WATCH: Madison County Schools Superintendent Candidates Discuss Issues in 90-Minute Forum

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – WHNT News 19 is Taking Action to help you learn more about the three candidates running for Madison County Superintendent.

Tuesday night, a forum was held to give candidates the opportunity to make their case for why they are the best man for the job.

We have posted the forum below in its entirety.

It started with a question about each candidate’s educational philosophy.

Throughout the forum, the three superintendent candidates addressed everything from Alabama College and Career Readiness Standards to an expansion of Pre-K education.

The issue that came up time and time again was the need for expanded career technical programs.

“’I would like to see career tech center transform and have our students be able to attend full time and turn it into a career tech academy. This is where they won’t have to go back to school if they fail a class,” said Buckhorn High School teacher Matt Massey.

“We started four new programs this year, including the culinary program at Hazel Green High School.  We’ve partnered with business and industry,” said current Madison County Superintendent David Copeland.

“I believe we need to begin this process at an earlier age, we need to make sure we’re working with our 7th and 8th graders and develop a four-year plan to make sure we’re providing our students with everything they need,” said Sparkman Middle School principal Ronnie Blair.

The candidates agree on almost all of these goals and say some of the needs can be met through partnerships with area businesses, colleges, and community groups.

Where they differ is more nuanced and was highlighted by one of the last questions of the night — where they described their leadership approach.

The candidates did discuss college and career readiness standards and Common Core Standards. All three said they support the standards, as long as they can maintain local control.

The 90-minute forum is posted below in its entirety.  There are 7 clips and they will play in order.

27 comments

  • mattmasseysupporter

    Ronnie Blair is a lie!!! He wants to get rid of the tech school and is already promising jobs to people before he even gets in office!!! He wants to make Dan Evans an Assistant Superintendent which would destroy the schools and make the Madison County School System even more crooked than it already is!!! Vote MATT MASSEY!!!

    • Brenda

      Mr. Blair is one of the most honest and forthcoming people that I know. I have also heard him say in person that he wasn’t promising jobs to anyone. I have every confidence that he will put the students before the politics. In the many years that I have known him, he has always been fair. Massey’s arrogant and spiteful comments show that he maybe too immature to handle a position as important as this. Is he really going to be the kind of person needed to be able to form those partnerships with business leaders, and other school systems? It really worries me that he hasn’t “paid his dues” and that he thinks he should just skip right over being an administrator and go straight to the top of the ladder as superintendent.

  • John W

    As I objectively compared candidates in last nights debate it became obvious that Copeland is FAR more qualified than Massey or Blair and to me he ran away with the debate. He actually had his act together last night. I thought he made outstanding points.I can tell you I am over Massey’s lip service. It seemed like the same old show with him. He has rehearsed his lines that he thinks the public wants to hear and I am tired of hearing those same lines with little to no solid foundation. You can poke holes in everything he says. And while Massey is babbling about lord knows what, Copeland is actually giving solid facts and I really appreciated that. I have been on the fence but it was clear to me last night who is the clear choice.

  • John W

    By The Way… Someone needs to stop all of Massey’s students from stealing Blair and Copeland’s yard signs all over town. Here you go Massey step up and be a leader. Talk to your students about running an ethical and fair campaign. Talk to them about how someone pays for those signs and its theft. Teach them to be a good citizen! After all isn’t that what this whole campaign is about. I couldn’t believe what I witnessed the first time but then I saw it happen again. The third time I decided to take pictures and if it doesn’t stop I will be posting the pictures. How do I know they are Massey students? Maybe it was the Massey T-shirt that gave it away… or the fact that they left all the Massey signs.

    • Elizabeth

      I am so glad someone else has seen this too. Unfortunately, I do not have picture evidence or else it would have been reported. Please come forward and help stop this issue. It is a major issue county wide and it is being handled poorly. How can someone lead 27 schools at one time if he fails to control a handful of student supporters.

      Hopefully, you will see you are not the only one noticing these things and that if you have evidence… Please come forward. Thank you for posting! It is appreciated from both Blair and Copeland supporters I am sure!

