Author: Lee Hedgepeth

Spanish Fort High School’s AP reading list, class materials cause uproar

A summer reading list assigned by a Spanish Fort High School AP Government and Economics teacher has been removed from the Baldwin County school system’s website after a public backlash, but similarly controversial material remains posted on the site as of this writing. The summer reading spectacle began when the reading list for the 12th grade teacher Gene Ponder’s Advanced Placement course was posted and widely circulated on social media. The list of 31 books leans overwhelmingly to the political right, including a few works by mainstream conservatives like Thomas Sowell and Ronald Reagan, scattered among many others by...

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State ABC Board approves 5 percent tax increase

Come Nov. 1, Alabamians will pay 5 percent more for liquor — no matter where they shop — after the state’s Alcohol and Beverage Control Board approved a markup on spirits at its last meeting. The markup brings the state’s total to 35 percent over cost and was approved unanimously by the Board earlier this month after a preliminary approval in March and a period of public comment. ABC officials said the increase was necessary to level the playing field across the state given recent decisions in a couple of counties to increase their markup locally, driving up competition...

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Fairhope extends moratorium on residential expansion

The Fairhope City Council voted to extend its six-month moratorium on subdivisions and other multi-family structures for another 90 days, citing the need for officials to catch up with the “rapid and substantial” growth the coastal community has seen in recent years. The prohibition, first approved at the end of 2016 and set to end July 4, only applies to new projects, and so won’t halt any construction already underway. Minor projects are also excluded from the ordinance. Those are caveats Fairhope leaders emphasized when the ordinance originally passed, staving off criticism that officials are potentially stymying the city’s...

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Feds say Alabama misrepresented past graduation rates

An audit just released by the federal Office of the Inspector General found Alabama officials disregarded federal educational standards, miscalculating and misreporting graduation rates as recently as the 2013-2014 school year and as early as 2010-2011. The 35-page audit report, which was released last Friday, says the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) lacked an accurate and effective method to ensure the validity of school systems’ graduation rates and “misreported” these figures to federal education officials. “We found that ALSDE’s system of internal control did not provide reasonable assurance that reported graduation rates were accurate and complete during our...

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Allegation of mayoral mischief surfaces in meeting

Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson has denied allegations she “spied” on city employees through the use of keylogging software, instead saying at Monday’s regularly scheduled city council meeting that “an extra level of security was placed” on computers by Fairhope’s IT department. Since Wilson’s election as mayor last year, tensions between the Fairhope City Council and the city executive have at times been fraught. The latest meeting of the city council, though, seemed to show a somewhat relieved relationship between Wilson and council members, but there is a wide, new divide between the mayor and a member of the local press, who Wilson called “biased.” Cliff McCollum, a reporter for The Courier, rose to speak during the time allotted for public comments before the council. McCollum asked the mayor and council to comment on reports published by The Courier alleging Wilson had keylogging spyware installed on the computers of seven city employees, including the finance and human resources directors. Mayor Wilson said the “monitoring system” is not “spyware,” but a precaution necessary to protect the city. “This is not spyware. It is a monitoring system, and I did put it in and quoted the policy manual. An extra level of security was placed on those computers because they needed more protection for the city and I explained that in so many words. But this is … can be done at...

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