With the biggest issue of contention between the Baldwin County Board of Education and breakaway system Gulf Shores settled, the city’s new superintendent says separation talks should go smoothly.
“Now that there’s no question about start date — we know when we’re going to start — to me the negotiations will be easier because that’s a biggie that’s removed from the discussion,” Dr. Matt Akin said. “I think that will allow us to go quicker.”
Earlier this year Baldwin County broke off negotiations over Gulf Shores’ insistence on opening as a new system this month.
Akin traveled to Montgomery July 25 to meet with State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey and representatives from Baldwin County, including Superintendent Eddie Tyler. There the three groups laid out the game plan on how the negotiations would work.
“The purpose of the meeting was to just reset and for Dr. Mackey to explain the process he’s going to use and the timeline and procedures for sharing information,” Akin said. “It was a productive meeting but no decisions were made.”
Tyler said he’s looking forward to help from the state in ironing out an agreement.
“We had a good first meeting and look forward to working out a final resolution with the state’s guidance,” Tyler said. “At the request of Dr. Mackey, we are not going to have any further comments about the process at this time.”
Gulf Shores will be up first, Akin said, detailing what they expect to receive when the two boards divide up assets associated with the three campuses in the city.
“Gulf Shores will share our thoughts in writing, basically our rough draft proposal, we’ll send it to the state department attorneys, we’ll send it to Baldwin County,” Akin said. “They’ll respond and from that point we’ll know what we agree on and what we don’t.”
Attorneys hired by the state will serve as mediators during the process, with Mackey making the final decisions on anything the county and city can’t come to terms on.
“Dr. Mackey made that clear,” Akin said. “Dr. Mackey has attorneys in place that will help mediate these things and ultimately, he’ll make the decision on the items. I’m certain there will be some things that we won’t agree on and he’ll make those final decisions.”
Mackey set a December deadline to have the agreement in place.
Earlier negotiations over how to implement and spend the money generated from a special tax district in the Gulf Shores High School feeder pattern broke down over who would decide how the money was spent. Those began in 2016 and broke down after several months of talks.
In October the Gulf Shores City Council voted to separate from the county and form the first independent school system in Baldwin County. Several larger cities in the county have toyed with the idea, but efforts in Daphne and Fairhope fizzled. Those communities, along with Spanish Fort, are now discussing a special tax district in those high schools’ feeder patterns to raise money for enhanced programs within those districts.