  • Frank

    I’m not sure where mattmasseysupporter is getting his info from. If you watched the last two forums you would easily see that Mr. Blair is not going to take away the career tech program. If anything he wants to improve it and make it 10 times better than ever before. Also, I know in the last forum he specifically said that he has not promised any jobs to anyone and would never do such a thing. Rumors get started because of people like you. If you took the time to get to know Mr. Blair before you would make these crazy accusations you might be better off. Mr. Blair’s vision is very clear to me and a lot of other supporters. He is the best man for the job and has my vote by far. Dr. Copeland has some good ideas, but has failed to put them to use. That is unacceptable. Mr. Massey cannot even be a principal in this school system because he is not qualified enough, so I think that answers the question if he should be our next superintendent or not.

    As for the sign situation. I’m glad other people are noticing it because I’ve had a problem as well. Mr. Massey’s signs seem to always appear on private property around my area and do not have permission to be there. I have talked with a few different people that have had this problem. Just because an opponent’s sign is somewhere doesn’t mean it’s fair game for your sign to go there. Just a word of advice, there are ethics laws that go against this. So as the previous people have mentioned before, get your supporters under control, because if you can’t do that, how do you plan to control thousands of kids and employees.

  • Brenda

    Mr. Blair is one of the most honest and forthcoming people that I know. I have heard him say in person that he wasn’t promising jobs to anyone. I have every confidence that he will put the needs of our students before politics. In the many years that I have known him, he has always been fair. Massey’s arrogant and spiteful comments in the forums show that he may lack the professionalism and experience required to handle a position as important as superintendent. Will he be the kind of leader who can form partnerships with business leaders, and other school systems? Or will his lack of respect for age and experience send them all running for the hills? Should we allow someone to just skip right over being an administrator and go straight to the top of the ladder as superintendent? Our students deserve better. If he had applied for the position, he probably wouldn’t even made the cut to get an interview due to his lack of experience as an administrator. Copeland answered the questions very well as I am sure he did when they interviewed him a few years ago. That’s probably why he beat out all of the other candidates and got the job to replace Dr. Davis. But I think we all know that talking isn’t the same as doing. It wasn’t too long ago that Copeland was in the news because he got such low scores from the board on his review. Mr. Blair has worked hard at Sparkman Middle and it shows. He has proved his words through his actions. SMS continues to improve every year under his leadership. I have no doubt that he is the person to make much needed improvements in the Madison County School System.

  • Inquiringminds

    First of all, there are signs disappearing across the county – Massey’s included. No one should be taking down anyone’s signs, but hold off on the finger pointing. A friend of mine saw a woman and her daughter take a Massey sign out of the ground and stick it in the back of their car. Every time a Blair sign appears on the east side of the county, a Massey sign disappears. Although Massey is not aware of any specific students taking down signs, students have been told not to touch other candidates’ signs; the other candidates should talk to the adults in their camps who are guilty of this. This behavior is not acceptable, but it is sadly one of the ugly parts of political campaigns, one that ALL sides need to stop.

    Let’s talk a little bit about the unacceptable behavior of our candidates. Is it acceptable for a candidate to go to Twitter and follow 9 to 11 year old girls that dance for Mr. Massey’s wife just to try to dig for dirt and to then send to one of the dance moms an apology email that contradicts itself – one half claiming it was a total accident and one half claiming it was a marketing ploy for certain areas (pretty sure Fayetteville, TN isn’t part of this voting district but a dance mom from there was targeted and pretty sure that the only people he followed from this area either danced for Mr. Massey’s wife or were Buckhorn students?) Coincidence? I think not. Is it acceptable for Blair’s campaign twitter to go and follow Mr. Massey’s daughter? Apparently, the campaign itself decided it wasn’t when they apologized for their behavior and unfollowed 200 of the people they followed since dance parents voiced their concerns on Saturday.

    All I ask is that we not be hypocrites when taking to online forums to bash candidates. It’s a sign of desperation and ignorance.

  • Amy

    The woman your friend saw taking down the sign was me. My daughter was with me. It was on the the property of a family member. The Massey campaign did not have permission to put it there so I was asked to remove it. The Massey campaign was contacted by a friend of mine to inform them we had it and some other signs that were placed on private property without permission. There has been no response.

  • where's the video?

    How long does it take to post the video of the forum? WAFF live-streamed the first forum and posted the entire video immediately after. Come on, WHNT!

    • Claire Aiello

      The forum is posted now. We use a different video system at our station. We decided to upload these clips another way, to YouTube and that’s actually a very, very, very, very, long process for certain long-form videos. We appreciate you watching.

