HCS discipline

Discipline in the Huntsville City Schools is one of the issues of concern to the Obama Department of Justice and the NAACP.  The HCS Student Incident Report summary for 2009 / 2010 does show a striking difference between incidents reported at Huntsville City Schools, but why? 

The HCS SIR report doesn’t provide race information, but the DOJ / NAACP  claims there are “significant racial disparities in student discipline” (I’m guessing the reports they saw had more detail than what is made publicly available).

The Obama DOJ and the NAACP don’t seem to care about why – they’re more interested in “eliminating racial disparities in student discipline”.  Do they mean that each time a black child is disciplined that a white child must be disciplined?  Or should discipline be meted out based on demographics:  should whites be disciplined 60% of the time to reflect the City’s racial makeup – or should whites be disciplined 48.7% of the time to reflect the racial makeup of the school system?

How about this for an out-of-the-box solution:  discipline children whose behavior warrants it, regardless of race.

Here’s some real numbers if you want to “read more”…

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“I don’t have an answer for this” except “busing”

“I don’t have an answer for this”, said Dr. John Dimmock of the NAACP, about the 40 point achievement gap between white and black students in Huntsville City Schools.

Dimmock should have stopped right there.  Even though Dimmock says he doesn’t have an answer, he recommends “busing” as THE solution.  Dimmock offered no other solutions in his presentation.

This was the second public meeting covered by The Huntsville Times where forced busing was discussed – and not reported by The Times.  Ignoring the issue will not make it go away – the NAACP seems determined to bus kids from ‘white’ schools into ‘black’ schools and vice versa.  I don’t know of a school system that has significantly improved the academic performance of students because of busing.

Since it is Black History Month, let’s recall the history of the NAACP, which was founded by socialists including Mary White Ovington and W.E.B. Dubois  in 1909.

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Lessons from Montgomery schools

Huntsville parents and citizens must be involved in developing groundrules for rezoning and school closures now; if we wait until the school board presents their plan we will lose any real chance of being heard.

Annie McCallum of the Montgomery Advertiser wrote “Turning point for MPS?  Parents, officials debate rezoning / closure plans”:

With a final public hearing Tuesday and about two weeks until a vote on the proposal, discussion has reached a fever pitch. Many are acutely aware that the system’s financial situation requires immediate changes and view the proposal as a possible turning point for a school system that both officials and parents admit needs some repairs.

“The real thing people need to understand is we have to make these changes,” Superintendent Barbara Thompson said. “We cannot stay status quo.”

…Montgomery Public Schools, like school systems across the country, faces a debilitating funding shortfall and even the closures (slated to save the district $2 million annually) won’t stop all the financial woes.

“If you close these schools, we’ll still make cuts,” Thompson said, “but if we don’t close these schools, we’ll make significantly more cuts.”

…MPS officials have said they face a swift and rigid timeline because they are trying to not renew non-tenured employees as soon as they can.

…Cox and Thompson explained that MPS can’t simply decide not to close a single school because it would have a domino effect on the entire redistricting process.[this is what I mean when I say that once the board has a plan they won't be receptive to changes]

…Like many other magnet parents, Hall is frustrated that school officials propose changing programs that have worked so well and have given national acclaim to MPS.

“The Montgomery school system does have problems,” Hall said. “They are trying to fix all the schools and they are working on it hard, but why don’t they fix what’s broken?”

…Thompson and other system officials also have insisted that despite criticism they are willing to listen and make changes. The school system has made several changes [later described as "tweaks"] to the original proposal.

…”There’s a difference between listening and doing what people want,” she said. “We can only make so many changes. [this is why getting involved early is so important]

The article includes comments from several parents:

“uncertain about keeping her children in MPS”
“parents felt blindsided by the proposed closure”
“people are fearful of speaking up”
“difficult time getting information from the school system”
“officials were not prepared for some of the questions”

On the good side:

“the proposal will return students to neighborhood schools where 90 percent of students will travel no farther than 2.5 miles to school”

I’d like to see a summit of civic associations held to discuss what we, the people want.  IMO people in North Huntsville and South Huntsville share many of the same concerns.  They also seem to share the same ‘enemy’ – both groups believe that downtown ‘Big Mules’ are playing them against each other – as has happened so often in Alabama.

Fun fact – the term Big Mule originated in Alabama to describe a coalition of agricultural and industrial elites who dominated state politics.  Big Mules “used race as a wedge”  to maintain power.

