Huntsville City Schools Board of Education chooses interim superintendent

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - At the Huntsville City Schools board meeting Thursday, the members voted for Christie Finley to be the district's interim superintendent.

Finley currently works as the district's Deputy Superintendent of Strategy and Innovation. She has been in the education field for more than 20 years. It has been part of her daily job to work with technology and oversee the critical process of complying with the district's consent order in a federal desegregation case.

She will temporarily fill the superintendent's role as Superintendent Matt Akin transitions from leading Huntsville City Schools to heading the new Gulf Shores City Schools system.

"We are going to continue the work that we are doing. We have a great team at the district level. We have great building principals, we have great teachers, we just need to get ready to open those doors in August," Finley said.

However, this decision came as a shock to her.

"I am quite shocked!" she exclaimed. "Excited, honored." She added, "This was not something that was really on my radar. But I always wanted to be in education and serve in any capacity, because I feel like being a servant leader is what we're called to do."

This is Finley's 27th year in education.

She said that as interim, she wants to continue the district's momentum and also make some changes of her own.

"I do think it's important that we really revisit our procedures, especially a strategic plan," she said. "I was proud and happy to serve under Dr. Akin. He's done a lot of great things for our district. Very sad to see him leave. But he has created a unified team, a strong team here, that's going to keep moving. It's not one single person, it's a team."

The board had a difficult time choosing Finley out of a pool of nominated candidates. Those on the table: Christie Finley, Tammy Summerville (Deputy Superintendent of Instruction), Ray Landers (a former principal), and Barry Carroll (former Limestone County superintendent.) It took the board four failed votes on each of those candidates to come back to Finley, who was chosen by a second vote of 3-2.

"It's one of those boxes we have to check in order to get to the end result of a full-time superintendent. So it's good to know that as Dr. Akin transitions, there is someone who has worked with him who knows some of the inner workings already who is ready to move us forward," said Elisa Ferrell, board president. "She's got a big-picture of what's going on in our system, and I think she'll be fine."

Huntsville City Schools has 180 days from May 31, which is Akin's last day, in order to choose a new full-time superintendent. Ferrell said the board will now put their heads together to decide how they want to conduct the search and the values they are looking for in a new leader, while preparing to end one school year and start another.

"It's a lot of work. It is a lot of work. It's also a lot of work to get the budget ready and to get the schools ready and run the first semester. We have done it before as a board," she said of the search, "we can do it again and hopefully we can knock this out quickly and take care of our kids.