HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)- School administrators updated the mission vision and strategic goals for the future of public education across Madison county.

The State of the Schools address was held Wednesday to highlight Pre-K through 12th-grade education programs that are preparing students for long-term success in our region.

The update took place in the midst of the 2023 Alabama legislative session. Public education is always an important topic of discussion for the legislature and this time so is public safety.

Attendees heard updates from the superintendents of Huntsville City Schools, Madison County Schools, and Madison City Schools about programs, policies, and performance in our local systems and the relevance of preparing children for the workforce of today and the future.

A key component in that conversation addressed school safety. This comes amidst recent events of increased school violence and during the 2023 legislative session. Of the bills that address education, Madison County educators said they are watching a bill that would require schools to have regular lockdown drills involving school resource officers.

The superintendents said they have safety plans in place and steps to increase safety in the works.

“Really the first line of safety starts at home you know reminding parents to check their child’s backpacks you know to have those conversations of what to do if you see someone you need to tell an adult,” explained current Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley.

“What you really want to focus on is a first line of entry but then response. And so we’ve got some things that we will roll out in the next couple of weeks that will be new to Madison City Schools that will address specifically some upgrades in our safety and our response,” said Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols.

All three superintendents said they work closely with local law enforcement on school safety on a regular basis and to prepare for crisis times. HB 42 asks for an update in school emergency operations plans for regularly scheduled lockdown drills, and to designate the days on which lockdown drills are conducted as school safety and awareness days.

Among Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Schools, and Madison County Schools there are more than 54,000 students enrolled in K through 12th grades. All of whom are counting on these schools to help their ability to learn and succeed.

Much of the way schools operate and succeed is geared around the goals of superintendents. among the three who discussed their strategic goals, one is leaving.

The superintendent of Huntsville City Schools announced Friday that she will be retiring at the end of the school year. Christie Finley has over 30 years of experience in public education and has been superintendent of the school system since 2018. In one of her last appearances as superintendent, Finley accredited her success to teachers.

“I was raised to always when you go into something you leave it better when you leave it than when you found it,” said Finley. “But I think that that is a testament to the team that we have in Huntsville City Schools. At the end of the day, it’s the teachers and it’s those in the buildings that are the most important people and they continue to do a tremendous job. And I just wish them the best to keep the focus on the main thing and that’s our students.”

Huntsville City School board members say they’ve started to make plans for the next superintendent search. The board is set to share plans related to the superintendent search in the coming days.

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Administrators say they hope that school policies and practices will promote greater awareness and early identification of children’s needs, interests, and ability to learn while fostering who they turn out to be later in life.

The Madison City Schools superintendent said an acknowledgment and focus on mental health is a key component to kids’ futures. He also said we’re playing catchup in dealing with mental issues in schools.

“We’ve increased the requirements on our counselors more paperwork testing and less time for them to do interactions with our students when our students need help,” said Nichols. “So I think it’s a mental health thing in our school districts that we need support but I think it a community mental health issue in that, you know, several years ago we moved away from supporting mental health at the state level and we have got to reengage in our communities to support those that need mental services.”