Huntsville City School held a District 1 State of the Schools Town Hall Tuesday at Jemison High School.
The meeting comes less than a week after eight out of the nine schools in District 1 received an “F” on the state report card. The one exception being the U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon of Excellence recipient the Academy of Science and Foreign Language magnet school.
District One Schools:
Academy for Science and Foreign Language
McNair Jr. High
Dawson Elementary School
Lakewood Elementary School
Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School
Montview Elementary School
Rolling Hills Elementary School
Hereford Elementary School
Jemison High School
“I wanted to address it with the public, because I don’t want them to think that I was running or hiding from what the reality one. And you could never fix a problem that you never address,” said Michelle Watkins, Huntsville City Schools Board Member for District 1.
Superintendent Dr. Matt Akin revealed that chronic absenteeism was a major problem at Jemison High School. School leaders told the crowd of roughly 150 parents, grandparents and community members that students can’t learn if they don’t show up.
The panel of school principals and superintendent also addressed the high teacher turnover rate district wide. District leaders expressed their challenge of competing against other local school districts to recruit and retain certified teachers, because they simply cannot afford to match the competitive salaries of other districts or provide raises for current teachers.
School leaders do, however, plan to recruit new teachers for next year and some schools have even brought in retired teachers to work part time tutoring students in reading and math.
“I think all parents want results now. I’m a parent. I have five kids and I want results now too. I talked about it [Tuesday] at a principals’ meeting about having a sense of urgency, but you have to have long range plans,” Akin said. “So the report cards didn’t give us the road map form for it truly told us something that we already knew.”
With chronic absenteeism, disciplinary issues and not enough certified teachers, school leaders called upon parents and the community to do their part at home as they continue to work on a long term resolution to improve district 1.
Akin told WAAY 31 he plans to have a town hall in each of the remaining districts this spring.