from their education system, and Monday night they came out in droves to tell their city council just that.

Kevin Corcoran, spokesperson for the Island …

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Task force pitches Gulf Shores city school system


The citizens of Gulf Shores want more from their education system, and Monday night they came out in droves to tell their city council just that.

Kevin Corcoran, spokesperson for the Island Education Task Force, presented the desire for a city school system feasibility study to Mayor Robert Craft and council with a standing room only crowd behind him.

He said the Baldwin County Board of Education (BCBE) had repeatedly revised it’s numbers for projected growth in the Gulf Shores feeder pattern, having the school actually lose numbers over ten years.

“We have very different expectations for out island education than the Baldwin County Public School System has,” Corcoran said. “We realized how divergent we were in goals, philosophies and ideas. They are not someone we are interested in partnering with on a long-term basis.”

Corcoran went on to say that Gulf Shores was not included in the first two phases of the pay-as-you-go capital improvements plan enacted by the BCBE, and was only allotted $3.8 million of the more than $100 million total spent in the county for improvements to the elementary school.

“We immediately began to explore other alternatives,” Corcoran said. “Our first and foremost alternative was a special tax district. We researched that idea; we researched multi-municipal school who contract services with one another, and we even explored a charter school system, I can tell you for various and numerous reasons all three of those alternatives were found to not be viable.”

Corcoran said he met with Dr. Aaron Milner, superintendent of Saraland City Schools. Milner said he visits all four campuses of his school system every day, something Corcoran witnessed first hand. Corcoran said Milner knew all the students who came up to him by name. He referenced a video of BCBE Superintendent Eddie Tyler at a meeting saying he Skypes with many of his principals to highlight the infrequent meetings between the two.

Tyler told the Islander he was saddened by some of the rhetoric used during the meeting and disputed some of the claims made.

“I’m highly disappointed to hear some of these claims because I feel like I’ve spent as much time at the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach schools comparatively with anywhere else in the county,” Tyler said.

With regards to his Skype usage, Tyler said it was simply an effective way to try to communicate with employees.

“If we can find a way to utilize technology to better be able to communicate with administrators and teachers in our schools in a way that allows them better direct communication, we’re certainly going to do that,” Tyler said. “And to try to turn that into a negative is extremely confusing.”

Corcoran cited the Code of Alabama Section 13, 16-13-199 to show how it would be presumed that the city would form its own school.

“It states that when a municipality reaches 5,000 in a census, it may remain under the control of the County Board of Education,” Corcoran said. “If a city elects to stay within the county, it is required to adopt a resolution by both the city and the county board of education. Otherwise, there's presumed a city school will be formed. Well, Gulf Shores hit 5,000 in the census of 2000, 17 years ago. We're the equivalent of a 40-year-old who still lives at home.”

Corcoran said he had more than 200 signatures on a petition to the council which read:

"We, the undersigned, as engaged citizens of Gulf Shores, request that you, our City Council, explore the formation of a city school system. We believe that city school can maximize the academic potential for our children while providing them required facility infrastructure."

The signatories of the petition, along with other concerned citizens, pledged $12,000 of the $15,000 needed to conduct the feasibility study. The city council all spoke in favor of the initiative and praised the group for its efforts. Councilman Philip Harris spoke about the time the council tried to do something similar ten years ago.

“Of course Baldwin County was very opposed to that thought of us forming a city school system,” Harris said. “When the referendum was all said and done, it was published that Baldwin County School Board spent $900,000 of taxpayers' money from their general fund to fight our campaign. And the public was so confused by the time the vote came up, that it was an astounding NO vote, and from that day forward, this council and all involved that were interested in furthering education locked down and partnered with Baldwin County School Board. We spent millions of dollars over the last 10 or 11 years trying to enhance our education system with our partner.”

Craft said a city school system would need community support and what he saw at the council showed significant involvement.

“I think you hear all of us up here impressed with the presentation today,” Craft said. “You will help us convince the rest of our neighbors, and that is key. There are people in this community that are not connected to the schools, and their kids didn’t go to our schools. They claim to be on a limited budget and are not interested in having to pay taxes. They’re our friends that are mostly retired. So, we’re going to have to encourage them to help us or outvote them one of the two.”

Councilman Jason Dyken asked that the council consider putting a measure to approve the feasibility study to a vote at the next regular council meeting scheduled for July 31.