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Huntsville schools superintendent interviews for a new job in Gulf Shores

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Matt Akin, Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, could soon have a new job. Thursday, he interviewed as the lead candidate to lead the Gulf Shores City School System.

Gulf Shores is seeking to break away from the Baldwin County Schools system and form its own district. Thursday, Akin spoke to the Gulf Shores school board about his intentions to join them.

"It's a really good fit for Matt Akin," he said, "And, it's a really good fit for you. We have the same things in mind."

The Interview

Akin said he likes the idea of starting something new and leading the way in developing curriculum, forming relationships with the new board, and determining the path of a new system. He said it is a unique opportunity and he did not take his decision to apply lightly.

"I didn't haphazardly apply. I did my homework," he stated when asked why he wants to leave Huntsville and join Gulf Shores. "I know the commitment that the city of Gulf Shores has, that the board of Gulf Shores has. I think I understand, even though the vision isn't set, is that you want something better for your students. You want to be innovative. You want to have the best facilities. You want to get it right."

Akin explained of his choice, "I went to Huntsville because I wanted a challenge. I'd been superintendent for 14 years. And it is a challenge." He went on, "There's valuable work going on in Huntsville. I may be superintendent in Huntsville for a long time. I value the work. But I love being in a smaller school system and being able to develop the relationships."

Akin played up his experience working for a smaller system, detailing his time leading Piedmont's district.  He also talked about what he does in Huntsville to involve the community, deal with student behavior issues, and empower teachers.

He told the Gulf Shores board that the Huntsville board was "very gracious" when he informed them of his interview.

Board President Reacts

We talked to Elisa Ferrell, Huntsville's school board president, about that before Akin made his appearance in Gulf Shores. She said her stomach sank when she took Akin's call, but that she understands he has family in the area and values the unique opportunity before him.

"You're concerned about the future and you know that if he accepts the position, there's a lot of work ahead," she commented.

Ferrell said she didn't know of Akin being particularly unhappy in Huntsville. Instead, she says he was presented with this opportunity quickly and jumped on it: "My understanding is that he didn't go looking for the job. They came looking for him," she noted.

Ferrell released a statement Thursday morning ahead of Akin's interview.

What's Next

The Gulf Shores board president, Kevin Corcoran, told WHNT News 19 the board has not yet lined up any other interviews aside from Akin. He later said Akin was the lead candidate out of 27. There is no set timeline for deciding what's next, but Corcoran said the board will deliberate early next week and decide on a course of action.

Ferrell said that if Akin does get the job and decide to take it, it will occur during the end of the school year which is a very busy time. She said if that's the case, the board already knows how to conduct a superintendent search and will have to get started.

"The only thing constant is change, and we have a lot of change in Huntsville City Schools," she said. "We are going to make sure we make the best choices to make the impact as little as it can be."

Ferrell said initiatives like teacher raises, along with end-of-the-year tasks like filling jobs and approving contracts for services keep them busy at the end of the year. That needs to be fit in before Akin leaves, and she said she is committed to trying to make the raises happen.

The thought of another superintendent search is daunting, Ferrell admits, but she said she thinks it will be ok if that's the case. In that event, Akin would need to submit his resignation. the district would need to then appoint an interim superintendent and would have six months to find a replacement superintendent.

Akin could also remain in Huntsville and continue to run the system where he currently works.