O.B.’s Education Initiative will focus on athletic & academic excellence

By John Mullen
With a solid school plan now in place and Baldwin County planning a seventh-through-12th-grade school on Canal Road near the Sportsplex, Orange Beach City Administrator Ken Grimes said the city can now start studying plans for improvements.
“Once that got clarified and the Baldwin County school board said they were going to build a middle school in Orange and that evolved into a middle school-high school once Gulf Shores announced their city system, it gave us the go-ahead because it wasn’t going to be on this campus,” Grimes said.
And a cornerstone of those efforts will be an education initiative led by Mayor Tony Kennon’s Expect Excellence Afterschool Program to be headquartered at the recreation campus with classes on academics, arts and athletics with an eye toward excellence. There’s even a “General Manners of Respectful Behavior and Class” to be attended by gentlemen and belles.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon.
“I don’t believe you get excellence unless you expect it,” Kennon said. “We all believe excellence is an attitude. It’s just not something that grows on a tree or shows up at your front door. We’re going to have expected excellence in academics, arts and athletics.”
Jonathan Langston will be the program director, Laura Davis will be the recreation sports director and Sunshine Smith will continue to be the Camp Sunshine director. Coordinators will include Kelly Cleere in academics, Ron Roberts and Caleb Pittman in the arts and Kennon will be the athletics coordinator.
It will be a growing program, Kennon said, adding different classes or art mediums or sports as they are needed or requested.
“We’ll have tutoring, study groups, essay workshops, resume building, interviewing workshops and computer skills workshops, a young entrepreneur group with business training and personal finance, and clubs for math, history, science, robotics, chess and debate.”
Grimes said the cost of the program is unknown as well, but city leaders are studying it closely. Paying teachers to come in to help students in the programs and hiring additional staff could cost as much as $200,000 a year, he said. Among specialized classes officials plan to offer are theater, vocal, arts, ballet and dance, visual arts, culinary arts and creative writing.
Grimes said the city is also looking to hire a consultant to decide the best ways to utilize the land at the recreation/community center campus with an eye to adding new buildings and possibly upgrading or rebuilding both the aquatic center and tennis center. Another indoor practice and training facility with astroturf is also something the city would like to build at the campus, Grimes said.
“Those things we are looking to get plans in place by the end of the year and maybe start construction by the end of the year,” he said. “It will be defined by the footprint of what we can build on because we don’t have much going toward the Community Center.
“Having an additional gym, having a turf room, have room for Sunshine’s group to grow, all those are things that are just part of our growing pains. If you took those three buildings alone it could range from $2 million to $2.5 million