It’s a management problem

“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.

We’ll start the process for you

Dr. Craig Pouncey of the State Department of Education says that if the Huntsville City School system waits too long to start the process of making cuts, he will “start the process for you.”

The Huntsville City Schools are in a terrible position:  decisions must be made quickly that will affect the entire City for decades; my guess is that they have about a month;  and our current leadership pretty much stinks.

It is clear to me that Dr. Ann Roy Moore is a failure as Superintendent.  Dr. Moore should be removed from the decision-making process.  The Board of Education should appoint an Acting Superintendent – I suggest outgoing State Board of Education member Mary Jane Caylor (or someone like her) – to help develop and implement the hard decisions to be made (closing about 10 schools and firing hundreds of people and rezoning).

Raising taxes shouldn’t even be considered.  Does anyone believe that they could sell a tax increase to the citizens of Huntsville (or Madison County) given the proven fiscal irresponsibility of the school system?  Trying to PR the system out of the crisis won’t work either – holding a few public hearings or creating a citizen’s advisory committee isn’t going to work.  Business as usual is unacceptable.

Crystal Bonvillian of The Huntsville Times wrote “School closures, layoffs likely solutions to school debt”:

Deep in debt, the Huntsville school system must make immediate changes in the way it spends money. And that could mean closing as many as 10 more neighborhood schools this summer, as well as laying off hundreds more teachers and support workers in coming months.

“If we don’t do something now, someone will have to put a sign out on the front lawn that says ‘Bankrupt,’” said Dr. Craig Pouncey, deputy state superintendent of education.

…school board member David Blair told the audience that closing schools and rezoning the school district should be the next step as the school system struggles to work its way out of $19.5 million in debt.

BTW I applaud David Blair for talking to the press on record – unfortunately, he takes some heat because of that (you don’t stand up, you don’t get shot).

City leaders know that this crisis is having an impact on local business – for example, think of the realtors trying to sell houses.  Right now, a realtor doesn’t know in which school district a house might be rezoned.  Madison City and Madison County may look pretty good by comparison to home buyers.

As difficult as this period will be, I think that the school system has a chance to emerge stronger.  It will certainly be leaner (but I don’t have much confidence yet that the layoffs will keep good teachers and remove underperforming teachers).  The City should began the process of getting out from under the Federal Desegregation order – that and No Child Left Behind limit effective and efficient decision-making.

Let’s hope that citizens will be more aware and engaged in the school system – note that I don’t limit this to parents – the school system for too long has ignored the community as a whole (and been ignored back).  As was shown with the HHA actions, just letting government hum along by itself will guarantee problems.

***

“Board shelves proposed school uniform policy”

Parents in attendance were against school uniforms, despite a poll conducted last summer that indicated 55 percent of those asked were in favor of a uniform policy.

Regardless of the (flawed) poll, school uniforms are a bad idea – they do not improve student performance (see “Brunsma”).  Uniforms are a feel good solution that don’t work.

The Defining Moment

“The Defining Moment” is how Dr. Craig Pouncey, Deputy State Superintendent of Education for Admistrative and Financial Services, defined his presentation at the Huntsville Schools Board of Education meeting tonight.

This may be a shock, but the State is considering administering the Huntsville City School System.  Our school system’s finances are that bad – and much worse than we’ve been told.   There may be time later to determine how the schools got into this situation and to whom the blame is assigned, but the City schools have about a month to develop a plan to meet State financial requirements, or else the State will impose a plan.

To give you an idea of how important this meeting was to area leaders, Mayor Tommy Battle, City Councilman Will Culver, State BOE representative Mary Jane Caylor / Mary Scott Hunter, and Madison County Commissioner Faye Dyer attended the meeting.  Each offered their support in addressing the crisis. 

The Huntsville Times  reporter Challen Stephens attended – he has written some great articles lately about the mismanagement of the school system.  Thankfully, The Times is fully engaged (and maybe a little riled up) on this issue.

Here are some highlights from Dr. Pouncey’s presentation:  we need to “reassure the public” that this a problem that will be overcome, the system is in “troubled waters”, but there is “a path to regain financial stability”.  “We’ve got to get the house in order”.

“If this Board can’t, the State Board can”. 

