As public education becomes a greater source of concern along the rapidly developing Eastern Shore, Daphne is forming an education advisory committee to work with its own local schools.
Daphne also wants to do a feasibility study for an entirely separate school system, but that has nothing to do with the advisory committee, said Councilwoman Tommie Conaway. Rather, the advisory committee would work with individual school administrators to improve academic performance.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the feasibility study,” Conaway said. “It’s just something we need to do, and we should have done it before now. How can we help to improve education in schools?”
Conaway was the first principal at Daphne Elementary East, which opened in 2004 and is now so crowded that a major addition is underway. She said she has thought for some time the city should be be more involved with the local schools. At one time, she said, Daphne had a similar type of education advisory committee but it faded away. Councilman Pat Rudicell is also working to form the new committee.
“We’re just getting organized. We’re working on a draft ordinance. That should be out very soon. Once we’ve done that, then we’re going to accept resumes,” she said.
In recent weeks public talk about a separate system and the possibility of a large-scale residential development being constructed southeast of town have unsettled residents who are already concerned overcrowding might push their children into other schools outside of Daphne.
Likewise, the Baldwin County school board has complained of being left out of conversations that might affect how it draws up future new schools and feeder patterns.
The council is proceeding with the feasibility study but no vendor has yet replied to the city’s request for proposals. Mayor Dane Haygood and some council members have not been enthusiastic about the undertaking. Conaway, for one, voted against letting one of the necessary contracts.
Fairhope has kept an advisory committee in place for several years. It divides a pot of money contributed by that city’s council among projects, positions or other programs applied for by teachers and administrators. Fairhope’s most recent commitment has been to pay for full-time resource officer coverage by the police department.
While Conaway emphasizes Daphne’s committee is in the formative stage, she said it will be academically oriented and serve as a liaison between the City Council and the individual Daphne schools rather than the school board. She has not discussed the proposal with the school board, she said.
It is likely to start with five members appointed by the council. According to the minutes of a recent council work session, the committee would not have a funding source but could bring individual requests for funding to the council. The committee would report to the council.
The committee should be operating within a few months. “There’s always room for improvement, and we want to be there to provide some assistance,” Conaway said.