05.24.23 SUPERINTENDENT UPDATE

Parents-- You wouldn't know it's summer if you didn't get a two-page email from me, would you? 🤣

I know many of you will not read all of this, but I promise I've kept it short. There is just so much going on in Baldwin County- which is one of the reasons why we continue to be among the best school systems in the country. 

I wish you could read the emails I get from parents and families who have recently moved into our area. They LOVE our county and our schools. They send me emails going on and on about how amazing everything is and how awful things were in whatever state or place they moved here from. Welcome to all of you who are new here and for those long-timers- we should pinch ourselves and remember how great we have it in the eyes of those joining us.

Whew … we have been busy, as have our kids. I know all of us feel like we are busier today than we have ever been, and I think we are! Coming out of 2020, I feel like we are all striving to make up for lost time and taking advantage of everything - everything - life had to offer. Traffic might be a little slow in Baldwin County right now, but your school system is moving at high speed and firing on all cylinders! I want to share with you just a little of what's going on and what we have in store for the summer.

First, let's talk about growth. It's always on everyone's mind. Over the last few years two cities, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, have pulled away from our system. One would think our county school population would have gone down dramatically with the loss of several thousand kids but in fact, we continue to grow so fast our student population remains the same. We currently host more than 30,000 students with this year's senior class graduating 2,103 students. We have built more than two dozen new schools and classroom expansions over the last decade trying to keep up with growth. We have spent almost half a BILLION dollars with no new debt and no new taxes. Our “Pay As You Go” construction plans are paid for with CURRENT tax revenues. All of these projects are paid for and we owe NO DEBT. I say we because it's YOUR money and we work hard to spend it the right way to get the best bang for our buck!

Speaking of graduates, this year's senior class is impressive. Many of these graduates are moving into the workforce in high-paying jobs through our apprentice programs with local manufacturers. That is going to get more aggressive as we launch Baldwin Prep in 2024 (read on for more info about that). For those college-bound kids, this senior class was offered more than 81.8 million dollars in scholarships including 5.2 million in athletic scholarships, 74.5 million in academic scholarships, and more than 2 million in fine arts scholarships. In a county like ours where tourism opportunities are attractive and the economy is strong it can be hard to keep kids focused on finishing high school but I am so encouraged with our graduation rates and the hard work these students have put into finishing and finishing strong!

It's not just our seniors who are working hard. Across the county, we are seeing academic growth. There are areas where we needed to improve and increase our test scores. We are striving to hit our marks in all of those areas. Now, just like every family, we have high-flyers and strugglers. Our job is to give each and every one of our students the best opportunity. We made a big commitment to academics as we came out of COVID and we still have some work to do, but I am VERY pleased with the work this year and I am looking forward to the test scores from the end of this semester.

As part of that, we continue to expand our summer enrichment and training work. From summer reading challenges to literacy camps, we are working to provide opportunities to students across the spectrum. Hundreds of our teachers will participate in some form of professional training during the summer including our own annual GRITC program. While school is out, take notice as you drive by our schools this summer. There are always cars on campus and people working to get us ready and better for the next school year.

Academics is 99% of the game for me but as an old coach, that other 1% for extra-curricular activities is important too. I am so proud of the new athletic and fine arts enhancement program our board approved last month. Through funds we received in the recent school splits, we are reinvesting back to our local high schools more than $50 million again, completely debt free. These new construction projects will build indoor facilities for programs ranging from band and color guard to football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, and so on. This construction program was driven by our high school administrators and not by the central office or my team. Each school identified its needs and priorities and worked to develop presentations on what would serve its students best. It won't be complete next year, but I am excited about the upgrades that we will see in the years to come.

As far as our kids go, I know you all read about the shootings and tragedies going on around the country. I don't know why schools have become such a target of violence and outrage. We have had instances of guns, fake and real, on our campuses but our kids remain safe through the amazing partnership we have with law enforcement protecting our kids. We still stand as the only county school system with armed law enforcement officers on each and every campus, each and every day. They are embedded with our kids. They build relationships. They are there to teach safety, responsibility, and even manners. Most importantly they are there to give their life for your child's if it were to come to that. Stop and think about that for a moment … because that is the time we live in today. 

We are continuing to enhance security at all of our schools. We will be upgrading security systems on all of our campuses throughout the next year. This year we installed new alert systems and monitoring badges. Next year we continue with improved surveillance as well as tactical response enhancements. You might not notice the changes, but you will hear about alerts and drills. There is nothing you need to do, but I want you to know that the safety of your children and our employees is a top priority of our board and school administration. If you ever see something you think we need to know about, please take a moment and send us an email to news@bcbe.org

I could go on for pages and pages with what's happening in our county and system but I am going to wrap up on three items.

Next fall we launch our new Career Tech High School- Baldwin Preparatory Academy. This is a first in Alabama. Our team visited Ohio, Texas, and other states to see what they were doing to lead the way in workforce development. This new complex is already towering over Highway 59 in Loxley north of I-10 today. This comprehensive high school will offer training and education in a cutting-edge environment. From nursing to robotics, cosmetology to cyber security, airplane manufacturing, welding, diesel repair, HVAC, electrical, and the interestingly named Mechatronics -- this school has cool written all over it!  Our goal here is to graduate highly skilled students who can enter the workforce at the highest level, with the highest pay of any eighteen-year-old in public school history. In addition to this career-focused training and industry-certificated program, driven students at Baldwin Prep will have the exclusive opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree, another first in Alabama. If you want to learn more about what's coming with Baldwin Prep in the fall of 2024, visit www.baldwinprep.com.

I want to thank our legislators and ask you to thank them as well. While there are battles being fought in Montgomery over ideology and budgets, I know that our local folks have our back. This last year we welcomed three new legislators with Frances Holk Jones, Donna Givens and Jennifer Fidler being elected. These three ladies bring their own expertise and love for Baldwin County to public service and it shows. This winter we held hours-long meetings with them to answer all of their questions and teach them about what we are doing and our challenges. Throughout this session, they, along with our senior legislators, have been steadfast in seeking input from our team and keeping Baldwin County's needs high on the priority list. I am so grateful for their hard work and dedication to Baldwin County and I want to keep you informed about what they are doing for our schools, and of course, if they slip, I'll let you know that too. 🙂

Finally, I want to tell you thank you. Being a parent is not easy. Burger King once had a series of commercials titled, "Have it Your Way." One would think that's the way of public education today. We have so many different opinions and schools of thought and I would be lying to you if I didn't tell you that things are very challenging in our current state of time. I do my best to make the right decisions, pushing back against what I think are undue or inappropriate influences, focusing on what is age-appropriate, and helping to protect our teachers and staff so they can do the amazing jobs we have come to expect from them. I am very grateful I am not a parent today. I hear stories about the challenges you face with your children at home. Our employees walk that walk with you every day. I hope we do well by you, and I hope you will take just a minute to tell the more than 4,000 employees in our system who love your children like their own, what a great job you think they are doing.

I love public education. If I had my life to do over again, I doubt I'd be doing anything else. Just last month I was humbled to be inducted into the Murphy High School Hall of Fame. I am #BaldwinProud but I am just as proud to be a Murphy Panther from the class of 1970. That honor they bestowed on me and the job I have today here in Baldwin County are everything I have to be proud of. I want my path in public education to help be a path of opportunity for your children. I could not be more proud of the family we have here.

Please pray for us over the summer and I will pray for you as well. 

 

Eddie Tyler,

Superintendent

#BaldwinProud #CommunityStrong