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5 Key Things Parents Should Know About the State of Huntsville’s Schools

5 Key Things Parents Should Know About the State of Huntsville’s Schools

  • Busy parents might need the ICYMI version of these important school updates.
  • Don't forget - Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2-6, 2022

Every year for the past decade, the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce hosts a breakfast that brings together the local business community and public school systems. This State of the Schools event highlights Pre-K through 12th grade education programs that are preparing students for long-term success in our region, and usually also includes spotlighting students and teachers.

But the main event is the panel of “The Supers”- the three superintendents for Huntsville City Schools, Madison County Schools, and Madison City Schools. They provide updates and answer questions about the current affairs within their school systems.

Christie Finley, Allen Perkins, and Dr. Ed Nichols

Since most parents can’t attend during a morning workday, we thought it might be helpful to share a few of the more notable take-aways we heard at the State of the Schools address. After all, it’s our kids that make up the 56,000 students that currently attend these three public school systems, and they are the future workforce of Huntsville. Busy parents might need the ICYMI version of these important school updates.

The Biggest Challenges Our Schools are Facing Right Now

  • Student learning loss during Covid
  • Retaining and recruiting teachers & teacher well-being
  • Economic disparity & mental health of student body
  • Overcrowding in schools

All three Supers agreed these were the biggest hurdles facing their collective schools. What can parents do about it? “It’s time to re-engage families and the community with our schools,” says Christie Finley, Superintendent of HCS.

Finley also hopes families will take some time to recognize their teachers, especially during Teacher Appreciation Week the first week of May, but also year-round. “If you have a teacher in your life, send them a note. If a teacher takes care of your baby, email them some encouragement.”

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On What Teachers Need
When asked about the things their teachers need most, Dr. Nichols at Madison City Schools had several suggestions. “Teachers really need more time to do their job. The most important thing is re-looking at how [schools] use our time during the school day. To recruit the next generation, we need to figure out how to restructure teacher time so we can attract the best and brightest teachers.”

Finley and Perkins echoed this sentiment and discussed ideas on ways to provide that through smaller class sizes, resources that make daily life better for teachers & staff, mental health support for both teachers and students, and more pay incentives and benefits to recruit and retain teachers and support staff.

The Biggest Successes Our Schools are Celebrating Right Now

  • Early access to Pre-K is growing & continues to grow
  • Working with local businesses to create workforce pipeline opportunities for students
  • Actively developing more Nationally Board Certified teachers
  • All three school systems are continuing to grow

“Our goal is to create more opportunities for our 56,000+ students,” said Allen Perkins, Superintendent of Madison County Schools. “We all have a divine moral responsibility to serve students and build the community.”

Mr. Perkins went on to pitch a few ideas on how to do this – provide more opportunity for dual enrollment, AP classes, and career-readiness programs for high school students (including workforce development partnerships). Also  continue to support and prioritize tutoring programs in After School Care for elementary students, and continue to invest more in teachers through the National Board Certification program.

What’s Happening with Education in the State (It’s Historic!)

In addition to that good news, schools are excited about the $8.3 billion education budget the Alabama legislature just passed, the largest in state history.

“We’ve been doing more with less for so long. It’s time to do more with more.” Allen Perkins

That increase includes:

  • A 4% raise for all teachers
  • A one-time bonus for retired teachers to help make the teaching profession more attractive
  • More funds for Pre-K programs
  • More school nurses
  • Classroom technology needs
  • A school grant program that will help provide free feminine hygiene products to Title 1 schools
  • $20 million of that money is earmarked to implement Alabama’s new Numeracy Act, a state-wide initiative to boost math education through 5th grade

But more money doesn’t mean all problems are solved. Even though revenue for public schools is up in Alabama, so is inflation. “Seven years ago, the cost of building a new elementary school was $17 million, but now that same school is $30+ million.” Dr. Ed Nichols, Superintendent of Madison City Schools.

Of the 100+ education-related bills presented, the Alabama legislature approved 30. Most bills take effect three months from the date the governor signs them into law.

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What’s an NBCT and Why Do They Matter?

All three school systems are putting an emphasis on encouraging and supporting teachers that want to become nationally certified. A National Board Certification (NBCT) is the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education. Research has shown that students taught by nationally board certified teachers learn the equivalent of an additional two months of instruction in math and one month in English language arts.

“Supporting good teachers is just good business. Why wouldn’t you support the workforce that is creating your future workforce?” Chanel Leslie, National Board Certified Teacher at AAA (HCS)

Created by teachers, for teachers, the National Board Standards represent a consensus among educators about what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. Board certification is available in 25 certificate areas spanning 16 disciplines from Pre-K through 12th grade.

Currently, there are 56 Board Certified Teachers in Huntsville City Schools, 92 Board Certified Teachers in Madison City Schools, and 52 Board Certified Teachers in Madison County Schools.

“When teachers become too comfortable, they can become ineffective to student needs. Becoming a NBCT disrupted my comfort zone and made me a better teacher.” Jodi Jones, National Board Certified Teacher at Liberty Middle School (MCS)

The Raise Your Hand initiative is one way the community can support the efforts of teachers that wish to become board certified.

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