Sunday, April 12, 2015

Education Committee Ponders New Strategies

Fairhope, Alabama. (


Fairhope Education Committee
The day after the school tax vote mostly-failed, the city's Educational Advisory Committee met to consider its next steps: and heard proposals from representatives of FEEF and the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation that pooling resources may have more impact on the community's educational needs.

The Fairhope Educational Enrichment Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation -- and the FSTC a 501(c)4.

FEEF President Cori Yonge said that organization is developing a long-range plan: one of its five objectives being another "large capital project" -- along the lines of the Pelican's Nest science lab behind the K-1.

She said that everyone working together, perhaps on one project, could have a "huge impact" on the community.

New Committee Chairman Kerry Flowers agreed that the $350K/year from the city is not enough on its own; having the bigger "pool of dollars" from each organization "go in one direction"  could get more citizens involved and "create a culture" for community education.

Single Tax Corporation Secretery Aloda Arnold said that organization is also currently doing new long-range planning -- by reaching out to its lessees and community; the independent organizations could do more by communicating and working together.

Yonge said corporate donors are anxious to chip in too, particularly on science-related projects where data (metrics) are readily available to measure results.

A feasibility study with a 3 year time line would be the first step, according to Yonge.

Cori Yonge, left

Members expressed surprise that none of the new tax proposals passed here usually known for supporting such initiatives; they did note that all of the existing ones were re-authorized by voters here though.

A lack of trust, poor campaign strategy,  low turnout of parents, bad timing, Dr. Lee "hangover" -- and the ultra-conservative politics of the county were all cited as possible reasons.

Some members felt that "focusing on the future" should be the committee's priority now; but others that some sort of a poll/survey of residents ought to be conducted: to understand why so many voted no.

There was some disagreement whether the committee should move forward now -- or wait to coordinate with the Baldwin Board of Education when its revised strategy is announced.


Jim Kellen, one of the committees original members, mentioned that former superintendent Alan Lee had asked them to put preliminary plans to schedule a referendum for a special overlay school district for the Fairhope area on hold -- until the county's referendum had taken place; given its outcome that may have been a mistake Kellen said. (click here)

Such a referendum would allow Baldwin School District Six voters the chance to approve a new 3 mil property tax just for Fairhope-area schools; some cities in other districts are now contemplating the same thing according to media reports (Gulf Shores).

If approved, the $350K/year now being donated from city coffers would cease,  replaced by about $1.8 million from the entire district -- a more equitable/fair  way of doing it, according to some city officials when it came up about a year ago..

(Publisher's Note: There was no discussion of the controversial independent city school system issue at this meeting.)


After a lengthy discussion, the committee decided to appoint a sub-committee to look into the possibility of sponsoring a town hall meeting (with a facilitator) sometimes this summer before the new school year begins (August?) -- to seek input from citizens about their "vision" for education; and how they want to pay for it.

A written survey/poll would also be taken to help explain why the county's referendum failed here.

The city council would have to approve the meeting; it is scheduled to be discussed at Monday's council work session.


A controversial bill to allow "charter" schools in Alabama for the first time that has already passed both houses of the state legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature was not mentioned during this meeting.

Governor Bentley has indicated he intends to sign it.

Under certain circumstances, it would allow non profit 501(c)3 organizations in a community to apply to set up new schools, receiving the same public funding,  federal grants, etc.

The future of the old K-1 building on Church St. did not come up at this meeting either.


Anonymous said...

Baffling? What part of economics (individual) do you not understand? When you combine all taxes, income, property, sales, fees, most of us pay 40 to 50 percent of our hard earned income to someone else. When I retired 8 years ago I was upper middle class, now I'm lower middle class thanks to the takers. I'm being taxed into poverty.

Anonymous said...

"There was no discussion of the controversial independent city school system issue at this meeting."
Maybe not but I'll betcha' there is a lot of discussion going on outside these meetings. Because it's the Fairhope way ya'll!

Anonymous said...

Too much spending! Baldwin County suddenly found this potential savings even though it supposed had nothing to do with the recent tax vote. If chosen for the 2016-2017 school year, the new computers would cost drastically less than the current Macs - around $220 a piece versus more than $1,000 - at a savings of $5 to $6 million per year. By Sept. 2016, the school system will have spent $24 million on its Digital Renaissance program. Read the whole article at

Anonymous said...

I'm unemployed receiving a small pension. I'm not receiving any government assistance. I could get a job and the additional money I earn would go to additional goods and services thus creating jobs for others. But, after taxes and expenses I'd only take home about 30% so I choose not to work. Excessive taxes stifle everything.

Anonymous said...

Why not us just go in with Spanish Fort and Daphne to make our own School System rather than let the good ole boys in the dying town of Bay Minette dictate to us?

Anonymous said...

Obviously you do not understand "the Fairhope Way".