The Orange Beach, Alabama, Education Foundation is helping fund extra at local schools.By John Mullen
May 16, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – Obviously, the new Orange Beach schools will need books and desks and chalk and other staples – and staples – to run a school.
But when it comes to the extras – extra training, programs, teachers, software – the Orange Beach Education Foundation is looking to supply those from money donated by the city and in its own fundraisers.
 
Laura Thomas, Chairman of the Orange Beach, Alabama, Education Foundation.“It’s kind of easy to see the big needs that are here for this year and next year while we’re trying to put the schools in place,” Foundation Chairman Laura Thomas said. “We are also looking at strategic long-range plans as we work to enhance academics moving forward. BCBE has already initiated programs to improve academic success. Our goal is ensuring the financial support is there for our schools to optimize those programs and implement other initiatives specific to the needs of our students.”
 
One thing the foundation can concentrate on immediately is professional development during the coming summer.
 
“We also have requests for schoolwide professional development for the middle school and the high school because the teachers are coming from everywhere and they don’t know each other,” Thomas said. “They are going to do some specific professional development to help team build to help them work together.”
 
The foundation is different from the Makos Academics, Arts and Athletics Club which held a successful fundraising gala on May 11. Each group will have a different focus, Mayor Tony Kennon said.
 
“The money from MAAAC is academics, arts, athletics,” Kennon said. “That will be funding something external to the classroom such as the scholar team going to the scholar bowl. We will be funding that trip. The Education Foundation will be funding intra-classroom and professional development. That’s where the two are separated.”
 
Until the school is in place and running, the foundation won’t know what those needs are. During the lead up to opening day the group will work on establishing goals and raising funds to meet needs as they arise.
 
“There is a common goal of just wanting a standard of excellence in all things related to the schools,” Vice Chairman Shannon Robinson said. “Just having that unified goal brings each group together. It motivates everyone and builds that enthusiasm. We’re not just about money, though. Obviously, we need it but we also want to help connect all stakeholders in the community with the schools. Research shows that when communities are plugged into the schools students perform better.”
 
Thomas said foundation members will be better able to gauge needs at the new schools once classes begin and they will be looking for ways to contribute.
 
“Getting with the principals and having some level of continuity between elementary, middle and high schools so there is a focused outcome,” Thomas said. “Exactly what that is has not been determined because that will somewhat be decided after the students get here and what the needs are based on that. It can be anything from being a STEM-certified or STEAM-certified school. Those are larger amounts of money that require extensive training.”
 
STEM is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program and STEAM is a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.
 
Construction of the two self-contained portable school buildings is nearing completion and the school board expects the city to issue a certificate of occupancy for both in the coming days. The high school will be on city property across the street from the elementary school and will have 10 classrooms and two office spaces. The middle school will be directly south of the elementary school and have eight classrooms and two office spaces.
 
The new seventh-through-12th-grade building on Canal Road is expected to up and running for the 2020-21 school year. The county is spending about $26 million on the complex with the City of Orange Beach contributing $7.2 million toward the building of an $8.6 million 700-seat performing arts center.
 
The school coming to town is generating lots of excitement as witnessed with the sold-out Makos Academics, Arts and Athletics Club’s gala at the Perdido Beach Resort on May 11. There were 450 tickets sold and $440,000 raised for that group’s efforts for the schools.
 
The Orange Beach Education Foundation had a silent auction at the event and raised $13,000 as well.
 
“It really does bring a community together when you can come behind your schools,” Thomas said. “And they are all right here locally. Saturday night was a great example of a diverse age, just a cross section of the diversity we have here in Orange Beach. There were a lot of people in that room that didn’t have kids in the schools so there’s a lot of support behind the schools and we’re just excited to be a part of it.”
 
ORANGE BEACH EDUCATION FOUNDATION OBJECTIVES
 
• Promote awareness and increase educational opportunities for the students in Orange Beach schools through fundraising, community involvement, and grant sponsorships.
 
• Manage and allocate resources in partnership with donors, parents, students, school district and local community.
 
• Partner with schools, parents, and community to develop a strategic plan for continuous educational improvements for Orange Beach schools.
 
• Secure funding for enhanced educational experiences.

• Connect teachers and students to various community resources.
 
• Provide support for enhanced academics in the classroom and extra-curricular activities.