Imagine 1 county, 1 school system

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Each morning, The Star-News staff meets to plan out what is now the finished product you hold in your hand.

It’s a time of creativity, idea sharing and sometimes, just flat out gossip. And no, we do not let Mrs. Grundy sit in on our meetings.

Tuesday’s topic of discussion began with this week’s Andalusia High School homecoming activities, which led to talk about football, which led to talk about schools in general, which ultimately led to a fantasy sports team comprised of athletes from every school in the county.

Of course, this got the sports guys going good, but the discussion ended with the question: Why does Covington County have three school systems?

For me the more important questions were “Do we really need three?” and “What would happen if we combined?”

I left the meeting and traveled to Florala to have “Tremendous Tuesday” lunch with my daughter, a fourth grader at W.S. Harlan Elementary School. For the majority of the drive, I tried to figure the logistics of such a move in my head.

I know Covington County is a large county, and it would prove difficult to structure such a single system, but I think it could be done. There are several such models around the state.

Right now, there are 18 schools in Covington County — three each in Andalusia, Opp, Straughn and Florala; one in Fleeta; two in both Pleasant Home and Red Level; and one private Christian school.

Next year, that configuration changes when Florala City Middle School closes and Red Level splits into an elementary school, middle school and high school.

So basically, each of those schools — with the exception of the private school — has one principal and one assistant principal, in addition to its teaching and support staff. That’s a lot of people to employ, and a lot of duplication in administrative employees, i.e., three superintendents and central office staff.

Let me be clear — this line of thinking is no reflection whatsoever upon the performance or personnel in any of the three school systems. I’m just saying making one county school system is an interesting point to ponder — especially with the increasing amount of proration facing the education system statewide.

On the flip side, many will argue that the three-school-systems method is the way it’s always been done and is the way it should continue to be done.

As for the logistics of converging the systems in to one huge system, I have no idea how to make it work. I would argue we’d need at least three elementary schools, three middle schools and one humongous high school — which according to the sports guys in the office would make us a Class 6A powerhouse in football. That idea in itself was enough to make them go for the proposal.

Now, let me re-emphasize I’m just talking off the top of my head. But I bet you’re wondering about it now, too.