Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Education Committee Gets New Funding Requests

Fairhope, Alabama


The city's Education Advisory Committee met last week to consider new proposals from principals of the five area schools for distribution of the $350,000 the city council has earmarked for next year: the third year city funds have been provided.

(The EAC was formed in Jan, 2012 click -- and held its first meeting in March of that year, click)

The committee wants to submit them to the city council in early January to expedite disbursal, a problem in the past.

Members expressed satisfaction with the new application process, using a more formal RFP approach ('request for proposals') based upon a set of specific requirements -- compared to the less stringent process of past years.


A total of just over $400K was requested by the five principals this year; member Jim Kellen said it is the committee's job to "edit the requests for the city council."
Chairman Riggs

Two members were assigned to get back with the individual principals as soon as possible to resolve the concerns raised.

1. The Elementary School requested $51K; but questions were raised about funds for AR (accelerated reading) and math programs, smart boards and subscription based services.

(Only new proposals -- not enhancements of existing ones -- meet the new RFP criteria.)

2. The L. J. Newton School requested $89K; but the $5.7K for "consumables" was red-flagged.

3. The Intermediate School requested $59K including for a part-time teacher: but again consumables, AR/math and subscription services (magazine) were questioned -- as well as if new or existing.

4. The Middle School requested $53.9K for "three discrete items" -- the largest being $35K for an outdoor 'explorative discovery center.' -- which did not meet the requirements. The $10K given last year for the facility ("outdoor classroom") but never spent, was also a concern.

5. The High School requested $148K for its IB and advanced placement training programs (books, teacher training, etc); more information was needed before approving the IB portion.


Committee members also discussed the 8 mil tax referendum for new school construction scheduled for Spring; how it may affect the Fairhope feeder pattern if it passes -- and what steps could be taken if it should not. Several were not optimistic about its chances.

(A 'feeder pattern' is defined as the area serviced by the high school.)

Diana Brewer thought the committee should eventually "come down on it ... as a body ...  one way or another."

Another council member told the Times later he thought it would be best if the committee itself did not take a position one way or another.

Brewer said improving academics is a main issue for the city now; and the passage of the 8 mils earmarked for new school construction countywide should eventually "free up more money for those (academic) uses" -- according to discussions she had recently with county school officials.

If the referendum fails, the previously-proposed formation of  a special school overlay district for the entire feeder pattern (but still within the Baldwin County school system) could be pursued; but it would require the prior approval of the Board of Education -- and then the County Commission to schedule a local voter-referendum to approve the additional taxes (3 mils). No authorization from the State legislature would be required.

Alternatively, the city could choose to pursue forming a special district only within its city limits without the BOE's approval -- but that would not be considered here: the feeder pattern will be included in any future plans.

Brewer: "We would always want to include the feeder pattern ... ."

Another option, whether the new 8 mils is approved or not, is the hot-button issue of the city forming a completely independent school system: all taxes would "follow the children" in any case, according to information the committee received from school officials.

That was considered in 2009-10, but was not pursued by the city council at the time (click).


Three committee member's terms will expire early next year and one position is currently vacant.

Applications are available from the city clerk's office or online.

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