Huntsville City Schools superintendent says changes could be coming to Behavioral Learning Guide

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Michelle Watkins, Huntsville City School Board member, held a follow-up meeting to address problems at Rolling Hills Elementary School Monday.

There, Superintendent Matt Akin outlined possibilities to remedy discipline problems and other issues affecting student learning.

"Instruction can not take place when you have interruptions and you have discipline problems," said Watkins, who says she has still been getting calls about issues at the school. "We're going to come back and reassure parents that we are listening, we hear you, and it is time to take action."

Superintendent Akin said a possibility that can help Rolling Hills would also affect the whole school system: he believes there are changes that need to be made to the Behavioral Learning Guide.

"I think it's in response to Rolling Hills, but not just Rolling Hills. The BLG I think should be a living document," he said. "We are constantly looking at areas to improve."

Akin said his staff were already consulting teachers and principals on what needs to change in the BLG, and that then they would need to take amendments to the Department of Justice and a federal judge for approval.

Akin said he also plans to train teachers more thoroughly on the BLG, and procedures they need to take when there are discipline problems in the classrooms. Teacher support is necessary, he believes.

Part of his solution at Rolling Hills also includes possibly adding an assistant principal, a position that does not exist there at this time.

"I think we need an assistant principal here," he said to applause. "I don't say that to be critical [of the current principal,] it's about going forward. But what an assistant principal will do is be proactive. Catch kids before they get in trouble. And then prevention. A lot of prevention is being able to support teachers when they need support."

Akin said he would need board approval to add this job.

He said reading scores and special education are also on the list at the school.

"At Rolling Hills, right now, we've got to improve. So everything is on the table," he commented.

Board member Michelle Watkins said it won't be quick, but change is coming.

"It's not going to turn around overnight, but do know that it is going to be a turnaround and we are working on this issue," said Watkins. "Diligently."

Teachers say they feel better after this public meeting.

"I think now we're headed in the right direction. Because now we are being heard. We have a voice. Our kids have a voice. Our teachers have a voice. Our principals have a voice," said 6th grade teacher Kimberly Walker.

It's Walker's first year teaching at Rolling Hills. She said they need it to get better, and it can't be just a few leading the way.

"Like one of the ladies here said, it takes a village," she said. "We have to all communicate, and see this same vision and same outcome for our kids and our teachers."

"I'm very hopeful," she added. "With the grace of God on our side, anything is possible."