BY JOHN MULLEN
The city continued on its fast track to getting a school system up and running by next year by naming the five citizens who’ll serve on the Gulf Shores school board at Monday’s council meeting.
“We are ecstatic to have this group of extremely qualified residents who will now be empowered to make local education decisions based on the needs and desires of our community,” Mayor Robert Craft said. “It was a difficult process, but we have wonderful people signed up for it.”
But one name was notably missing from the list: current Baldwin County Board member for the southern part of the county, Angie Swiger. Swiger has been called on to resign since Gulf Shores voted to break away from the county system on Oct. 9 because she is a city resident. She has said she will not give up her post.
The county board asked the Alabama Attorney General’s office to issue an opinion on whether she can reside in a city district and still serve a county district at the same time.
Swiger said she would resign the county position if appointed by the Gulf Shores council, but hers was not one of the five names called during the meeting.
“First of all, I’d like to congratulate the newly appointed Gulf Shores City School Board,” Swiger said. “I love my community and felt that applying for the Gulf Shores Board was the right thing to do for the families and citizens of Gulf Shores who voted for me to serve as their rep.”
Swiger said she would continue to work hard during her term on the county board.
“My dedication, passion, and commitment to this community, all of District 5, and all of Baldwin County is unwavering and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and work to make this transition as smooth as possible for all involved, in particular the children,” she said.
Officials from the city declined to comment on Swiger’s application.
The five chosen, each greeted with hearty applause, are Realtor Kevin Corcoran, retired educator Dr. Ralph Gold, Jr., career educator Dr. Nichole Gotschall, educator and R.N. with specialties in human resources Dale Jernigan and educator Kelly Walker. Each board member will serve staggered initial terms from one to five years beginning Dec. 4.
(Pictured above, from left, are Kevin Corcoran, Kelly Walker, Nichole Gotschall, Dale Jernigan and Ralph Gold Jr.)
Corcoran served as the chairman of a countywide task force to study ways to help the Baldwin County Board of Education make improvements in the wake of several failed tax referendums the board felt it needed to fund new facilities. He later led the Island Education Task Force study on Gulf Shores for two years culminating with the group’s recommendation to form a city system. His term will be five years.
Gold has 39 years of experience in education on the elementary, middle, high school and college levels. His term will be two years.
Gotschall currently is an administrator at Columbia Southern University in Orange Beach and has served in a variety of roles during a 20-plus year career in education. Her term will be four years.
Jernigan was previously the director of education and director of nursing administration at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center. In 2012 she founded and has since been running the Health Sciences Academy at Gulf Shores High School. She has also written textbooks on Standards of Practice and Human Resource Management. Her term will be one year.
And, finally, Walker is Special Needs Specialist for the Georgia Department of Education online school, Georgia Virtual Learning. She has been an educator for more than 15 years and holds a masters degree in Special Education. Her term will be three years.
Craft said all the future decisions on Gulf Shores City Schools will be made by these five people.
“They’ve got to handle this from here going forward,” Craft said. “This is the last thing the city will do. Our responsibility here was to arrange funding, which we did, and appoint a school board. What the school board does is manages the separation agreement with the county, they hire the superintendent and the chief financial officer for the school board.”
Baldwin County is already taking steps in putting its separation team together, according to spokesman Terry Wilhite.
“The Board agreed at its last meeting that it should appoint an ad hoc committee of board members to assist with the negotiations,” he said. “Shannon Cauley, board Vice President, will head it and two other board members will be appointed later.
“The separation negotiation and details will be handled by the superintendent, staff and legal counsel, consulting with the ad hoc committee and eventually the superintendent making a recommendation to the board.”