Pouncey said there is a “Myth” (that used to be perpetuated by Huntsville school leaders until tonight) that equity funding sent local match tax dollars to other school systems, but the “Fact” is that local taxes collected stay in Huntsville.  Actually, the “wealth factor” (based on property value) that the State uses to “equalize systems across [the] State” supports local leaders contention that Huntsville gets soaked, but we’ll set that aside.

Pouncey said that the State has been “reviewing reports” since 1995 and that the Huntsville City Schools Superintendent / Board of Education “should have seen it coming”.

Pouncey said that the school system is supporting a system funded (personnel / school facilities / utility bills / buses) for 33,000 students (capacity), but there are only 22,000 students.

Pouncey cited the School Fiscal Accountability Act (Code of Alabama Section 16-13a) which sets a “minimum reserve” and said that Huntsville has been operating without the reserve since 1995 - Huntsville right now requires a $36 million minimum reserve (we’re already in the hole $20 million – the school budget is about $154 million this year – it’s that bad).  Pouncey said the Huntsville Schools must “resize”.

Pouncey said that “Going Forward”, the State minimum reserve balance cannot be State money (it is up to us).  The City School budget is funded by the State which provides $110 million, the local match of $19 million, and the Feds $24 million.

Pouncey said the City must take “quick actions” to reduce the $15 million “discrepancy in what is being spent”.  The City must develop a “Comprehensive Facility Consolidation Plan” to reduce the overcapacity for 33,630 students to the 22,451 students enrolled (that means closing schools).

Pouncey said (to applause) that “there’s nothing more valuable than a quality teacher”, even as he was saying that teachers must make do without “stuff”.

Pouncey said that the bus system, which costs $3.5 million in State funds plus another $4.1 million in local funds, costs about a million dollars more than it should – he recommended running the bus system in-house rather than through a contractor.  The bus routes don’t have enough kids per bus and there are too many routes.

Pouncey’s “Recovery Efforts” have “got to be dealt with within the month”:

- salary schedule far exceeds State rate of reimbursement (we pay teachers too much)
- “willingness to transfer staff based on shifts in enrollment”
- “understanding that priorities must be established and the Board can no longer attempt to provide everything for everyone”
- “understanding that current financial problems will have to be resolved based on local capabilities and factors” (no State bailout)
- “timeliness for proper actions will be critical in going forward”
- “coordinated effort in reviewing, on a monthly basis, all Budgeted Expenditures vs. Actual Expenditures
- “establishing an immediate partnership between BOE, SDE, and City leaders.  This will be essential to your success”.

‘We’re past making people happy’.

The “State is committed to getting through this as fast as we can”.

***

Mayor Tommy Battle seemed stunned to see this information presented so bluntly (though I have to think he had already seen it), but he rose to say that “this is a community situation” and told the School Board that “your actions over the next several months will define the City”.

 Madison County Commissioner Faye Dyer reminded the Board that she made presentations about the shifts in population and empty school seats 3 years ago (which is true) and advised them to “do the tough thing, do the right thing”.

Soon-to-be State Board of Education member Mary Scott Hunter said that “there are two things that will destroy an organization: 1) not knowing the ground truth and 2) lack of leadership”.  “This is an operational problem”.

Former Huntsville Board of Education member Ed Starnes (who is a superb and innovative watercolor artist) related that in his first term the schools faced a financial crisis, and that after trying to raise taxes – and failing – the schools fired 480 people.  Starnes said that the process, while painful, went smoothly because they “let the public know in advance”.  I don’t think we’ll get that courtesy.

***

Crystal Bonvillian of the Huntsville Times wrote “Lesson on school debt for board tonight”:

Board member David Blair said Pouncey’s presentation is expected to focus on that debt and how the system got there… The discussion will undoubtedly be a mix of the negative and the positive, Blair said.

“He’s going to stress the reasons we are in a deficit, which I think may be more negative than people anticipate,” Blair said. “But there will be positive in that the board recognizes it and, with this current budget and the cuts that we’ve made, we’re moving in the right direction.”

Jennie Robinson said she hopes the meeting with Pouncey leads to more transparency about the school system’s finances.

“I want to find out where we are relative to other school systems,” Robinson said.

Blair and Robinson are also planning to ask for revisions to the system’s reduction in force (RIF) policy, which is designed to reduce the system’s work force in times of budgetary crisis, program changes or decreases in enrollment… Blair said he would like to see a revised RIF policy that is more performance-based than the current policy. The way the current policy is worded, the first teachers to be cut are those classified as nontenured, or probationary, employees.

