HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The top decision makers for the three largest school districts in North Alabama started their day together, explaining the state of their schools in terms of money and goals.
It was the Second Annual State of the Schools breakfast at the Jackson Center at the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology.
Dr. Casey Wardynski of Huntsville City Schools, Dr. Dee Fowler of Madison City Schools, and Dr. David Copeland of Madison County Schools addressed their districts’ state of affairs, after hearing comments from Mary Scott Hunter, District 8 Representative to the State Board of Education.
Hunter pointed out that 8% of the state’s graduates come from Madison County, as compared to 11% in Jefferson County, the top contributing county.
Hunter also congratulated Madison County for having three of the top five feeder schools to college in 2012 in the state. They include the top school of the state, Bob Jones High School, as well as Sparkman High School and Grissom High School.
Hunter congratulated and thanked Huntsville on creating a cyber culture, which she says is a goal for the state.
She congratulated Dr. David Copeland for raising the high school graduation rate from 76 to 86 percent last year.
And she playfully assigned Dr. Casey Wardynski first place for innovation.
She also explained the Common Core Standards, saying other states are following Alabama in adopting them. Hunter said they are unique to Alabama.
She revealed what she called ‘breaking news’ — that one lawmaker sponsored a bill to repeal the standards Thursday. And she announced no one signed up to be a co-sponsor except Rep. Shad McGill of Woodville.
During the two-hour program, hosted by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the three school superintendents highlighted funding and programming initiatives within the districts.
Wardynski presented a few videos featuring students describing the advantages of their schools and the unique technology-driven programs available.
He updated new building projects, including the new Grissom High School and others.
Wardynski concluded with a video showing off ‘Full body interactivity’ in which students get physically involved in learning through a special computerized program, similar to a Wii video game. The plans are to put such a lab in each middle school in the future.
Madison’s Dr. Dee Fowler described his district as a growing district, adding more than 800 new students last year.
He said despite their reputation of being a wealthy school, one out of five children come from a situation of poverty.
He announced the graduation rate in Madison is 97%. He said 20% of some 800 students who took the ACT test scored 30 or higher.
He announced the acquisition of a new building to expand pre-k in Madison. He explained the district includes an emphasis on foreign language beginning in kindergarten.
Fowler also said $20 million dollars of BRAC funding will be used for renovations and improvements at Bob Jones High School. He also described programs to allow students to give back to the community and said the district has given $250,000 back to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
His presentation concluded with a video of students in Madison describing their classes and how they are preparing for a new world that doesn’t exist yet.
Dr. David Copeland began his presentation with a video showing off highlights of various programs for students, the fifth largest school district in the state. He says the district has been commended for being the most efficient in the state. While that’s a compliment, it also indicates money is an issue and they are forced to do more with less.
Copeland explained the district has two national Blue Ribbon schools, but security and safety of students remain the district’s top priority.
He said the district’s dropout rate decreased from 10 percent to 4 percent last year.
Copeland wants to expand a BYOD program in the district to middle and elementary schools. It stands for Bring Your Own Device and it would save the district money, since Madison County Schools cannot afford to give each student a laptop. BYOD programs allow students to use tier own devices. Those who don’t have one would be provided one.
Copeland also mentioned the district has only 8 IT employees to put in and oversee technology. The state has recommended the district needs 16 due to its size.
He said there are plans for new school buildings including one in Monrovia.
He concluded with a video showing off elementary students describing themselves, not as students, but as the careers they are interested in pursuing. Copeland said his district is educating the next workforce.