HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Now is a good time to have a community meeting, Huntsville City School Board member Pam Hill said Thursday.
"We've been going through some changes right now," said Hill. "We have a new superintendent starting next Monday, Dr. Akin."
People came to speak up, hoping Hill would listen. Many discussed discipline problems in the schools, and on the buses.
"It's just mind-blowing what's happening," commented one parent.
"I would like to see Durham, the school, and the parents work together to make everything better," explained a different parent after describing many bus problems plaguing her family.
Hill said she holds these meetings to get to the heart of her district. And through this change, she will take their concerns to the new superintendent.
"I want them to feel like I care about them," Hill explained. "I will present it, and I will stand for it, and I will speak about it."
That's one thing many aren't afraid of: Hill speaking out. She's known for it.
"I know that I'm very polarizing," Hill said carefully, "but I wouldn't have quit my job if I wasn't passionate about this. This wasn't a pay raise," she said of her position on the school board. "
That's the passion that she says won't go away, despite a letter from Mayor Tommy Battle last week.
Battle sent the letter to Hill and Michelle Watkins, saying their behavior at a particularly contentious school board meeting was not a representation of the community. He explained in a newsletter: "Huntsville expects our elected leaders to conduct themselves in the manner befitting a community of thinkers, dreamers and doers."
Hill responded during an interview with WHNT News 19, "If that made him feel better to write it, that's ok, and I hope he got that off his chest. But I represent Huntsville City Schools and Huntsville City Schools has been mine since I was 5 years old. I'm not going anywhere, and I'm going to speak for the people that are in Huntsville City Schools, little and big, and all the constituents that I represent."
We asked her what she would say to those who question her behavior at board meetings.
"I will say that I am listening," she commented, "and that I am going to try not to roll my eyes."
Later, she told those gathered at her community meeting, "I will tell you I am going to work on my facial expressions. I'm going to try, I'll try not to let you read my face."
She is looking forward to working with Akin.
"We're both educators, and educators usually understand one another," she said. "We both worked hard for what we have. And he's passionate. So if he's passionate and I'm passionate, and it's about kids, we are going to be the best of friends."
People at Hill's community meeting supported her.
"You're the ones who are shaking up the ground, and we need the ground shaken up right now," one woman commented.