“It’s not a money problem. It’s a management problem,” said Mayor Tommy Battle late Friday. “We should be able to provide excellence in education for the money we are providing them.”
And it’s a management problem we’ve known about for some time, but have done nothing to remedy. Dr. Ann Roy Moore and many of her staffers and administrators should have been fired in 2009 after they harassed a parent (Grisham) for speaking out at a PTA meeting and then lied about it to a school board member.
A well-run, transparent, honest administration wouldn’t conduct itself in such a shabby manner. It should be no surprise that in addition to being vicious, the school administration’s demonstrated immorality extends to putting our children’s education and our City’s economy at risk. It is (past) time to appoint an Acting Superintendent and clean house.
The Huntsville Times Editor Kevin Wendt wrote “EDITORIAL: Financial triage for Huntsville City Schools”:
There is no single person in the Huntsville City School system’s administration or on the elected board that has the crisis management experience required to lead the system out of its current financial straits with the sense of urgency that is required.
It’s triage time. We need someone who can immediately assess the system and make fast, critical decisions to keep it alive and out of bankruptcy. Stabilizing finances now will keep the system from falling deeper into debt in the next two years, giving time for a long-term plan to be developed.
…It is clear that for years – dating back to 2005 – warnings were shared with the superintendent and board that were either not taken seriously or just plain weren’t understood.
…So the challenge to the board is this: If there is a decision that adds to the team someone who can provide direction, leadership and community-wide buy-in for difficult short-term solutions and sets the table for future plans, will you make that vote?
The community is not going to tolerate nibbling around the edges with the same folks who allowed the system to get to this point.
But with openness, the inclusion of experts and the removal of those wedded to the status quo, you have an opportunity to build the support needed to execute a plan that stabilizes Huntsville City Schools and positions it for the future.
Wendt is calling for an Acting Superintendent.
Challen Stephens of The Huntsville Times is fired up – he wrote “Who will lead Huntsville City Schools out of current financial mess?”:
It’s not OK, it’s not normal, and it’s not happening everywhere else. Huntsville City Schools appear adrift in uncharted waters, nearly $20 million in debt, facing more layoffs and more school closings.
A plan to cut spending by millions is needed within the next few months, or the system risks bankruptcy and state takeover, according to both the state and the mayor.
…But the city school board, having decided last summer not to renew the contract of the superintendent, is months away from naming a new chief. And made abundantly clear at Thursday’s board meeting was that no one within the school system has yet stepped forward to lead the spending cuts.
…But the system has slipped into a lame duck phase, with Superintendent Ann Roy Moore told she would be leaving on July 1. There is no designated leader for the future, but there is a sudden call for creative cutting and long-term planning.
…[Mayor Tommy] Battle said late Friday that the city has gotten involved, sending in the county’s former school finance director David Smith and city financial adviser Phil Dotts to offer advice. Battle said city and business leaders are concerned about leadership and that discussions have covered everything including recall elections and changing to an appointed school board.
Recall the school board? It is legal in Alabama, but difficult (as it should be). Chattanooga Mayor Littleton recently (Sept 2010) withstood a recall challenge in court because his opponents failed to comply with complex recall laws. However, I’m pretty sure that there are enough lawyers in Huntsville to manage a recall properly – and there would be no problem getting enough signatures.
Three of the five school board members were elected just a few months ago – Topper Birney and Jennie Robinson were re-elected and David Blair won an open seat. Municipal elections for Laurie McCaulley and Alta Morrison are in two years. Serving as a school board member is a fairly thankless and underappreciated job, but at times like these the public is held accountable for their votes – this is the school board we elected. I hope that David Blair, the only comparatively untainted board member, will step up to the leadership challenges facing us.
Elections have consequences.
IIRC many years ago the schools commissioned a report that suggested sweeping changes to avoid becoming an ‘inner city’ school system. It was ignored and we’re that much closer to having an inner city school system. Private schools are booming, home schooling is booming, Madison City and Madison County schools are booming – and Huntsville is losing students.
Turns out that the school administration and school board ignored another report. Crystal Bonvillian of The Huntsville Times wrote “State official says board, city must collaborate on school system fix”:
The distress began long before last year’s hearings, however. A 2005 report by David Smith, a retired finance director for Madison County Schools, laid out the burgeoning problem.
The report, addressed to Huntsville City Schools finance director Herbert Wheeler, stated that the school system’s 2006 budget reflected a $3.74 million shortfall in its operation fund related to the opening of two new schools in the district.
A projected increase of more than 70 certified teacher units and 24 support units, without an additional source of revenue, “makes it impossible to have a balanced budget and will require almost a 50 percent reduction in your present fund balance,” Smith wrote at the time.
Smith also pointed out that the system was using too much of its general fund to pay personnel costs and that, for the 2006 fiscal year, the system had 321 local teaching units that that would cost $16 million in local dollars.
“You cannot afford to fund this many (teacher) units,” Smith wrote.
…In Smith’s 2005 review of the school system’s facilities, he warned of the problems caused by building new schools without taking any of the older schools out of the picture.
David Smith just joined Mary Jane Caylor on my list of potential Acting Superintendents.