Q. What made you want to run for this office?
First, I want what most of us want; what is best for all students, for all schools, for our city, in the long run. Like most parents, I also want my child and all students to be happy and successful in life. That starts with a solid education. It is imperative that our students are prepared for college or a career upon high school graduation. Further, an excellent school system and educated community are key to attracting new businesses for our city and career opportunities for our graduates.
Second, I am committed to being a positive influence in our school system and greater community. I have made it my job to identify needs and fill them. It is my responsibility as well as my privilege to do so. For example, when neighborhood voting places were switched from nearby churches to the Monte Sano Fire Station, I led the successful neighborhood effort to restore them. When I learned our neighborhood needed a community watch area leader I signed up and developed effective communication and patrol networks. Likewise, when there is a need at school I fill it. For example, when my child’s principal needed someone to develop and coordinate an after school enrichment program I volunteered. I helped other schools start Spanish Clubs. When the native Spanish-speaking preschool instructor could no longer provide lessons I stepped in and gave the lessons. I collaborated with the principal at the middle school to start a Spanish Club there, so incoming sixth graders could continue the Spanish-learning they began in elementary school. I also collaborated with Mt. View Baptist Church to use their facility to continue enrichment clubs during the summer.
Third, I am inspired. Huntsville is a wonderful city. I am a proud graduate of Leadership Huntsville/Madison Focus Class 30 and participate in leadership building events. What I have learned inspires me to take action, as does the effective collaboration between Mayor Battle, the superintendent, Dr. Wardynski, our state school board representative, Mary Scott Hunter, and our state superintendent, Dr. Bice. I have an elementary aged child in Huntsville City Schools, my friends have children in Huntsville City Schools, and I have taught many students who attend Huntsville City Schools. I am inspired by the potential of our students and this school system and have a vested interest. We all do.There isn’t a better way to devote my time and energy than doing what is best for the students and serve in a capacity that helps further our school system’s progress.
Fourth, as an active member of our community, our school system, PTA, and as a mother, student mentor, and substitute teacher I have an understanding of the challenges our students, teachers and school system are facing as well as the great opportunities. I am committed to being knowledgeable about education related topics and diligently attend school board meetings and education related events. I ask questions and stay abreast of educational related topics. I’ve been to Montgomery to visit the legislature and have corresponded with state and local officials regarding education issues. Running for school board is the next logical step. I will be doing what I have already been doing.
Finally, three of five school board seats are up this August. It is critical that positively motivated, reasonable minded, student focused individuals with effective collaboration skills fill these seats. We must have representatives that share the vision and will continue the momentum. I am that individual.
Huntsville City Schools is on a great trajectory. We are, this city is, well on the way to earning another badge of honor. In the near future, Huntsville will be known not only as “The Rocket City,” but also “The City of Educational Excellence.” But, we must stay focused. Students-first based decisions now, ensure a sound education and a greater Huntsville tomorrow. I am committed to putting Huntsville City Schools on the map of educational excellence and preparing our children for a world of opportunity.
Q. Are you capable of and willing to do the research necessary to ask questions about the policies, procedures and recommendations that the superintendent is bringing to the board for approval? How do you plan to fulfill the board member role of administration and supervision of the public schools as detailed in School Board Policy 2.2?
Yes, I have been doing so for several years. I have made it my job to regularly attend school board meetings, so I can stay abreast of what is happening in our school system. I have written and met with the superintendent on various issues over the years. I have also written to our elected officials at the local and state levels regarding education related matters and have visited our representatives in Montgomery to advocate for our students and schools. The Board has the collective authority to administer and supervise the public schools through actions that are “…in accordance with applicable statutory and parliamentary procedures.” As a member of the board I will do my part to serve as the “checks and balances” regarding actions and recommendations made by the superintendent by being knowledgeable/doing my research. (The superintendent is the chief executive officer, so he “runs” the school system.)
Q. Do your children (or school age relatives) attend Huntsville City Schools?
Yes, I have a nine year old in Huntsville City Schools.
Q. What is your vision for the schools in your district?
My vision for the schools in District 2 are the same for the school system. One where all schools provide a high quality, well-rounded education that prepare our students for success in life. I envision a school system that includes not only solid core subject academics and technology, but also the arts.
Q. What is your view of high-stakes standardized testing, and the use of those test results for the evaluation of teachers?
I don’t think students or teachers should be evaluated solely on the results of an assessment. I do believe it should be considered when looking at student achievement/growth. There is value in student assessments, like the STAR Reading and Math Assessments. The STAR assessments allow for immediate results. The specific areas in math or reading a student needs to improve are identified and can be addressed immediately, so the student doesn’t fall behind. In contrast, the results from the now retired ARMT were not available until the end of the school year or later. At that point it is too late to give the targeted help a student needs.
Q. What is your plan for working with the other school board members, superintendent, staff, teachers, community to implement this vision?
I have a history of being an effective communicator and collaborator. I am open to all reasonable perspectives and believe all stakeholders should have opportunity to share their ideas and concerns. I will take full advantage of the requirements for professional development. This is key to improving cooperation, but it must be taken seriously. I would encourage my fellow board members to also take full advantage of the professional development. I plan to make myself accessible to the people in our community, so I can hear their concerns and answer their questions. This helps our community have confidence in our school system.
Q. What is your view of how the district’s limited funding should be divided among the needs of the district?
This requires a list of priorities that should be addressed by critical need. In the case of facility improvement, those should, and I believe are, on a rotating schedule. However, the funding, in large part is up to the state. The state determines the amount of funding and where it goes as far as teaching units.
Q. What is your view on the superintendent’s plans to close, consolidate, “turn around”, and “restart” many of the schools in our district?
I think it is a well thought out plan. We need to take the steps necessary to ensure all students receive a high quality education regardless of which school they attend. Sometimes this requires, as at J.O. Johnson High School, a new leadership team. When one considers the cost to renovate older school buildings it is more cost effective to construct a new building. In addition, right sizing school buildings reduces operational costs and improves student safety. Closing and consolidating and right sizing schools save the school system money that can be better utilized elsewhere to the direct benefit of the students.
Q. What is your view of the role that parents and the community should play in the governance of our schools?
A successful school is built by strong parent support and community involvement. I encourage parents, grandparents, and members of the community to volunteer their time and talent to a school, and join the PTA. This strengthens are schools and our community. Be a reading buddy to a child learning to read (30 minutes), mentor a child (45 minutes once a week), or sponsor a math club (one hour once a week). This is a low time commitment with high rewards for the student and the volunteer. I also encourage parents to attend the school board meetings, so they gain a better understanding of what is happening and why. This also allows parents to get answers to their questions and be a source of accurate information for others.
Stephenie has worked with and around books and authors for over 12 years, both at retail booksellers and public libraries. She is a rare Huntsville native, mother of two high-energy boys, wife of one, and eerily addicted to community volunteering. When she's not being the Managing Editor for RCM she likes to stalk her favorite authors online, cook with way too much butter, and also manages to conduct freelance marketing and PR work.