The newly formed Gulf Shores School Board responded to Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler Thursday night.
The board had a long meeting to draft a response to Tyler's blistering statement in which he said he would no longer negotiate with Gulf Shores about the school split. Gulf Shores board members said it was their idea to bring in state Superintendent Ed Richardson to mediate, not Tyler's. In the statement, Gulf Shores said it was "certainly disappointed" about the personal attacks against Interim Superintendent, Suzanne Freeman, and other criticism from Tyler.
The statement released by Gulf Shores City Schools claims that Baldwin County leaders refused to negotiate last week. Gulf Shores said the next day, it sent a letter to the state superintendent asking him to get involved. In his statement released Wednesday, Tyler claimed he initiated the effort to get the state superintendent involved.
The disagreement is centered on the start date for the new city school system. Gulf Shores leaders want to start in the Fall of 2018, while Baldwin County leaders want the split put off until the Fall of 2019.
FOX10 News was the only news station to interview Gulf Shores School Board President Kevin Corcoran after the meeting:
"We're passionate about this, the education experience on our board is incredible, these folks on our board understand the topics and they understand in depth. We have very lively discussions, and nobody was happy with the personal attacks that occurred and we decided we are not going to stoop to that level," said Corcoran.
The Gulf Shores City Board of Education statement reads:
We are pleased that the Baldwin County Board of Education has agreed to the necessity of involving State Superintendent, Dr. Ed. Richardson, to intervene regarding the official start date for Gulf Shores City Schools.
At our last meeting on February 8, 2018, Baldwin County Board representatives insisted we halt all negotiations until an independent mediator was engaged to determine our start date. In an effort to make meaningful progress, we immediately agreed to consider this proposal as long as the mediator had significant education experience and further suggested that Dr. Richardson, or his appointee, be requested to provide this mediation. Both of our recommendations were vehemently opposed by Baldwin County Board representatives.
The next day, February 9, 2018, we sent a letter to Dr. Richardson requesting that he intervene, as it had become apparent we had reached an impasse with Baldwin County, despite our good faith efforts to remove roadblocks and proactively address their concerns. We subsequently sent a letter notifying Baldwin County of this action prior to Eddie Tyler's February 14, 2018, press release. We have full confidence in Dr. Richardson's intimate knowledge of city school-county school separations and look forward to working with all parties to reach a resolution that is in the best interest of the children.
Gulf Shores City Board of Education has no intention to respond directly to the accusations, personal attacks, and irresponsible rhetoric compiled throughout the statement Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler released yesterday. We do, however, want to make it crystal clear that the Gulf Shores City Board of Education will continue holding itself to the highest professional standard and will act with integrity throughout this process. We understand the weight our words carry, the impact our actions make, and the significant influence we have on children due to the positions and enormous responsibilities that have been entrusted to us as members of the Gulf Shores City Board of Education. The parents and teachers in every school system in America should demand their leadership set an example worthy for their children to follow. The parents, grandparents, teachers, and all stakeholders who will soon be part of Gulf Shores City Schools deserve no less and we intend to deliver.
Gulf Shores and Baldwin County school leaders have been officially meeting for more than a month about the split. Last week, Tyler told FOX10 News the two were "making progress" after their last meeting. Gulf Shores leaders say they were caught off guard by Tyler's statement to stop negotiations on Wednesday.
State Superintendent Ed Richardson's Office sent FOX10 News a statement Thursday afternoon:
"A meeting of the interested parties will be scheduled within the next two weeks for a review of the issues."
The Gulf Shores School Board is continuing their permanent superintendent search. Meanwhile, we expect to talk to Eddie Tyler on camera next week once he's back in town and available to comment.