HCS Superintendent Interview – Brigman

Dr. Daniel Brigman of the Macon County NC schools introduced himself and responded to questions at Fort Book on Monday, May 23.  About 40 people representing various community groups attended, as well as State Representative Laura Hall (D-19) and School Board members Birney, McCauley, Morrison, and Robinson.

My opinion: Brigman is a very sharp candidate.  I liked him when I researched him initially, and he is better in person.  His approach to education seems to include every good lesson learned that I’ve read about.  He seems to be a good leader and communicates well.  My new standard for a Superintendent is: will they let food rot in an emergency?  Brigman would have found a way to keep the frozen food frozen, plus he would have gathered a team of students to help prepare and serve the still-good perishable foods at relief centers.  Students would be offered extra credit for writing reports on tornadoes.

More below…

Keep in mind that I’m writing from notes – at some point I’ll probably give up trying to make sentences and just include highlights…

Brigman noted that the Macon County system under his leadership improved student achievement and graduation rates.  Brigman’s experience includes working his way up starting as a teacher, then principal, and then superintendent (plus he was in the Navy).

Brigman said there are three things students need in order to achieve:  safe environment, qualified teacher, and to know that an adult cares about their education.   Brigman said that an engaged faith-based community and holding parents accountable can help close the achievement gap.  Brigman believes that “every child can learn” with tailored approaches.  Brigman monitors student performance and discipline – children must have a relationship with the teacher.

Q&A

Q = low morale
A = communications, accessibility, care.  Celebrate successes

Q = test score gap – black and white
A = every child needs a challenge.  Expectations of standards by teachers, timely data from assessments, collaborative teams, outcome-based
- Think of assessments as physicals, not autopsies
- flexible schedule
- Student performance model: what do students need to know (standards), how to do it, test, what if it works (acceleration), celebrate success

Q = teacher tenure law – teacher quality
A = just because you’ve been a teacher for 30 years doesn’t mean you should keep doing it
- follow tenure laws
- use “recovery” approach, redirect, reassign

Q = do you support the One Huntsville plan
A = need to know about it first

Q = how did you increase high school performance?
A = examined high school culture
- spent time at schools
- students became victims of adult processes
- minimal downtime
- focused on students failing because of tardy / absence (change student behavior)
- expectations communicated to administration (plus retirements and transfers)
- engage community

Q = racial harmony training and support for racial harmony training in elementary schools
A = completed diversity training
- Worldview at UNC Chapel Hill
- take kids on humanitarian relief trips

Q = use retirees as available resources
A = retirees tutor / volunteer, get on sub list

Q = rezoning and closing schools
A = experience with closing and rezoning
- public plan and feedback
- 300 to 500 kids in an efficient elementary school

Q = federal court desegregation order
A = Rowan County had outcome
- good relationship with NAACP

Q = leadership style
A = district alignment from Board to student
- focused goal setting
- plan is not a “shelf document”

Q = Huntsville doesn’t support women
A = teachers need to know who is in their class and target these kids for success

Q = experience engaging community / faith / business organizations
A = give organizations a pathway to participate

Q = PTA involvement
A = have students perform, give something away, or feed them (to get parents involved)
- “humble administrator” we need parents

Q = financial crisis
A = zero-based budgeting tied to priorities
- can’t throw money at hopeful solutions
- fund programs based on results / effectiveness

Q = school uniforms
A = call it school spirit dress
- applies to staff and student

Q = parent / student joint counseling (parenting coach)
A = school has home coordinator to help get resources

Summary:
greatest challenge is achievement
students first
sense of urgency
no excuse

***

Brigman said he was reading “Drive” by Daniel Pink.

Also, he mentioned Broad (pronounced ‘brode’) in the context of state-of-the-art in education…  At the time, I didn’t know what it was or that it was spelled BROAD.

***

Crystal Bonvillian of The Huntsville Times wrote “Student achievement…”:

Brigman got down to business quickly, telling those at the community forum that Huntsville has “no excuses” for poor student achievement.

“We have the capability to be the top education system in the state within five years or less,” said Brigman.

Huntsville’s gap in student achievement was at the top of Brigman’s list of challenges facing the school system.

“We need to create a sense of urgency to do things right for these children,” Brigman said.

3 thoughts on “HCS Superintendent Interview – Brigman

  1. Interesting that “Broad” is pronounced “BRO-dee”. That seems very counterintuitive. Also, the guy from the search firm pronounced it in the intuitive manner. Obviously, one of these guys who should know this is mistaken.

    I don’t like Brigman’s apparent support for school uniforms.

  2. Ben – Broad rhymes with rode (or road)…

    Brigman seemed to meet the issue halfway by going with “school colors” rather than styles, plus making the staff wear the same colors is a satisfying step. However, Brigman and the people who spoke in favor of uniforms commented mostly about expensive shoes (which aren’t covered under most uniform policies). Since the policy is supposed to minimize inequity in clothing, even those people said it didn’t work – if only they could process the next logical step and stop bringing up uniforms…

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