  • Jon Calhoun

    For what it’s worth..

    If you’ve ever wondered why politics in Alabama is years behind the majority of the country, just read what’s above.

    Signs are stolen in EVERY political campaign, by ALL sides. It’s not right or ‘legal’, but it’s just the cost of doing business. The candidates have little control over their volunteers. They can ask them to not do things, but inevitably they are all volunteers. However, that’s not the sad thing.

    The sad thing is what is written above. That someone would propose that what a volunteer does has ANYTHING to do with the election.

    What if the conversation above was strictly about issues facing the county?

    What if we examined what the candidates have accomplished?

    What if we talked about what the candidates want to do in office?

    Wouldn’t that be something?

    But please, don’t mind me. Continue to argue about campaign tactics, and make personal attacks. Make these issues central to the campaign, and continue to enjoy your pointless accusations.

    Just imagine if we acted with this conviction in non-election years, when there were no signs to complain about, but we actually had to talk about the issues.

    Man, that might actually accomplish something…

  • Very Impressed With Dr. Copeland

    WOW, just finished watching the debate. I thought this debate really separated the candidates. It was extremely apparent Dr. Copeland was the ONLY qualified candidate on stage and dominated this event. I was very impressed. He is really good!

  • Proud_Parent

    I agree. I thought Dr. Copeland was a commanding presence in this debate. He showed real leadership with real answers. He deserves this position.

  • Jean

    Massey dominated that debate. It wasn’t even close. Blair will put you to sleep. Massey is the only one that didnt need notes. He was prepared.

    • Roger

      HAHA! I’m sorry for laughing but were you watching the same debate? The one at the Space and Rocket Center on Tuesday? Seriously? I don’t even know how to respond to your comment because it is so absurd. Only Massey’s mother could think he was qualified to be on that stage, much less say he “dominated”. I encourage you to watch the debate again… or for the first time, and this time watch objectively. Massey didn’t need notes because he didn’t have any solid facts. It takes more preparation to research actual facts, accurate numbers and exact quotes than to make them up as you go. Is his lack of knowledge not completely apparent to you? Would you really trust him to lead our kids? I am dumbfounded. Blair and Copeland both showed him up and quite frankly Copeland made him look like a little kid.

  • Jean

    Yeah I was there. Blair was absolutely terrible. Is this the same Blair that has a lawsuit pending over something to do with a rape at the high school he is in charge of? Great leader. Copeland had an unsatisfactory job evaluation. I am saying that Massey killed it. I was unsure before the debate but Massey locked it up for my vote. According to the signs, bumper stickers, and Facebook followers, I think Massey will win this without a run off.

  • Jean

    This is the same Blair that has a lawsuit pending against him to do with a rape at the high school he is responsible for? Great leader! Copeland had an unsatisfactory job evaluation.

    I was unsure of who I would vote for and I was at the debate. Massey killed it. I see Massey signs everywhere. Check out his Facebook followers compared to Blair. People are excited about Massey. Blair’s personality is about as exciting as a toothache.

    • Ed

      Jean,
      I finally agree with you about something! Blair is very forgettable. That’s not to say he wouldn’t make a good leader but I agree I think he is riding on the other two Candidates coat tails and there is a little controversy around him that puts him in question.

      However, I would caution you from jumping on the Massey bandwagon. You referenced Dr. Copeland’s evaluation. I happen to know there is more to Dr. Copeland’s evaluation than you may realize. The truth is Dr. Copeland has gotten nothing but the highest praise from everyone he has worked with. Dr. Copeland has actually won multiple national awards over the past two years for his leadership and been honored in Washington DC. Before referencing his low evaluation, please know the whole story.

      The board gave Dr. Copeland a low rating because he wouldn’t go along with their personal agendas. I don’t want to start naming board member names but I can assure you each of the board members had their own agendas and wanted someone that would go along with those agendas so they could profit financially. It is a known fact that there are members on our school board simply to pass their own agendas and when Dr. Copeland came in-town making decisions based on what was best for the kids and not which board member would profit the most, the board members obviously did not like that, it backfired on them, and the evaluation score was their retaliation trying to make him look bad. It was simply a witch hunt.

      It is also a known fact that those same board members that are trying to pass their own agendas are the ones that are supporting Matt Massey trying to put him in office. Again, not wanting to name names, but I can assure you Massey has the backing of some of the most corrupt people in the county who are only wanting to pass their own agendas.

