It was standing room only by the time tonight’s school board work session got underway. And while there were other items on the agenda, the masses came out to discuss one thing: the independent school system the City of Orange Beach is looking into.
Three members of Superintendent Dr. Alan Lee’s administration presented their findings on three areas of impact: academics, sports and finance. All of which, according to their data, pointed to a bad idea.
“We felt like we owed that to citizens in Orange Beach so that they can make a decision based upon what I would consider to be unbiased information,” Lee said.
Boiling down over 20 slides of financial data, the school board said a theoretical Orange Beach School System would need to pay the state nearly $3 million more than it would get in return. They also said it would be a detriment to the proposed athletic program.
“If I were to have my own child in this Orange Beach community, I would want them in the Baldwin County schools because they would have many more opportunities in academic courses, they’d have many more opportunities in athletics and activities and they would also, have those at a higher level than what I would think I could provide if I were in Orange Beach,” Lee said.
However, not everyone saw it that way.
“The presentation was bogus. It’s just that simple. It’s propaganda and there’s no reason for me to be diplomatic about it,” Mayor Tony Kennon said.
Kennon has been a proponent of investigating the feasibility of an independent school system. He said the city was not made aware of the meeting until yesterday and that the school board was dodging challengers to their view.
“It’s real frustrating to hear to hear someone pontificate and then not really want to defend or allow someone to refute what they’re spewing,” Kennon said.
When asked if Lee would take part in another public discussion with Kennon on the matter, he said he was undecided at this time. The city is in the process of conducting its own feasibility study, the results of which Kennon said should be in at the end of April or the beginning of May.