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Gulf Shores schools making offer to Huntsville super
Dr. Matt Akin talks with students at Piedmont Elementary School. Akin, the Huntsville superintendent, is said to be the leader for the same post in Gulf Shores. (Anna Claire Vollers |

Matt Akin, who has led the Huntsville school superintendent for a year and a half, is being given an offer to lead the breakaway Gulf Shores City Schools as its first superintendent.

The school board’s unanimous vote did not come as a complete surprise: Akin was the only candidate who received a full interview. That public interview took place last Thursday.

“The actual motion was to authorize legal counsel to enter into contract negotiations” with Akin, Gulf Shores School Board President Kevin Corcoran said Monday afternoon. If the talks don’t pan out, the board will move on consider other candidates, he said.

If the parties do come to agreement, Akin will step into a key role in a potentially bumpy transition. The coastal community’s city council voted in October to move forward with the creation of its school system, breaking away from the Baldwin County School System. Conflicts with the county swiftly emerged, particularly over the question of whether the new system could begin operations in the 2018-19 school year, or should wait until the 2019-20 year.

In November, the city’s five-person school board was filled. Following some contentious city-county negotiations, in early February the board hired former Pike Road schools superintendent Suzanne Freeman as interim superintendent for six months.

“This is to remove a legal argument on whether a superintendent needs to be in place to move ahead with negotiations,” Corcoran said at the time.

In mid-February, however, Baldwin County Schools halted negotiations and asked interim state superintendent Ed Richardson to intervene. The start date was the main issue of contention.

Terry Wilhite, spokesman for the Baldwin County system, said Monday that Richardson had not yet weighed in on the issue. He provided a statement from Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler congratulating Gulf Shores. “As a neighboring school system, we stand ready to assist in any way that we can,” Tyler said. “I look forward to working with Dr. Akin as a District 1 Superintendent colleague.”

Corcoran likewise said that the parties still were waiting for word from Richardson. He said he thought Richardson would be able to “devote some attention to that this week.” news partner WHNT-TV19 reported that Akin had notified Huntsville school board members that he planned to accept the offer “pending contract negotiations.”

WHNT reported that Akin’s salary in Huntsville was $195,000 at that the anticipated pay range for the Gulf Shores position was $130,000 to $185,000.

Judge sets $250K bail for driver charged in drive-by shooting death of 3-year-old

A judge today agreed to set bail for one of three capital murder suspects charged in the Huntsville drive-by shooting death of 3-year-old Livia Robinson.

At a hearing this afternoon, Madison County District Judge Schuyler Richardson set bail at $250,000 for Dominique Russell, a 26-year-old from Huntsville. Russell is accused of driving the car from which fatal gunshots were fired at Robinson’s home on March 7. He’s been held in the Madison County Jail without bail since his arrest March 8.

In addition to the $250,000 bail, Russell will be required to wear a GPS monitor. The judge said Russell won’t be allowed to leave his Ninth Avenue Southwest home, except for mandatory drug testing and meetings with his attorneys. He’s only allowed contact with immediate family.

“We opposed him having bond set, but we respect the judge’s decision, said Prosecutor Tim Gann, the county’s chief trial attorney.

Defense attorneys Richard Jensen and Patrick Hill argued Russell — who doesn’t have a history of violent crime or failure to appear in court — is entitled to bail.

“He has a history of hard work and raising his two children,” Hill told the judge.

Generally, in local capital murder cases, defendants automatically are held without bail. Though, judges have the discretion to set any bail they see fit. Alabama’s recommended bail amount for capital murder ranges from $50,000 to no bond.

Hill argued that the only reason a judge should refuse to set bond is if there’s a need to protect the community or if there’s reason to believe the defendant will flee.

Russell is charged along with 26-year-old Martin Evenes and 27-year-old Brittany Kingston. During a prior court hearing, an investigator identified Evenes as the shooter, Russell as the driver, and Kingston as a passenger.

Police have said Robinson wasn’t the target of the shooting that happened at her 615 Murray Road home in north Huntsville. She was hit by a bullet that was intended to kill one of her mother’s friends, Huntsville police investigator Frank Rosler testified.

Russell also supplied the gun Evenes used, Rosler has testified. The judge expressed concerns today about Russell’s role in the case, as it applied to setting bail. The defense said there is a dispute with prosecutors about how Evenes got Russell’s gun.

Hours after the shooting, when Russell was interviewed by police, he hadn’t yet found out that a little girl was killed. Once he found out about the child’s death, Russell handed over the gun to investigators, according to authorities. The gun was hidden under the mattress in his bedroom.

Russell’s children — ages 3 and 5 — were at court today along with his mother. The mother testified that she lives and works with Russell. She operates a home health business that cares for veterans and the elderly.

Russell’s case will be heard by a grand jury for consideration of an indictment. Judge Richardson ruled at a hearing earlier this month that prosecutors have enough evidence for probable cause.

A grand jury will issue an indictment if it determines prosecutors have enough evidence to send Russell’s case to trial.

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