FOLEY — Rondi Kirby held her first community meeting as an official school board member representing District 4 on Thursday, Jan. 26."I was just elected, surprisingly and crazily, to the school …
FOLEY — Rondi Kirby held her first community meeting as an official school board member representing District 4 on Thursday, Jan. 26.
"I was just elected, surprisingly and crazily, to the school board in November," said Kirby as she took the stage at Foley Civic Center to take questions from the public.
When asked why she wanted to run for the position, Kirby said that as a schoolteacher and resident of the community, she understands the needs of teachers and students in this area.
"I wanted to help the school system. I could either complain about it or help it," Kirby said. "If people need a voice, that is what I will do for them. I wanted to do something about it."
Kirby said that as a teacher she saw the struggle of fourth- and fifth-grade students in reading and writing, which was one of the main motivators for her decision to run for office.
"I was talking to the principal at Foley High School, and she explained to me that 643 of the 1,500 students at that school don't speak English (as a first language), are special ed or are being monitored," Kirby said. "When the school is being tested, the kids who don't speak English are being tested in English, and those results are being factored into the scores."
She said she plans on making this one of her main focuses, collaborating with other members of the board to aid non-English speaking students moving forward.
Eddie Tyler, superintendent of Baldwin County Public Schools, was in the audience and took the opportunity to address this concern.
"There is a big push for bilingual right now. That is something that we have looked into. Our board is aware of this, and that is one of the main focuses of the board right now," Tyler said.
Kirby also discussed the high rate of students living in poverty in Foley. Baldwin County currently comes in at 50% below the poverty line.
"When I was comparing this to other schools in the county, Foley is at 50% while other schools are at 17% or 18%, that's a huge difference," Kirby said.
Audience members questioned Kirby on her decision to run for office while her child is enrolled at a private Christian school in the area and she is currently a teacher in Florida.
"I have been in Foley for nine years. Each parent makes their own choices for their children, but that doesn't mean I don't care about the kids in the school system," Kirby said. "I have friends with kids in this school system, and I was the education coordinator at Fairhope Rotary Youth Club. I see those kids, and I want to help the kids, and this is the only way I know how to help the majority of the kids."
Kirby said she is teaching in Florida due to her new position on the board, which prevents her from teaching in the county as it is considered a conflict of interest.
Kirby closed out the meeting discussing the importance of a newly implemented efficiency test for third graders.
An audience member who works in the school system said there will be two options for students who don't pass the test.
"The teacher will have a portfolio with documentation from the year and can debate for the child to move on. The other option is for the child to attend a literacy camp over the summer and take the test again and if they pass, they can move on," the resident said.
"My favorite thing to do is help a child understand the concept. That is why I am a teacher," Kirby said as she concluded the evening's discussion. "I want to make sure that every child understands, and when I see that lightbulb moment in a student, it is the best thing ever."