Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler could be removed from office, if BCBE cannot reach a separation agreement with the Gulf Shores School Board by Feb. 15, according to a letter sent by State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey.
The Baldwin County School Board is meeting in an executive session this afternoon, one day ahead of the deadline imposed by Mackey.
According to a letter dated Feb. 5, Mackey asked for a written response in agreement from each superintendent by Friday, or he threatened to invoke his powers to remove “any person appointed under the provisions of this title for immorality, misconduct in office, insubordination, incompetency or willful neglect of duty.”
In essence, if Baldwin County does not accept the agreement, Mackey could remove Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler from office.
The agenda doesn’t state what will be discussed, only that an executive session will take place at 4 p.m. at the Central Office Satellite office in Loxley. Lagniappe obtained a copy of the letter imposing the deadline and citing a section of the state code that outlines Mackey’s authority to make the ruling.
State law Section 16-4-4 says the state superintendent, or Mackey, has the authority to settle “all controversies and disputes involving the proper administration of the public school system.”
“If no written response confirming compliance is received by that date, this office will understand that lack of response is a refusal to recognize this decision as binding and will proceed accordingly under the enforcement authority granted by Section 16-4-4 of the Alabama Code,” the letter goes on to say.
The law further states that, if necessary, the state superintendent can, under specified conditions, terminate those who do not follow the instructions handed down.
“The State Superintendent of Education shall enforce all the provisions of this title and the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education,” the official section of the code states. “He shall file charges with the State Board of Education or other controlling authority and shall recommend for removal or institute proceedings for the removal of any person appointed under the provisions of this title for immorality, misconduct in office, insubordination, incompetency or willful neglect of duty.”
Also, in the letter, Mackey said settling the issues between the two school systems was in the best interest of both and all the people involved.
“Finally, I find it necessary, and in the best interest of the students, teacher, staff and parents of both school systems, to prevent needless delay in the implementation of this decision for the 2019-2020 school year,” Mackey wrote.
Since Mackey handed down his ruling Jan. 15, Baldwin County and Tyler have insisted the state is directing Baldwin County to pay Gulf Shores $7 million in the split. The county has not released details on how it arrived at that figure and has several times threatened to seek a legal resolution regarding the disputed funds.
“It’s well documented now that our board, when Dr. Mackey sent back his final proposal, did not accept that proposal, we weren’t going to accept that proposal and we’re not going to accept the proposal,” Tyler said at a meeting with parents and city officials in Orange Beach in January. “Our board’s already said if we’ve got to go to court, we’re going to go to court because right is right and wrong is wrong. And Baldwin County Schools right now is not being treated fairly.”
Gulf Shores Superintendent Dr. Matt Akin and the Gulf Shores board doesn’t believe the number is that high.
“There is a repeated mention of an alleged $7 million reduction in revenue to BCBE, however there is no mention of a corresponding reduction in expenses to BCBE,” Gulf Shores School President Kevin Corcoran said. “If Gulf Shores is charged with paying the payroll from the state foundation to the teachers that is exactly what we will do. If Baldwin County receives $4 million dollars less in payroll revenue they will also reduce their expenses accordingly.”
Mackey’s agreement says the county is obligated to pay teachers and other staff June through Aug. 31. Those hired by Gulf Shores will be paid with the same money allocated by the state whether it goes through the Baldwin County payroll system or the Gulf Shores payroll system, Akin contends.
“We don’t know the exact amount because we don’t know exactly how many teachers we will have,” Akin said. “Whatever that number is, the state department will determine it and say ‘Gulf Shores, here’s your money to pay the teachers who were employed last school year and are now employed with you.’”
Mackey’s agreement says “Because the county board has and will receive all state and federal funds from the [State Department of Education] for Fiscal Year 2018-19; the county board will normally be responsible for funding the salaries and benefits for all state-earned positions and all federal positions assigned to Gulf Shores City Schools for the remainder of the 2018-2019 fiscal year. For the month of September 2019, the SDE will divide the Foundation Program allocation to Baldwin County and will apportion and pay over to the city board, as the city board’s share for that month, an amount to be determined by the SDE with reference to an equivalent number of certified positions based on the fiscal year 2018-2019 [average daily membership] calculations and corresponding funding divisors.”
Baldwin County is also challenging Gulf Shores’ receiving a share of the county sales tax earmarked for education beginning on June 1, the first day of the new Gulf Shores city system.
“There are a lot of issues to disagree with in [Mackey’s] letter, but the most glaring is that the state superintendent directs some $7 million in Baldwin County revenue from this school year to a school system that has no students enrolled for this school year — while also directing us to pay all of the expenses through the end of this school year,” Tyler said. “Our disagreement is over money, which belongs to the Baldwin County taxpayers and not Gulf Shores.”
Gulf Shores contends that while it will receive about $2 million from the sales tax in months June through September, it is also assuming all costs and recurring expenses related to maintenance and day-to-day costs for three school buildings. The county, Corcoran said, will be relieved of those obligations on June 1.
Mackey’s final agreement says the 2 percent is directed by state law and “shall be allocated, apportioned, and distributed between the county board and the city board as directed by state law (presently Section 16-13-31(b) of the code of Alabama.”
The 3 mills of ad valorem taxes collected within the city limits and earmarked for education will not start flowing to the city system’s coffers until Oct. 1, Mackey’s agreement states.
Gulf Shores passed and approved Mackey’s separation agreement on Jan. 17 at a special called meeting and responded positively to the Feb. 5 letter from Mackey.
On the same night, Baldwin County’s board voted to give Tyler authority to seek a legal remedy to the disputes over the funding issues.
UPDATE: After its meeting Thursday night, the Baldwin County School Board took no official action and issued no statement. As of Friday afternoon, Mackey said he had not yet heard from the Baldwin County School Board.
“We have received a positive response from the Gulf Shores Board, but no response from Baldwin County,” Mackey said. “We remain hopeful that we will receive a positive response from them by the end of the day. It would inappropriate for me to indicate our next steps based on a presumption or expectation of their response. We continue to move toward a June 1 separation.”
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