Saturday, October 22, 2016

Updated: Fairhope Council Set To Endorse School Reconfiguration

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: The city council did pass this resolution on Monday, October 24th.

Hammock and Mueller, seated at table 


The city council is expected to pass a resolution supporting the realignment of the city's current elementary and intermediate schools into two separate pre-K through six grades instead: hopefully by the 2017-18 term.

(Currently, Fairhope Elementary school is grades pre-K - 3 and Fairhope Intermediate grades 4 - 6. There were 1,024 students attending FE in 2015 and 765 FI, according to online resources. The K-6 Larry Newton School in the feeder pattern south of town had 655 students in 2015.)

The issue had been brought up at the last work session by Elizabeth Hammock who is spearheading the "grass roots effort" recommended by district school board representative Cecil Christenberry to bring about the change:Vickie Bailey was there as well in support.

Citing recommendations of both the the Board of Education's 2014 'Community Advisory Task Force' report and the city's more-recent Akrobos education study, in addition Hammock presented a petition with over 500 signatures as well as written messages of support from Christenberry and superintendent Tyler.

She also gave assurances she had spoken "off the record" with teachers and principals from the five area schools and they were "on board" with it too.

"The first step was to get support from the community (petition) and principals ... then come to you ... for your support ... a resolution to take to the School Board ... get them to make it a priority ... move on it."


Burrell at left
Benefits of reconfiguring mentioned are smaller class sizes, improved student/teacher ratio, enhanced team teaching, and continuity of curriculum, among others.

The wider number of grades per school gives principals more flexibility dividing up state teacher units (put resources where greatest needs are) so fewer locally funded units are needed, according to former K-1 principal Vickie Bailey who was a Community Task Force member.

EAC chairman Kerry Flowers said that committee had not taken a formal vote, but member Bob Riggs called it a no brainer: "The state will give more money for teachers ... for the same number of students ... a really smart move."

(Traffic problems at the elementary school may be relieved as well.)


Councilmember Mueller asked the obvious question: if the reconfiguration had already been recommended by the two studies and everyone is ok with it,  why hasn't the Board of Education acted?

Councilman Burrell responded, "political reasons, I think" ... over deciding where to draw the lines to send which children to which school (zoning)."

 "Gerrymandering the lines is the problem ... somebody wanting to go to this school ... or that school ... its inevitable some won't be happy."

Hammock concurred, saying that schools in Magnolia Springs and Elberta were already reconfiguring and it is "just a zoning and priority issue" here: no significant financial expenditures are involved.

In anticipation, superintendent Tyler had already assigned an assistant principal to start looking at the lines: "That is the main concern have ... one school ending up as the good school another the bad one ... the demographic makeups have to be as equitable ... fair as possible," she added.


Mueller also thought the local community should have some input into the zoning (which kids go where) not just have it "dictated" from Bay Minette; Burrell replied that could be put into the resolution as well -- or someone from the new council or EAC be assigned to act as a liaison.

All of the current council members present indicated approval (Burrell, Brewer, Boone, Mueller, Ford absent) as well as councilman-elect Brown and Mayor-elect Wilson, who observed the discussion.


Anonymous said...

The biggest problem I see here are the demographics. What will be the dividing line - Fairhope Avenue? Don't mean to sound racist here, but it is a well known fact that most African American families live south of Fairhope Avenue. Does that mean there will be more blacks in one school? Like I said, I'm not racist - just think this needs to be done fairly for all.

Anonymous said...

Sound like the Fairhope "elite" feeder pattern is in the works.

Anonymous said...

Have a lottery drawing.

Anonymous said...

I am not an "elitest" like so many here now. I have been here a long, long time. Just feel like whatever they do needs to be kept fair for ALL!

Anonymous said...

It seems that the easiest split would be for east of Greeno Road to go to the current Intermediate School and for those west of Greeno Road to attend the current Elementary School. A lot more kids will be able to walk/bike to school if they don't have to cross Greeno.
Also it will enable more parents to drive kids in golf carts if they don't have to cross over a busy highway. Great idea to take some of the traffic off of the streets!

Anonymous said...

Are these council members aware that we are going through a presidential election in which one of the candidates is in favor of school choice? All of the effort being put into drawing new school zones could be a waste of tax payers' money. Why the rush? Can't we at least wait to consider the outcome of the election and the role that will play in zoning?

Anonymous said...

We are going to need a whole new school board to get anthing done.

Anonymous said...

I am comfortable the council will follow all applicable laws when rezoning. No one wants an agency getting involved in a local zoning issue. Though the presidential election is over, bureaucracy theory shall always remain.

Indeed, whatever is finally decided it shall not always be the people's will.

Anonymous said...

My opinion, there should be a 3 person committee to decide, and all 3 members should not have children or grand-children, or the like in a Fairhope school.

Wait, that is too fair.