Monday, December 2, 2013

Education Committee To Reconsider Spending Proposals

Fairhope, Alabama


At its November meeting, after privately hearing concerns from some council members, the city's Educational Advisory Committee decided to appoint sub-committees to meet and reconsider the lists of spending proposals (click) from the school principals for disbursing the $350,000 already earmarked for the five Fairhope-area schools.

According to Council President Burrell, some of their proposals do not meet the committee's own criteria for disbursement to the S.T.E.M. curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics); and, since the county has recently-announced increased Technology funding  (Digital Renaissance), some new criteria may need to be added as well, i.e. Arts-related: S.T.E.A.M.

(Burrell said he was ok with changing the criteria.)

Requested appropriations for sports-related and un-designated "professional development" activities were a cited as  problematic.

The city council must still vote to appropriate the money for each item requested, whenever they are finalized.


The members present also passed a resolution to expand the committee to nine members -- to broaden its base and get a better cross section of the community involved (administrators, teachers, college teachers, FEEF members were mentioned).

More members could assist in the upcoming effort to form a special school tax district as well (see below).

There are currently 4 vacancies; applications may be obtained from the city's website (click).


After Committee Chairperson Julia Summerlin resigned for personal work-related reasons, the committee voted unanimously to appoint Bob Riggs as its new leader. (Summerlin had replaced Henry Clark, who resigned from the committee last July.)

Riggs emphasized the need for better planning and community involvement: "We've got to have a plan that involves the community and focuses on where we want to go ... whatever mechanism we need to get there is what we've got to undertake ... ."

Riggs said he wanted to set up a meeting with the Board of Education, principals, city leaders, FEEF and other stakeholders, possibly in January, to agree upon a vision for the schools.


EAC member/council liaison Diana Brewer said she had met with local attorney Matthew McDonald, a campaign strategist/consultant for the School Board in past tax-related matters, and got assurances that both the Board of Education and Superintendent Lee "give their full blessing" to the effort and plan to "work with us on this." Brewer said she had already received some information from McDonald (maps, data, etc.).

The referendum would allow all residents in the Fairhope school feeder pattern a chance to vote to increase their property taxes, possibly by 3 mils. The exact proposed usage of the funds would have to be stipulated beforehand on the ballot (more teachers has been mentioned).

Brewer: "Its moving right along ... needs to have a strong grass roots organization ... and campaign."

Council President Burrell, who attended the meeting, said he thought the entire council would be in favor of holding the referendum/special election to let the people decide what they want to do  -- but said he personally had not decided if he would be for it himself.

So far Mrs. Brewer is the only council member to voice support for the new school district.


Mayor Kant told the Times later that he supports holding a referendum as well -- and would support the new district and tax if it is earmarked for specific purposes (not just give a lump sum to the Board of Education every year).

Kant said he thought it would be more equitable to have everyone in the county in the feeder pattern participate to supplement Fairhope schools -- rather than just those who live within the city limits via yearly appropriations from city coffers ($350K for the past 2 years).


Anonymous said...

Interesting since Bob Riggs is and has been an outspoken critic of raising taxes (for anything). He's pretty far to the right of right.

"So far Mrs. Brewer is the only council member to voice support for the new school district."
Shocking? Nope.

Anonymous said...

Why not let the people vote to decide for themselves?