Board member speaks out, apologizes to community after receiving letter from Huntsville mayor

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A Huntsville City Schools board member has publicly responded to a letter sent by the Huntsville mayor urging the board members to get along.

WHNT News 19 confirmed Monday that Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle sent a letter to two different school board members last week. In the letters, he urged them to get along, citing displeasure after viewing a particularly contentious Huntsville City Schools Board of Education meeting.

WHNT News 19 learned the two board members who received the letters are Pam Hill and Michelle Watkins.

In the letter addressed to Mayor Battle and given to WHNT News 19 Tuesday by Watkins, she says in part, "I am surprised and puzzled by the recent letter I received from you. I was under the impression that you, as mayor, and I, a member of the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education, shared a mutual concern for the overall welfare of our beloved community, especially as relates to education, each operating from our respective elected positions."

You can read a copy of the letter here.

Watkins later told WHNT News 19 she thinks the mayor should have called her if he disagreed with her. She doesn't believe she needs to do anything differently after receiving his letter.

"I think the mayor needs to attend to the city affairs, and leave the education affairs to the board members that were elected," she said.

"Everything that I say always goes back to the kids. The money that we spend, I always question it. Because we need funding for our kids in the school," Watkins explained. "I disagree with his letter, [the kids are] what I'm there for. And if he follows my conversations, my conversations always end with the students."

Watkins said she will continue to fight for those students.

"It has been a hard road and a hard fight to get to this position," she explained. "I didn't come to this position to sit down and be quiet. I didn't come to this position to vote with the majority when the vote wasn't right. I came here to do what was right by the children."

Still, Watkins said she is disappointed in herself for any part she may have played in Thursday's contention. She apologized publicly to constituents Tuesday.

"I got a little upset, and I was a little loud," she said, "and that's not representative of who I want you to see sitting at that table. So I have to apologize for doing that. And I apologize, but I'm passionate about education."

Some audience members yelled out, "We need somebody to get mad!" They applauded her, thanking Watkins for her efforts.

"The one thing I get passionate about, is I get passionate about children and education because I've worked in a Title I school, and I've seen the problems. I've seen the child that can't read," she said, her voice shaking with emotion. "That bothers me."

Pam Hill was unavailable for comment, but indicated via social media that she is not feeling well. Hill was also absent from Monday's quick board meeting, in which board members said she was "under the weather."

We asked incoming superintendent Matt Akin about the board's ability to work together.

"I think that I'm coming into a board that, although they have disagreements, they're all passionate about improving education in Huntsville," he explained. "That's my job, is let's harness that passion, let's all pull in the same direction."