Keith Beech is a native of Washington County. He left to go to vet school at Auburn University years ago and came home to run his veterinary clinic.
He is strong supporter of the county’s public schools, has two children in school, a wife who teaches and he serves on the Washington County school board.
And like hundreds of other local school board members across the state, he is grappling with the great uncertainly now facing schools due to the virus pandemic. The biggest one, no doubt, is finances. At some point soon the legislature will have to develop an education trust fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year. This will be a daunting task because of the toll the economic slowdown is causing to state revenues.
Because of this, many have predicted that the next budget will be “bare bones” and many programs will have to be cut drastically or eliminated. It will be up to Keith Beech and his colleagues to make very difficult decisions.
Among other things, this means trying to come up with the best numbers for each system as to how many students they will have and then adjusting the numbers of classrooms and teachers needed. It’s a giant juggling act that is especially hard for rural systems like Washington County.
May is when most such decisions are made.
But as things stand right now, Washington County is the only rural system facing double jeopardy. Not only will they have to contend with the pandemic impact, but they are still under the cloud of whether or not a charter school will open in the county and divert even more funding from public schools.
So Keith sat down and whipped off an email to the 10 members of the state charter school commission detailing the decision he and his other board members face and how a charter will harm them.
Here is what he wrote:
“This Woodland Prep fiasco has gone on long enough. (The state approved this school in May 2018) It is past time for the Charter commission to act. We are into lawyer games now and they will prolong the inevitable indefinitely. This does not serve the education of our children. May is fast approaching and that is when decisions are made about terminating or retaining teachers. Those decisions are made impossible by the uncertainty of whether Woodland Prep will open. If we retain teachers based on the numbers we have presently, and then you foolishly decide to allow Woodland to open, we will have to terminate teachers after they could have found a job elsewhere.
If we keep teachers in limbo, waiting to see what happens, then those teachers may seek employment elsewhere. Retaining good teachers is tough in a rural setting and to lose some because of inaction in Montgomery will be very troubling. As you can see it is past time for this uncertainty to be over. It is in no one’s best interest for the possibility of Woodland to open to exist. Revoke the charter and allow us to move on and deal with other crises the corona virus has caused.”
The charter commission began the process in February to revoke the charter for Woodland Prep. Initially they we going to take action in March. This has now been postponed to at least May.
In the meantime, Keith Beech is left to twist in the wind.
(As of this writing, Beech had not received a response to his email from any charter commission members.)