Friday, January 2, 2015

Colbert County School System – The New Gilligan’s Island?

Today we're presenting an excellent guest editorial. We know that all school systems in Alabama need more funding. You may criticize the Muscle Shoals City schools for excess spending on their football program, but at least they have something to show for their money. The Colbert County School System has nothing to show for money expended to fight lawsuits instigated by Anthony Olivis' actions. 

For whatever reason, many do not access the Internet. If you own a business in Colbert County, we're asking that you do as several did during the time leading up to the November elections. You can have 100 copies of this blog printed on cheap paper for less than one dollar. Give them to your customers; they have a right to know the truth.


The New Gilligan’s Island?

The Colbert County School System (CCSS) outlook is bleak. Every day that passes with the Skipper (Superintendent Anthony Olivis) and Gilligan (Assistant Superintendent Jeff Cornelius) in charge is another day of system decline and budget shortfall. The Skipper scurries around the island (Central Office) reacting to situations and crises as they occur rather than acting – planning and preparing in advance so problems never happen in the first place. At every turn, First Mate Gilligan manages to ruin the system’s chances of being rescued. Whenever he tries to help, he always ends up doing more harm than good. He’s the Skipper's little buddy and does most of the unpleasant chores on the island.

When leaving office two years ago, the previous CCSS administration left close to $8 million in the bank for the incoming Skipper/Gilligan team. Now the system is more than $500,000 in the red and the deficit is climbing every month.

The system CFO was summoned to the State Department of Education (SDE) in Montgomery to give a report on system finances and to present a plan of action to correct the current deficit. Whatever plan was presented doesn’t seem to be working though. Where did the money go?

Where will the money come from to operate the school system going forward? Only two options are currently available to reverse the negative slide, neither of them pleasant.

One alternative is to consolidate New Bethel Elementary with CHES. Of course, the New Bethel community would not be happy with this option. Consolidation has already been brought up at recent board meetings but is not likely to happen since board members (especially the one representing the New Bethel community) are scared of losing in the next election if they support it.

The second alternative is to cut people – faculty and staff. Reductions in personnel should have been done two years ago to balance dwindling revenue caused by declining student enrollment. This would have been unpopular in the best of times, but would have been doubly hard for the Skipper since many of the potentially affected positions were held by his supporters in his election race against Bob Montgomery.

The bottom line: We have no competent leadership in Colbert County willing to do what is necessary to solve the financial crisis in our school system. The Skipper and Gilligan, as well as the Board, are all afraid of losing their high-paying jobs, thus putting their own self-interests above what is good for our children. Politics at its finest.

There has been no public release of information concerning the current CCSS status – financial or otherwise. Employees, communities, teachers, and parents are kept out of the loop. The Skipper and Gilligan make decisions on their own without consulting the Board. This has caused a rift between the administration and Board members.

In addition, the Colbert Heights community remains in the dark regarding the principal position at Colbert Heights Elementary School (CHES).

If there is a plan, it seems to simply be “watch as we go.” Gilligan has filled in as principal at CHES since the beginning of the school year, a position that he has stated publicly is beneath him, and he wants out. He wants to go back to the Central Office to his cushy $100,000+ job.

The Skipper has suggested that a different “principal-of-the-month” fill in at CHES until school is out, with these fill-ins coming from the Central Office. This is a recipe for disaster! Some of the potential fill-ins have no principal experience at all. Who suffers? Kids and teachers.

The decision to oust Montgomery from CHES (and attempt his termination from the system) by the Skipper and Gilligan because of the political and personal agendas of a few was a monumental blunder. CHES, when led by Montgomery, was a top-performing school. Look at what the Gilligan’s Island team has created now at CHES since their attack on Montgomery.

People say Gilligan wants to run the system, but wake up people – look at the system now with these two running it. Who will pay for these blunders? Taxpayers will pay and students will suffer.

Morale in the system continues to decline faster than student enrollment.

Shenanigans at the Central Office seemed to settle down somewhat with Gilligan being assigned to fill in at CHES. With the rumor mill predicting his return to the Central Office and his assistant superintendent duties, employees there are less than pleased. Gilligan created an environment of drama and hostility at the Central Office. He was condescending, arrogant, and it was not hard to figure out he had his own self-serving political agenda.

System employees feel intimidated and threatened and will not speak out for fear of being retaliated against if they question or disagree with an Island policy or procedure. There is no sense of “teamwork” in the system. Perception is that this administration creates an environment of chaos, dishonesty, and intimidation.

In addition, employees realize the system’s current path will most likely lead to layoffs and families will be faced with major financial challenges. Our system was on a sustainable path before the Skipper and Gilligan took over. What happened?

Gilligan has managed CCSS academics for the past two years after being assigned the task just after the Skipper took office. As reported in a recent Times Daily article, Colbert County Schools ranked lowest in Shoals Area graduation rates with a decrease in the graduation rate for 2013-2014. When contacted, the Skipper said this was due to a failure to track students. So – who was in charge of this? Gilligan was in charge! Where does the buck stop?

Unfortunately, in its present financial condition, the CCSS cannot afford to create new academic programs and provide proper resources. Since this is a major concern to parents when it comes to educating their children, it has the potential to create a further decline in student enrollment.

The CCSS cannot continue to operate under the status quo – its current path is simply not sustainable. Changes MUST be made. Since the Skipper and Gilligan were put in charge two years ago, the system has been in a state of decline. We need changes at the top – beginning with the Skipper/Gilligan team, and continuing with a few Board members. (Employees are not blind to the fact that in addition to selfishly protecting their own jobs at all costs, several Board members are guilty of hiring their relatives and supporters just as Skipper and Gilligan have done.) There is no time for politics or agendas now – it’s time to make tough decisions. Our system is in dire financial straits and employees want to know where they stand system-wide.

Perhaps new Board member Ricky Saint will challenge the rest of the Board to do what is in the best interest of the kids and the system. The best thing that could happen for the system is for the Skipper and Gilligan to resign their positions before the SDE comes in and takes the system over. Both have proven themselves to be incompetent and incapable of running the CCSS.




  1. I think you should give them a chance to defend themselves you. They aren't the ones hiding there name on a fake page. Come clean with who you are

    1. Rest assured, anyone mentioned here is free to send us anything for publication. What's a "fake" page?