By John Mullen
The city of Gulf Shores received paperwork from 32 people wanting to serve on the newly formed school system’s board of education.
At least one of those, Angie Swiger, has previous experience. Swiger is the current representative for south Baldwin County’s District 5, which mainly encompasses Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan, Ono Island and Elberta. Swiger said if she is chosen, she will step down from that post to serve on the city’s panel.
Meanwhile, the Baldwin County Board of Education has asked the Alabama Attorney General’s office if Swiger can continue on the county board at all. She is a longtime resident of Gulf Shores and would be living in the new system’s district.
The resolution asks, “Does a member of the county board of education residing within the municipal limits of the newly established city school system remain eligible to serve on the county board of education?”
Swiger believes she can legally finish out her term through 2020 if she’s not named to the Gulf Shores board.
“I owe it to the citizens of my district who have elected me twice and who have entrusted me to make certain that the children and parents of Gulf Shores, as well as the children and parents of the rest of my district, have my unwavering representation,” she said. “I want to be certain that all of the children in my district have proper representation at all times.”
With Swiger on the board, she would play an integral role in negotiating the split terms with her former colleagues at Baldwin County Schools. Gulf Shores hopes to open its schools starting in 2018, a timeline Superintendent Eddie Tyler has questioned.
“There is an aggressive timeline the city has,” Tyler said. “I don’t know how realistic that is.”
Swiger says while there is a lot of work to be done dividing assets and determining if out-of-district students can finish in Gulf Shores, she thinks it’s doable.
“The timetable is ambitious, but not impossible,” she said.
Mayor Robert Craft says the city has made all the right moves and done all the preliminary work to ensure financing the system will go smoothly.
“There’s been a lot of noise being made about how can the city do this, how can they afford to do this,” Craft said at a recent meeting. “We’ve got that figured out. Jason [Dyken], our Finance Committee chairman, went into great detail about how we’re not taking money out of the reserves, we’re not putting more money in the reserves. We’ve got the ability to cover that $2.1 million deficit between having a top-performing school and we’ve already committed to doing that.”
According to Economic Development Coordinator Blake Phelps, with the revenues currently predicted, Gulf Shores can fund about $8,600 per student. Baldwin County currently spends about $8,900.
By using some of the $2.1 million formerly going into reserves, Phelps said, the city can match what top-performing schools in Alabama spend at $9,500 per student. Or, to reach highest-performing status, the city would spend all of the $2.1 million to fund just over $10,000 per student.
Craft said many of those decisions will be made by the incoming board of education.
“The board of education and the superintendent will decide what needs to happen here to run the school,” he said. “We’ve got to give them enough money to manage the education outcome we’re looking for and add some component to allow them to build the necessary facilities where we’re not overcrowded and we’ve got a great place for our kids to go to school.”