Eddie Tyler, Superintendent, Baldwin County Public Schools System, Bay Minette, Ala.
Alabama: Leaders Matter
Nominated By: Ryan Hollingsworth, Executive Director, School Superintendents of Alabama
Eddie Tyler, Superintendent, Baldwin County Public Schools System, Bay Minette, Ala.
Eddie Tyler, superintendent of the Baldwin County Public Schools (https://www.bcbe.org/superintendent) is a leader among his peers and is very worthy of the designation of Alabama’s District 1 Superintendent of the Year. In order to appreciate his accomplishments, one must understand the obstacles he faced when he accepted the position of superintendent in October 2015. They included:
- Tremendous public distrust of the BCPSS due to the political climate following unsuccessful tax referendums
- Very low teacher morale
- Pending financial loss of more than $40 million per year by 2018
- Lack of consistency in following district-wide academic policies and procedures
- Decline in the academic standing of the BCPSS in statewide rankings
- Decline in student academic achievement
- Tremendous growth in student population over the past 10 years
- Overcrowded schools, resulting in the use of portable structures throughout the district
- No new school construction since 2009
- No bonding capacity to borrow money to build new facilities
- Ad valorem funding of only 12 mills
- Public anger at and mistrust of members of the Baldwin County Board of Education
Fortunately, the Board had the foresight to hire a seasoned and trusted Baldwin County educator to lead the school system in a new direction. As a former teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent, Tyler brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position of superintendent in the BCPSS. His hiring resulted in a collective sigh of relief throughout the school district because he was well known, trusted and respected.
After a little more than three years on the job, Tyler helped BCPSS overcome all of the challenges mentioned above. His tremendous leadership and personal skills are renowned. He is a hard worker who puts in long hours on behalf of the school system. He surrounds himself with an executive staff who are well qualified to run their respective divisions. e He listens to their advice, considers all perspectives and then makes tough decisions. He is supportive of all local school leaders and their respective staff.
The needs of students are always his top priority. He is a tremendous advocate for excellence in the Baldwin County Public School System. He is the “face” of the school system, and the system is grateful for his leadership and support.
Tyler’s job is multi-faceted. As the district’s superintendent, his decisions impact finance, building projects, academic achievement, human resources, safety, technology, and many other areas of responsibility. His job is enormous.
Beginning in October 2015, Tyler worked with John Wilson, the chief school financial officer of the school district, to complete a line-by-line review of the system’s budget, identifying areas to cut that did not impact the quality of resources dedicated to classrooms. His financial decisions allowed almost $15 million per year to be set aside for capital projects.
In an effort to address the need for new schools and growth in student population, Tyler and the CFSO developed plans, strategies, and methods that were unique. Tyler consulted with financial experts and worked with the Baldwin County Commission to develop a creative method of swapping tax revenue in return for codifying a 1 percent sales tax that was set to expire in 2018. By doing this, the County Commission provided financial stability in the form of a permanent tax. This relieved a tremendous amount of financial pressure from the school system and stopped the district from constantly worrying about bringing tax initiatives before the public for consideration.
Since the County Commission and the public were opposed to the district taking out 30-year construction bonds, Tyler and Wilson created an innovative financing structure with Regions Bank that allowed the district to borrow $60 million over a four-year period. This plan provided money for the building of four new schools and paying off that debt within the four-year period. This financing structure allowed the district to meet its capital needs, all without taking out long-term bonds or requesting additional taxes. The four-year cycle is renewable, and the district is already planning for phases two and three of the four-year construction cycle.
Beginning with the 2018-2019 academic year, Tyler successfully proposed a 5 percent pay raise for all employees. He asked the Board to match the 2.5 percent state raise with another 2.5 percent raise provided by BCPSS. This allowed BCPSS to establish a salary for beginning teachers that is greater than 5.5 percent of the state salary schedule. This raise allows BCPSS to be very competitive with hiring practices, enhancing the district’s ability to attract the best teachers.
The school system has become increasingly academically successful under Tyler’s leadership. His many accomplishments in this area are due to establishing an academic vision for BCPSS. This vision, known as the Four Part Plan, drives all curricular and academic decisions made at the district and local school levels. Tyler’s mantra is that “academics leads”, and that all district decisions must be made in light of providing the best possible education for all students.