“It’s clear that the policy didn’t allow (the board) to make the best decisions with the last RIF,” Blair said. “Revisions could allow us to keep more of our best and brightest.”

Robinson agreed.

“I was assured (last year) that we would look at factors other than tenure, and that’s not what happened,” Robinson said. “Decisions were made that, in my opinion, were not in the best interest of the children. We need a policy that will work with us, not against us.”

That wasn’t the first time that Robinson was “assured” of something that didn’t happen.  Last year she was assured that Dr. Moore wasn’t lying to the School Board about the C.J. Grisham case (a parent who was harassed by school officials after he spoke up at a PTA meeting).  If I were a school board member I would be so sick of the current administration that I would be tempted to fire every administrator and staffer hired by Dr. Moore just to give the next Superintendent a fresh start.  We’re about to go through a period of chaos anyway, so now is a good time.

I’ll post an update with The Times report of the meeting when available.

*** UPDATE ***

Crystal Bonvillian of The Huntsville Times wrote “Pouncey: Immediate action needed to solve schools’ deficit”:

To fix the system’s problems and comply with state law immediately would take $36 million, Pouncey said.

“36 million dollars means some expedited decisions will have to be made on how to resize this school district,” Pouncey said. “There is no lifeline coming from Montgomery. We’ve got to make some changes.”

*** ANOTHER UPDATE ***

Dr. Pouncey made his “The Defining Moment” presentation to the Chamber of Commerce.  Crystal Bonvillian of The Huntsville Times was there and wrote “School closings likely as system struggles with debt”:

…Pouncey reiterated the message he delivered to school board members at their work session Thursday night, saying that immediate action needs to be taken to save the school system.

“If we don’t do something now, someone will have to put a sign out on the front lawn that says “Bankrupt,” Pouncey said.

Clear thinking from my School Board member:

David Blair said closing schools and rezoning the school district should be the next step in overcoming the financial crisis the system is in.

***

The useless school uniform policy got tabled – let’s hope for good – we need effective education policies, not pretend feel-good dress up policies.

Pinwheels or pinheads?

From The Huntsville Times article Academy for Academics and Arts students make pinwheels for peace:

The colorful creations by AAA students were one part of the school’s celebration of the International Day of Peace… The pinwheels were one aspect of the celebration, which started in the auditorium with music, songs and quotations from famous people. The day’s events were also part of a larger reflection on peace observed by Roots and Shoots, an organization founded by Dr. Jane Goodall. The school is a member of the organization, said Sheree Humphries, the middle school’s learning strategies teacher.

Group membership in Roots and Shoots costs $50 per year.   The Huntsville City Schools can’t even guarantee textbooks for students and pinhead school administrators are focused on peace-building (which involves “marshalling resources” for “predictable financing” of “the broad peace agenda”).  Fun fact – the International Day of Peace website has a “Success Stories” page – which is as empty as their “Ideas for action”.

How about instead of spending a day creating “a visual public statement about peace”, school officials try teaching reading and math?  The last time I looked, AAA students were scoring in the 60s on SAT tests (and AAA is one of the better scoring City schools).

The Effect of Student Uniforms…

David Brunsma, a Mizzou Sociology professor, published “The Effect of Student Uniforms on Attendence, Behavior Problems, Substance Use, and Academic Achievement” in The Journal of Educational Research when he taught at UAH (fun read!):

Recent discourse on public school reform has focused on mandatory uniform policies. Proponents of such reform measures emphasize the benefits of student uniforms on specific behavioral and academic outcomes… Our findings indicate that student uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems or attendance. A negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement was found. These findings are contrary to current discourse on student uniforms.

This article was published in 1998, since then Brunsma wrote the book on school uniforms.  “Current discourse” indeed…  Schools adopt uniforms in hopes of imitating private and church school performance:

A decade of research showing the effectiveness of private schools has led some school reformers to consider various policies which are linked to private and Catholic school success. Within the Catholic school literature, school uniforms have never been asserted as a primary factor in producing the Catholic school effect.

Brunsma notes the opposing arguments to school uniforms.  Note the ACLU’s argument – cost to disadvantaged parents – more on that later:

Opponents of adopting uniform policies stress the legal, financial, and questionable effectiveness of such policies. The legal concerns focus on the supposition that requiring a uniform violates children’s individual rights… Financially, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have voiced concerns about the cost of uniforms, specifically that purchasing one is a mandatory cost which some disadvantaged parents are unable to afford. Finally, the strongest opponents to uniform policies charge that there currently exists no empirical evidence to support the numerous and varied claims of uniform proponents.

