When Gulf Shores officially began the search for a permanent superintendent for its city school system, it wanted to shout it from the rooftops to get the word out.
“We distributed it out through all the associations and they have sent it out all over the state,” interim superintendent Suzanne Freeman said.
But there were at least three places the new school board wasn’t allowed to post the position: the school campuses in the city of Gulf Shores. City school officials asked the Baldwin County Board of Education for permission to post the job opening in the schools they will take over at some point.
“They said they would get back to us and we’ve not heard back yet,” Freeman said. “Typically, in my situation previously in helping other separations, there’s been a good relationship in that they would let us post it in the schools. That’s typically the case where both school systems work together and coordinate and communicate.”
Gulf Shores wants to open doors for the first time this fall and Baldwin County responded “what’s the rush?” With no inroads made on the impasse, the two sides turned to the state superintendent’s office, which appointed a mediator. Both sides are currently drafting what are essentially position papers to present to the mediator.
Baldwin County made its position clear by passing a resolution Feb. 22 in opposition to the Gulf Shores starting date of July 1.
During a Gulf Shores School Board work session on March 1, several reasons for wanting the split to occur this year were discussed. One was addressing security issues at what police believe is a vulnerable campus, board president Kevin Corcoran said.
“We don’t think it is a rush,” Corcoran said. “There’s so many reasons and we’re going to present plausible reasons and not just because we want to. There’s so many things we need to do and we need to do them now.”
Meanwhile, getting access to those campuses to make assessments on security, computer systems and talking with faculty and staff has been a slow process. The board is currently trying to set a date to meet with faculty and staff from the three Gulf Shores schools.
For teachers, Freeman said, they are anxious about the coming change and she believes a meeting will get them valuable information and ease some of their fears.
“Out of fairness to teachers, they need to know,” she said. “This is their life, their livelihood, their families are counting on this.”
Corcoran said he’s heard a different kind of anxiety from teachers he’s talked with.
“It’s very unfortunate but I hear from teachers they are worried about retribution should they attend such a meeting,” Corcoran said. “We need to stress there is strength in numbers. They have to make an intelligent decision so we have to have information for them.”
Freeman said the meeting to assess the information technology capabilities at all three schools has also been put on hold.
“We hit a little snag in terms of approval from the county to be able to do that,” she said. “Our legal counsel is helping us jump through those hoops.”