Graduation Rate in Huntsville Up by 14 Percentage Points Since 2011 After Much Turnover

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Huntsville City Schools will begin the hiring process for new teachers next week.

That’s according to Superintendent Casey Wardynski, who received some exciting news going into that process.

Monday, Wardynski announced the overall graduation rate among students in Huntsville City Schools is up 14 percentage points, from 66 percent in 2011 to 80 percent in 2013.

However, that success came with quite a few pink slips and a new hiring process for the district, the only one like it in the state.

“Ms. Graham, congratulations on great work in improving your school,” said Superintendent Casey Wardynski to the principal of Butler High School, Sanchella Graham.

He presented plaques to several high school principals in Huntsville and thanked them for their hard work in helping the district move above the state average in terms of students who graduate.

“As of now 86 percent of our high schools exceed the state goal,” said Wardynski.  “Back in 2012, half did not, so that’s remarkable progress.”

“We have a dedicated faculty of teachers,” said Eric Jones, Johnson High School’s principal.

Both Johnson and Butler High Schools saw 16 percent increases in graduation rates in 2013, as compared to 2011.

Wardynski thanked the students and parents, but said 70 percent of the credit goes to effective teachers and principals, many of whom were brought in to replace those terminated since 2011.

“Last year we moved 23 principals out of 42,” said Wardynski.  “Since I’ve been here, I think we’ve replaced half of the principals and we’ve moved all but one principal.  We’ve probably moved about a third of our teachers between schools.  I think we’ve removed 20 percent of our teachers from teaching and brought in new staff.”

He added that Huntsville has a unique way of hiring teachers. It’s the only district in the state in which the school system hires the faculty, not the school.  “That lets every school get access to the best talent,” he said.

He insisted the scrutiny on staff continues throughout new teachers’ probation and seasoned teachers’ tenure.  And he believes his strategy for success has worked, as evidenced by the numbers of students who’ve reached an important conclusion.

“The fact that getting a good high school diploma and graduating really sets them up for success in the future,” said Jones of what his students have learned in their young lives.

Wardynski admitted some staff left the district voluntarily.  They were not interested in the digital curriculum, or the requirement of summer development training.  Now, he said, the district is focused on meeting the state school superintendent’s goal of 90 percent graduation rate by the year 2020.

Here’s the breakdown of each high school’s graduation improvement, comparing 2011 to 2013:

Butler HS is up from 31 percent to 49 percent.
Johnson HS is up from 62 percent to 78 percent.
Lee HS is up from 65 percent to 83 percent.
Huntsville HS is up from 81 percent to 90 percent.
Columbia HS is at 77 percent.
Grissom HS is up from 88 percent to 89 percent.
New Century HS is up from from 95 to 96 percent.


  • Ryan BoBambi

    I am thinking about transferring my child from homeschooling to Butler, my kid is pretty much just watching Alabama Public Television 8 hours a day (with a 60 minute recess). I dunno it seems legit fo a schoo

  • Branko Pezdi

    Amazing isn’t it how things improved when the Affirmative Action deadweight from the superintendent down were cut away over the past few years.

  • Tim Randle

    Is there a map anywhere that shows what the individual school districts are?

    If they aren’t focusing half of their attention on Butler they’ll never make 90% in any yeary, much less 6 years from now…

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