Committee focuses on Education in county

Published 7:05 am Monday, December 15, 2008

By By MaryClaire Foster
The first organizational meeting for Friends of Education of Escambia County Foundation was held on Wednesday at the Creek Family Restaurant.
Friends of Education was formed this year as a coalition of community members to work together to improve the Escambia County School System independent of the board, by focusing on the needs of schools and addressing them.
Guest speaker for the event was Carolyn Akers, executive director for the Mobile Area Education Foundation.
The Mobile foundation began seven years ago and served as inspiration for the Friends of Education.
Akers was at the meeting to share the progress their foundation has made.
Akers said many efforts and factors played into the betterment of the schools. One in particular being the approval in May 2001 for the first property tax referendum in more than 40 years.
That data includes the community approval rating of the county’s school has risen 11 percent from 34 to 45 percent and an increase from 27 percent to 90 percent in reading proficiency in schools.
Akers also said they are receiving media recognition both locally and nationally commending the improvements made.
Akers said the biggest factor was the community involvement.
Cereal Daniel, a member of the Escambia County Board of Education, raised concerns that Friends of Education would be trying to micro-manage the school board and asked Akers how their relationship had been with the Mobile County School Board.
Akers said it is a “fine line” and a “balancing act” to not overstep the school board.
United Bank President Bob Jones asked Akers why Saraland broke away from the school system.
Akers responded that communities want to feel close to the kids and that with the size of Mobile County, its residents may have felt disconnected.
Emilie Mims, probate judge for Escambia County and one of the Friends of Education founding members, said she thought it was a connectivity issue, something that is seen in many schools.
Tim Martin, President and CEO of Creek Indian Enterprises, asked after a problem is acknowledged how do you get the different schools and communities to work together to better themselves as a whole?
Akers said the main thing they did was get out in all areas of the communities.
Akers reminded the group that success is not immediate and takes much input from them.

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