In just three years, Tyler’s decisions have resulted in:
- Establishing a greater degree of compliance and consistency in following district-wide academic protocols;
- Improved standing in academic ranking among all public school districts in Alabama;
- Improvements in reading achievement, as evidenced by growth in standardized test scores;
- Improvements in math achievement, as evidenced by growth in standardized test scores;
- Designation of a Lighthouse District by Scholastic, Inc. (one of only three districts in the nation);
- Designation of one of the district’s eight high schools as one of the Top 25 high schools in Alabama;
- Designation of three of the district’s eight high schools in the Top 35 high schools in Alabama with the highest ACT scores;
- Designation of four of the district’s 26 elementary schools in the Top 50 schools in Alabama in reading growth in 3rd grade (no other school district in the state had more schools on this list);
- An increased emphasis on improving teacher pedagogy through an expansion of the eMints program;
- Analyzing student data by using an online data platform; basing all instructional decisions on school-wide and district-wide data;
- Adding personnel to local schools whose sole focus is on student achievement and enhancing teacher pedagogy;
- Refining academic intervention efforts in reading and math in all grades;
- Creating a new and consistent RtI process throughout the district;
- Creating a K-12 dyslexia initiative and an appropriate dyslexia intervention system;
- Expanding career and technical education courses at local high schools and at the system’s two technical centers;
- Providing academic services to a rapidly expanding English Language Learner population
- Increased opportunities for dual enrollment for high school students by agreements between the district and Coastal Alabama Community College, the University of Alabama and the University of South Alabama.
Under Tyler’s leadership, employee morale has tremendously increased. Student academic achievement is monitored constantly, instructional expectations have increased, and academic interventions are timely and effective. Students, employees, parents and community stakeholders are the grateful benefactors of his efforts.
Tyler has been instrumental in supporting initiatives in the area of Human Resources that not only provide for the emotional health and well-being for our employees, but that also help employees more fully focus their efforts on students. Examples of some initiatives are:
- The Employee Assistance Program, which provides employees and each eligible dependent with three face-to-face counseling sessions per person each year, at no cost to the employee. Because of this program, an employee and his or her dependent(s) can address issues in their personal lives that may affect their ability to be successful at work.
- The STAGES Employee Evaluation System, which incorporates all the components of the state’s evaluation framework for certified employees and administrators in one easy-to-use application. The system also houses classified employee evaluations. STAGES allows school and district administrators to complete all of their evaluations in one online platform.
- Frontline (formerly Aesop) Absence Management system, which automates the process of finding substitutes when employees are away from work.
Tyler’s vision to foster the development of a progressive school district is a model for all other school districts in Alabama. His vision for providing safety and security also supports the educational, social, emotional and mental health needs of the district’s 32,000 students and 4,000 employees. He believes that an essential component of a successful school system is a total commitment to school safety. Because Tyler is a strategic thinker and problem solver, he addresses this issue by collaborating with stakeholders from throughout Baldwin County. As the incidence of on-campus threats to schools becomes increasingly common in the nation, Tyler endorses a “whatever it takes” attitude to protect our students and employees.
Some of Tyler’s safety initiatives include:
- Leading the charge for school safety by coordinating an effort between county officials, city officials, the sheriff’s department, and police chiefs from all cities in the county to provide a school resource officer on all of the district’s 45 campuses.
- The establishment of a stable funding source that provides for a School Resource Officers (SRO) in each of our 45 schools;
- The implementation of electronic control measures for access into all schools: All exterior doors to schools are locked and entry is monitored by camera systems. Panic systems are installed in all schools, and each school’s camera system is accessible to law enforcement.
- A safety exercise with first responders at two local schools. This exercise, known as the 2018 Safe Schools Full Scale Exercise, involved school personnel and representatives from local, state, and federal law enforcement and emergency management agencies;
- Tyler’s efforts to endorse student health and success include:
- The establishment of one of Alabama’s first school-based health clinics for students with medical needs;
- Automation of protocols for early identification of chronically absent students;
- Increasing access to school-based mental health programs;
- Expanding alternative education offerings to improve graduation rates; and
- Implementation of outcomes-based, data-driven school counseling programs. Because of the district’s counseling programs, 12 school counselors were recently selected as recipients of the Accountability, Verification, and Excellence Award by the Alabama School Counselor Association.
Tyler supports several significant technology initiatives that set him apart from his peers. He supports the largest and most technologically advanced school district in the state. Several of the technology initiatives include:
- The largest 1:1 (computer-to-student) initiative in the state of Alabama;
- Management of a huge school computer network in the largest geographic county in Alabama;
- Endorsement of the first stand-alone virtual school in the state;
- Provision of the largest comprehensive teacher professional development model, known as eMints, in Alabama. The eMints program transforms teaching and learning with cutting edge technology and effective pedagogical techniques;
- Protection of student and staff confidentiality and privacy through the implementation of a successful Data Governance Program;
- Maintaining a specific digital device inventory system for student and staff computers;
- Providing a district-wide technology helpdesk that supports all educators; and
- Managing an online registration system that currently serves over 90% of the student population.