The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber sent the following questions to candidates, to help you learn more about the people running in the August 28 Municipal Election. Here are the responses from Walker McGinnis, candidate for Huntsville Board of Education District 4:
Q: Huntsville City Schools has had a lot of change over the past four years. Which initiatives would you support to continue and which would work to repeal?
A: The HCS strives to enrich each student with an accessible, solid general education. I feel that the career tech initiatives have been brought to the forefront and will continue to expand over the next 4 years. Examples of these programs are cyber security, culinary arts, welding, etc.
Over the past 4 years we had a TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) program. These TOSAs performed many of the duties of an assistant principal and proved to be a cost savings to the system. Those TOSAs who proved themselves were considered for administrative advancement. However, most of these individuals were not found suited for advancement and returned to the classroom.
Q: The business community is very interested in the success of Huntsville City Schools for recruitment and its preparation for the future workforce. How would you increase the communication and collaboration between schools and businesses?
A: The relationship between the business community and the HCS should be a symbiotic one with each taking and receiving benefit as true partners. The HCS is responsible for providing the best education possible for each student that will prepare him/her to be productive members in an ever-changing world. The business community must rely on the HCS to prepare their future employees to take over jobs that are critical to their businesses. Both businesses and the HCS must establish and maintain constant communications in this endeavor. The Superintendent and business leaders should meet on a frequent, on-going basis to keep abreast of the changing work needs and requirements.
Q: What is your position on continuing to pursue unitary status?
A: We have no choice…we have to pursue unitary status as ordered. We are moving towards unitary status at a snail’s pace and I feel that some things should be done to speed up the process. There are 7 Green factors that are held up to be measured by. To date none have been approved. In setting up the requirements for the guidelines, the HCS and Department of Justice (DOJ) were to be equal partners in this venture working together. They would jointly present the Judge the recommendations to clear each Green factor. Unfortunately, The HCS has not been able to get agreement with the DOJ on 1 factor over the past 3 years. I have required that our attorneys report to us each month the progress of each factor and how much money was spent that month. Without getting into actual figures, we are spending a great deal in legal fees and not moving towards unitary status as hoped for. I think some more, positive steps need to be taken by the HCS in this pursuit.
Q: What do you think the Huntsville City School Board’s top three priorities should be in the next year?
1. Clear at least 5 of the 7 Green factors of the Consent Order
2. Close the achievement gap
3. Continue to develop/maintain effective communication links with all stakeholders
Q: What do you think is unique about Huntsville City Schools and how should attribute be promoted?
A: HCS is unique. I do not think there is another school system in this state as unique as the HCS is. Racially, the school system is diverse with no single race in majority. It has a large special needs population. The socio-economic patterns are equally diverse. All this makes for a multitude of dynamics that can serve to enrich all children. Truly, the HCS is a microcosm of these United States. Students in the HCS can learn and grow in a truly rich environment and be more successful in attaining their life’s goals.
Q: What is the greatest strength of the Huntsville City School system, and how can we build on that?
A: The HCS is always looking for innovative ways to reach each and every student by taking them from where they are and help them progress towards graduation and beyond. The HCS never gives up on a student. An example of this the treatment of severe discipline problems. No student is “kicked out” per se. They are afforded the ACE Academy as an alternative to being expelled. Also, needy students caught up in the zone line changes brought on by the Consent Decree are given counseling services, social workers, and smaller classes.