Brunsma then goes through a bunch of data and does unspeakable deviations and correlations and regressions to conclude:

Our failure to find a direct effect of uniforms on behavioral outcomes or academic achievement provide cause for a closer examination of the uniform debate. It seems that reformers have seriously considered the educational research showing outcome differentials between public and Catholic school students. However, it is equally apparent that the most superficial policies are those that have been extracted for possible reform efforts…

Instituting a uniform policy can be viewed as analogous to cleaning and brightly painting a deteriorating building in that on the one hand, it grabs our immediate attention but on the other, is, after all, really only a coat of paint.

***

The ACLU’s concern for disadvantaged parents buying mandatory school uniforms led to school systems (TAXPAYERS) buying the uniforms for those parents.  The City of Madison requires specific PE uniforms; since this is mandated the City is required to buy gym clothes for disadvantaged parents (thanks LCTMadison).  Are the same ‘programs’ available at the Huntsville schools that have adopted school uniforms?

We’re being told that the schools are in a funding crisis – but the School System is preparing to spend even more taxpayer money on a new school uniform policy – which doesn’t work.

I asked District 2 school board candidate David Blair about the uniform policy - he said it was “window dressing”.  Right answer.  But then he said that if the parents vote for it, he’d support it (saying something about ‘representing the District’).  Wrong answer on this issue.   Keep in mind that there was no real public discussion about the policy before the Schools sprung the phone poll on parents.  Also keep in mind that the taxpayers who will fund the program haven’t been asked their opinion.  Note that I voted for Blair in the municipal election and will vote for him in the runoff on October 5.

Uniforms do not make our schools better

Challen Stephens of The Huntsville Times wrote the well-researched article “Huntsville city schools consider school uniforms, survey parents through robocalls”:

McCaulley, who represents north Huntsville on the school board, raised the issue in March, suggesting uniforms improve student achievement…  Anecdotal reports out of places such as California and Missouri have found success in reducing discipline problems.

Hmm… I wonder what people who’ve performed actual research on school uniforms have to say:

David Brunsma spent eight years studying the issue and wrote the book on uniforms, “A Symbolic Crusade.” He found little improvement in achievement or discipline. He wrote in American Teacher in 2005: “The results, although surprising to many, simply cannot be ignored. Uniforms do not make our schools better.”

Challen also gets responses from candidates for the school board:

[David] Blair… said he now leans toward school-by-school decisions instead of a systemwide policy on uniforms. “I think you’ve got to wait and see what the survey says”…

His runoff opponent, Emily Elam, said the same. “I feel like the process they are going through right now is the right way to go about making a decision on school uniforms.”

Runoff rivals in south Huntsville’s District 3 also said they’d wait to see the results of the survey. “The parents have got to want it,” said retired principal Walker McGinnis, suggesting he’d support school-by-school decisions over a systemwide policy.

His opponent, board member Jennie Robinson, doesn’t share McCaulley’s interest in the issue. “My focus right now is on academics and finances,” Robinson said Thursday. “Uniforms are kind of down on my priority list.”

One of the problems with the polling is that the Schools didn’t allow for discussion before the poll was taken.  People who read The Times, Flashpoint, or SoldiersPerspective may have seen Brunsma’s conclusion that “uniforms do not make our schools better” – but The Times article was written after the fact.  I don’t think that the results of the poll will be valid, given the lack of public discussion beforehand – and candidates who rely on this flawed process (Blair, Elam, and McGinnis) may arrive at a flawed decision.  Incumbent school board member Jennie Robinson is the only candidate with the right response to this issue.

This article is an example of what I like about Challen Stephen’s reportage.  He does the extra research to add information and value to his stories.  He gets the quotes from the right people.  Somebody should honor him with an award like Best Education Reporting.

CJ Grisham cited Dr. Brunsma’s research in the post “Huntsville City Schools Uniform Proposal”:

…uniforms FAILED, in our empirical analyses, to increase academic preparedness, pro-school attitudes, or a peer structure that supported academics. Finally, to our surprise, we found a small, weak, yet statistically significant negative effect of uniform policies on” violence.

Get that?  Uniforms do not help and schools that have uniforms are more violent.

I urge the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education (and candidates) to put a stop to this farce.  Do your jobs based on facts.