As the process to determine a new superintendent for Huntsville City Schools unfolded, Mayor Tommy Battle referred to the impending decision as “a game-changer for the City of Huntsville.”
Now that Dr. Matt Akin, 48, has been hired from among five finalists, Battle said that “it’s time for all of us to unite behind Dr. Akin and make sure that he and the school system can achieve success.
“To have a good school system you’ve got to do it year in and year out,” Battle said. “The last five years we’ve made progress, taking it from a good school system to a great school system.
“But we’ve known for a long time it’s a 10- to 12-year process to get to where we want to be, so the new superintendent will continue what we’ve already got in place, to assure we can build on the progress we’ve made.”
Battle was not involved in the decision-making process nor did he endorse any of the finalists. However, he was invited to attend each of their interviews.
“Huntsville City Schools is an enormously important partner to the City of Huntsville. For our community to continue to grow and excel on the global stage, we need to make sure our students are well-prepared,” Battle said. “So I was eager to hear what each of the candidates had to say, to hear their ideas.”
“I’d like to offer my personal thanks to the members of the school board for all the time and energy they put into making this decision. I know it wasn’t easy. Now I encourage them and everyone in the system to make Dr. Akin’s transition a smooth one and to continue the progress we’ve made.”
For the past 13 years, Akin has been the superintendent of the Piedmont (Ala.) City Schools, in Calhoun County, just 25 miles northeast of Anniston.
“He’s worked hard to get us where we are. Hats off to Huntsville for getting a great superintendent.”
Previously he served as Piedmont High principal, the District Coordinator of Administrative Services for the system and as a teacher in Anniston City Schools. He did his undergraduate work at Jacksonville State and received his doctorate in education from Samford University.
“He’s from a small system, but that means you’ve got to be an expert in a lot of different areas,” Battle said. “He’s big on strategic plans and how they have to model the community. So, obviously, ours wouldn’t be the same as Piedmont’s.”
Huntsville City Schools has taken great pride in its national role as a leader in the “one-to-one” initiative in providing a laptop or tablet to each student, something that was inaugurated here in 2012.
However, under Akin’s tenure, Piedmont became the first system in the state to have a one-to-one program, doing so back in 2009 on a gradual basis. The following year, it acquired grant money for a citywide wireless network that assured student access to the internet at home and school. In 2014, every student was issued a laptop or tablet.
Akin’s digital education philosophy goes one step further.
“He likes to have high school students take at least one on-line course, because that frees up classroom time to help teachers with planning and other things,” Battle said. “And if students are college-bound, or maybe they’re going into the workforce and plan to start toward a college degree later, they need to be prepared for that because on-line courses are such a different structure.”
In Piedmont, Huntsville’s gain is being seen as something of a loss, though Piedmont Board of Education president Bruce Adderhold told The Anniston Star, “When you step back and take your feelings out of it, it’s kind of an honor” that a system the size of Huntsville reached out to Piedmont’s leader to continue its progress.
“He’s worked hard to get us where we are,” Piedmont Mayor Bill Baker told The Star. “Hats off to Huntsville for getting a great superintendent.”
View Dr. Akin’s televised interview during the selection process on the Huntsville City School’s website.
Photo of Dr. Akin courtesy of Education Week