The results of an academic audit performed by the Akribos Consulting Group show five schools in the feeder pattern for Fairhope High School may not be far from ranking among the top 10 schools in Alabama.

The audit, which the Fairhope City Council agreed to pay Akribos $49,000 for, determined criteria by which it could rank the top 10 school systems in the state, then compared Fairhope’s feeder pattern to those schools.

The study used ACT Aspire results, ACT College Readiness, advance placement data, demographics and core expenditures per student as a guide.

“You all are doing a great job, we have no doubt that you could get to being a top 10 school in Alabama,” Dr. Ruth Ash, part of the Akribos study team, said.

Akribos estimated Fairhope’s schools, all of which are part of the Baldwin County Public School System, to be “in the second 10” of schools in the state. In order for the entire feeder pattern to reach top 10 status, Akribos presented five options that will now have to go before the Fairhope City Council for study.

According to Akribos, the city could leave its current school funding structure intact, continuing with its annual $350,000 allocation to the Fairhope Education Advisory Committee, which is equally disbursed among the schools in the feeder pattern.

Akribos also proposed a special tax district, with additional millage taxes diverted to the city’s schools and suggested the city could look to obtain a “school flexibility contract” with the state Board of Education. Other options included creating a charter school or creating an independent, city-run school system.

Akribos put a dollar amount on other recommendations it says the city’s feeder pattern schools could use to improve to top 10 status. Among those recommendations were $600,000 for personnel — including a director to lead curriculum and instruction and additional substitute teachers, and $80,000 for increased professional development for teachers within the feeder pattern.

“You are doing very well in your schools, but I don’t think there are any principals here who would say you can’t always do better,” Ash said. “We think you are ready to be there, and we think our recommendations will help you get there.”

Kerry Flowers, the EAC chairman, said the recommendations will now be presented to the full City Council and Akribos would be invited back for a question and answer period with councilors.

Council President Jack Burrell was the only member of the City Council to attend the meeting, although all had been invited. Flowers also said a meeting will be announced soon to gather ideas and thoughts from the public about the study.

“I believe our principals and our teachers do an outstanding job,” Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant said. “We have a new school board and a new superintendent, and this is a starting point so we can move forward. We always want to push to be better, and I want to make sure the public really has an understanding of a report card of where we are.”