Time after time, the newly formed Gulf Shores Board of Education reiterated its position of starting the new system this school year.
Time after time, the Baldwin County Board of Education replied with “what’s the rush?” Ultimately, Interim State Superintendent Ed Richardson agreed with the Baldwin position and Gulf Shores won’t take over schools in the city until July 2019.
But now it’s the county in a hurry to get the split negotiations going and completed and Gulf Shores asking “what’s the rush?” Dr. Matt Akin, the system’s superintendent, is just now getting acclimated to his new job and new town after officially starting on June 1.
“I know that Baldwin County reached out before I started, saying ‘we want to do this soon’ and we certainly want to do it soon,” Akin said. “I would hope and expect those discussions would begin with the state department and the state superintendent this summer. My goal is to be done no later than early fall and hopefully sooner than that. We want to get it right but we want to do it quickly.”
Nash said with Akin now in town and working, they have more time to plan and prepare.
“I am glad we are now able to talk every day if we need to to decide what we’re going to do next,” Campbell said. “We have a very good plan and I think that powers that be who will be involved will also agree with the things we are doing.”
One of the biggest hurdles facing both teams is how to handle students who don’t live in the city limits and if they can finish at Gulf Shores High School.
“There are some critical items, and the biggest question we get from anyone in the public is what is going to be the out-of-district policy,” Board President Kevin Corcoran said. “We can formulate an out-of-district policy, but what would require the acquiescence of the Baldwin County Board of Education, and what would be the related tax dollars associated with those students.”
Akin said state law defines how funds follow the students to the school they attend.
“We can have our own out-of-district policy but we can’t dictate tax dollars,” Akin said. “The law dictates those. We would certainly get our share of tax dollars for those students, but whether or not tax dollars from Orange Beach would follow them is something we couldn’t dictate.”
The wild card in the mix is the construction of the new Orange Beach grades 7 through 12 school planned for opening for the 2019-20 school year.
“We’re thrilled to see that,” Corcoran said. “I think we’ve got a situation where island students will have the best of both worlds. If they want a brand new shiny penny in a county system, they know they’ll be able to attend Orange Beach. If they want to be under an autonomous city school system that has local vision, then they’ll be able to attend Gulf Shores City Schools.”
Lagniappe emailed questions to the Baldwin County Board of Education on June 15 for comment on this story, but as of press time received no return replies.