      I can assure you the only one in the race without a personal agenda, and the only one who will make decisions based on what is best for our kids is Dr. Copeland. Everyone at the MCSS respects him and his work for ALL our kids.

      So for all our kids, I ask you to please reconsider your support. Thanks

  • Leigh

    Massey’s is hands down not my pick! Having a child in the system I was not happy when he made the comment in his first forum “I am doing it for these two right here”(talking about his kids) it should be for every kid in this county not just your own. And saying that I am for Copeland all the way even though I know Mr.Blair. I am concerned that if Massey or Blair get it one side of the system will have favoritism shown, as for Copeland he has no personal ties to a certain cluster.

    • Whom It Concerns

      You said you didn’t like that he was “‘doing it for these two right here'(talking about his kids)” When he said this, he didn’t mean that his sole focus was his kids and no one else, the statement was to illustrate that he is the most personally invested candidate. If he mucks up the system, his kids are the ones that will be paying the price, as will his wife. He has to make the system the best it can be for EVERYONE to ensure his family so he can make the system good for his children.

      What makes you sure if Mr. Massey wins he would favor a certain cluster? I’ve seen no evidence to back this assertion. His children, though part of the elementary schools now, will have to pass through all grades of the system, not just the elementary, therefore he would not just want to improve upon the elementary schools, but everything else, because that would be what is best for his children and the rest of the students in madison county. If your referring to the fact that he is an AP lead MATH teacher, to me that doesn’t mean he would automatically favor mathematics. The other core classes are just as important, and he is also concerned with the arts and how little funding they receive. He has seen first-hand superior winning choirs practicing on decades old risors, with zero money appropriated to them, the sole income being from fundraising the students have to do for themselves. He talked about improving the career readiness aspect of the school system and how sports and philanthropist clubs help to better education. This doesn’t exactly sound like a man who will focus spending on one area.

  • HOP

    Yes, Dr. Copeland gave a very good performance; he’s quite a speaker. But words only go so far. He has been in office for 3 years, now. Yet, we have just drifted along, with no real focus. If he wants to do all these great things, why has he not done them? He’s certainly had the time to implement them.

    When one sees the SMS scores compared to the rest of the county, they come up short. As the administrator, Mr. Blair takes that blame. Furthermore, after reading the post by someone named “Jean,” I’m not so sure I want him in office.

    Someone earlier posted, “Should we allow someone to just skip over being an administrator and go straight to the top of the ladder as superintendent?”

    Maybe, it’s time we did. I am not too impressed with these two examples of so-called “experienced administrators.”

    • Renata

      You can’t compare SMS’s scores with other schools in the district and expect to get an accurate comparison. You have to compare apples to apples to get a more accurate depiction of what is going on with the test scores in that school. The demographics at SMS are very different from the other middle schools yet they are still making gains. You really need to take a look at schools with the same demos to make those kinds of comparisons.

  • Mike S

    HOP, I find your comments extremely unfounded. First Dr. Copeland has been in office 2 years not 3. Second, what do you mean he has not implemented anything? Madison County has seen countless improvements and program implementations under him.
    To start, he remodeled the Career Technical school and implemented more career technical programs. He also has a documented plan to continue expanding this area.
    He implemented multiple safety initiatives, partnered with local law enforcement, trained staff, and installed safety measures such as swipe cards and cameras in 22 schools to make our students safer.
    He acquired $55.6 million in BRAC funds for the school system, something we couldn’t have gotten without his help.
    He implemented the BYOD initiative.
    He upgraded the VOIP phone system to save us $20 million.
    Nine schools have received national honors.
    $30 million in scholarships were given to Madison County seniors last year alone and $1,526,538 in NEW grants have been received under Dr. Copeland.
    Graduation rates are up, drop-out rates are down and Madison County has experienced the highest test scores in history over the past two years.
    Finally, Madison County is undergoing the most expansive building projects in the system’s history.
    Dr. Copeland has won 2 national awards over the past 2 years for being one of the most innovative school superintendent’s in the nation.

    I would call this anything but “drifting”. We are definitely seeing great things happen as a school system under Dr. Copeland. I would hate for us to lose momentum now. Dr. Copeland is a great leader who understands what is needed.

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