Huntsville school system squares off with federal government in rezoning case

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A hearing will continue today in the case involving Huntsville City Schools' push to rezone schools and the Department of Justice's opposition.

Court is due to start at 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Huntsville, located at 101 Holmes Avenue.  U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala is presiding.

More than a dozen spectators were waiting outside the courthouse when the doors opened at 8 a.m. Friday.

Click here to read our live blog of the proceedings on

Huntsville City Schools has asked the judge to approve its rezoning plan, but the Department of Justice opposes it.  Huntsville is trying to get out of a 1974 federal desegregation order, imposed to make the schools more racially balanced.

WHNT News 19 learned Thursday morning permits for protests have been filed ahead of the school rezoning hearing in Huntsville.  However, it's been pretty quiet outside.

Police say the permits cover the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

School Board's Reasons

The school board says many things in Huntsville have changed since 1974.  It cited many examples, including administration changes, changes in how teachers are hired, changes within schools, changes within neighborhood makeup across city areas and several other reasons.

The school board also says the DOJ agreed to changes in the plan then backed away from them months down the road, for example, after construction had started on various school projects.  Superintendent Casey Wardynski talked with WHNT News 19 at length about the DOJ's plan, saying it contains changes that are impractical and outdated.

Many groups have spoken up in support of Huntsville City Schools, including the Huntsville Council of PTAs, the Northwest Cluster of PTAs and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.  All wrote letters to the judge, urging her to approve the rezoning plan.

DOJ's Opposition

The Department of Justice admits the proposed plan would make sweeping changes, but says it doesn't go far enough.  The DOJ says the plan further cements the boundaries between many of the identifiable black and white schools.

Meanwhile, some black church leaders, as well as black elected leaders say they oppose the school's rezoning plan.  They signed a letter and read it aloud at a church service in late April.  Mayor Battle and Superintendent Wardynski were in attendance.

The group claims the district did not include the African-American community when drawing up the new zoning lines that have been proposed.

WHNT News 19 will continue to bring you coverage throughout the week approaching the hearing, and we'll be there on Thursday to bring you the latest developments.

Timeline of Events

Here is a timeline of developments since May 2013 in this case. Click each link for more coverage:

-DOJ Approves Huntsville Schools' $194M School Building Projects (May 16, 2013)
-Huntsville City Schools Announces Rezoning Plans, Public Forums (Jan. 16, 2014)
-School District Hosts First Open House To Discuss Rezoning Plans (Jan. 30, 2014)
-School Board Approves Rezoning Plan, Dept. of Justice Opposes (Feb. 6, 2014)
-School Board Urges Parent Participation During Rezoning Process (Feb. 7, 2014)
-Department of Justice Files Motion Opposing Rezoning Plan (Feb. 26, 2014)
-Huntsville Superintendent, Dept. of Justice Continue Legal Fight (Feb. 27, 2014)
-Huntsville City Schools Files Response to Dept. of Justice Opposition (March 10, 2014)
-Exclusive: Wardynski Discusses DOJ's Opposition to School Rezoning (March 10, 2014)
-County Commissioner: Wardynski, School Board 'Disrespected' Him (March 12, 2014)
-Local Church Leaders, Some Elected Leaders Oppose School Board Plan (April 23, 2014)
-Huntsville Council of PTAs Releases Letter In Support of School Board (May 5, 2014)
-Wardynski Answers School Concerns From West Huntsville Residents (May 5, 2014)


  • Pete

    This is all a huge waste of time. Move the boundaries and watch what happens… families will MOVE to where they want their child to attend… just like it happened years ago with North Huntsville. You CANNOT control housing patterns.

      • Me

        I don’t even understand what they are hoping to get out of this. You can rezone people all you want, at the end of the day those with money will move their families to whichever area they feel provides their children with the best education. That’s life…if you want something better you must work for it instead of starting court battles.

      • Sam

        ….Equality throughout the entire city school system. I am white and I live on the North side of town. Sometimes I feel like I am living during the Civil War time. Also, it is a very sad day when the federal government/judge has to intervene to make decisions that our School Board should have made. I’m ashamed of our city government, as well, for backing the School Board plan. I don’t want to move. I like the North side of town better. I just want my children to get equal educational opportunities just as the south end of town has/is provided.

    • Sheep Dog

      Saying a prayer that the feds get out of our local control of our schools. We need to get out from under the desegregation order. This is not the same school district of fifty years ago.

  • Pete

    I fully agree Me…….. you are exactly right. I know I would move too if my child was zoned for any of the failing schools!! Pretty soon North Huntsville will be alot bigger, and Madison and South Huntsville will be too! Just because you sit a minority next to a non-minority will NOT make them smarter.

    • scott

      I did move Pete.My daughter was in n.w. schools for 2 years.The problems are with faculty and the culture in these schools.I went to a pta meeting one night and there were 8 parents representing 3 students out of 50 or so.I won’t even get into what the graduation ceremony was like.

  • santaclausmama

    It is a SAD day when our CHILDREN become PAWNS in a never ending CLASS war… this is not a black or white issue… and yes, it is a very sad day that in these CHANGING times… we still need over government to stand over us with a whip and shot gun… to MAKE life and liberty for all equal. But try as we may the poorest of us will ALWAYS be poor… and the richest of us will KEEP getting richer… soon the richest men will live on the moon… then WHAT… will we draw a line in the cheese… Damn… we all KNOW from past experiences that government cheese is made ot of lead!

  • Me

    I understand people want “equality” but that was already provided. If the north side of town refuses to become involved in their children’s schools then they will always have terrible schools. Do they honestly believe that south Huntsville children were just given a great school system? Of course not… those schools are strong because they have a very involved PTA as well as overall community. The only way any north Huntsville schools will improve is if the parents choose to contribute. Also better examples need to be provided to those children. Showing those children that living in shacks and getting “aid” from the government instead of working is an okay life is awful. No wonder the graduation rates are so terrible…why go to college if you can live without working but applying for handouts.

    • Al

      Exactly, you can stick an entire class of minorities in a multi-million dollar facility and the end result will still be the same unless education is valued at home with the parents.

  • simplyalady

    The factor that impacts students’ achievement the greatest is not income or parental involvement, it’s teacher quality. For instance, failing schools are being filled with Teach for America (TFA) teachers who are not trained as extensively as traditionally prepared educators and TFA teachers can only work in Title I schools. If we want the schools to get better, the district should provide more support in the way of paraprofessionals, and incentives for teachers who provide after school tutoring and the like. Giving every school the “same thing” is in direct contrast to what teachers are asked to do every day and that is to give children what they need for their individual learning style and need. A school on the North end that is failing will need MORE support from the district than a school on the South end. Give the squeaky wheel, the oil! Sheesh! This is a PUBLIC school district. When a bridge has cracks do we decide to do an ENTIRE bridge makeover program? No. We give more “support” and attention to the bridge in need. Let’s do the same for our schools.

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