Poised for continued success – the state of our schools

single-meta-cal February 15, 2017

By Mayor Tommy Battle

On Wednesday morning, I left the annual State of the Schools breakfast at the Jackson Center reminded just how blessed we are when it comes to education in the City of Huntsville and our area.

We’re blessed as a community to have people who care about education. We’re blessed to have the sort of people, more than 300 who made up a sell-out crowd, who would get up at 7 o’clock in the morning and who were interested to hear about education in Huntsville, Madison County and Madison City.

We’re blessed to have so many companies represented there, who so generously offer support. We’re blessed to have organizations like Free 2 Teach – which is especially close to home since my wife Eula, a former teacher, leads the effort to helps raise money so teachers don’t have to spend out of pocket for supplies.

We’re blessed to have The Schools Foundation and a dynamic leader like Elizabeth Fleming. For anything to be successful, you have to have partnerships, and the Schools Foundation is a great example of that.  They enable administrations to partner with local industries or community groups. It’s got to be everybody working together to have a great system.

Finally, we’re blessed to have three energetic new superintendents in our area. Matt Massey is starting his third year on the job as Madison County superintendent, Robby Parker has just taken over in Madison City and Huntsville City Schools is bringing aboard Matt Akin.

All three systems are going to be better because of new eyes looking at new things.

Our systems already have great foundation blocks and all three of those superintendents are capable of using those foundations to build better systems. Each of them said, in one form or another, we already have great systems. Now, how do we get them to be greater?

It made me reflect on how this is a long process. Change can be a 10- to 12-year process and we’re really in the middle of that with Huntsville City Schools.

Mary Scott Hunter, who represents our area on the State Board of Education, pointed out there was now a strong North Alabama footprint in the Alabama State Department of Education.

They’ve brought in Dr. Dee Fowler, who was the previous superintendent of Madison City Schools, to be the chief of staff for new state superintendent Michael Sentence. They’ve brought in Dr. Barbara Cooper, who was assistant superintendent for Huntsville City Schools, to be a deputy state superintendent. That speaks well for our area and the people who were leaders here.

I can appreciate what Elizabeth Fleming said in reminding us that “education is the driver for economic success” in a community.

The number one factor in the recruitment of any industry is the strength of an area’s education. You have to have an educated workforce that comes out of your public schools to provide career-ready students. And we always get the questions from potential newcomers to our business community, “If my executives come, will they want to put their kids into public schools?” And we can answer “yes” to that.

I want to offer my appreciation to Tom Drake. He’s a veteran administrator and teacher and my hat is off to him for coming in under difficult circumstances as the interim superintendent.

Now we’re passing the mantle to Dr. Matt Akin. He will be the one to carry us on. He’s very big in technology, and he’s going to be able to take what we have and maintain it and move it forward to make it better.

Matt talked about how he gets “chills” to think about students arriving at school every day. We have more than 53,000 students in our three systems. Think about that. That’s the size of a small city.

Each one of those kids is going to make a difference in the future. They’re going to be our workforce of the future, our leaders of the future. Each one has a place in society, and that place is being determined by what we’re doing in schools today.