Former school board member discusses Huntsville superintendent search

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - As the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education continues the search process, there is much talk within the community about who they will choose as the district's next superintendent. A vote could come as early as next Monday.

Former board member David Blair is familiar with superintendent searches. He has been through two of them. Now, he's watching the interviews from the sidelines.

"The superintendent job is a big job, it's at 24/7 kind of job," he explained. "This interview process was like a marathon for those candidates. They came in early morning, meeting with everybody. It's a long day, but it's a long day being a superintendent."

He said that's why it was important for the board to get so much time with the candidates.

He explained that out of the five options, he knows who he would choose.

"Akin or Ruffin are kind of my top 2 out of that," he ventured, "but it's pretty close because they all had good answers."

Blair said he liked candidate Matthew Akin because of his innovation, although he worries about the size school system Akin is leading currently.

"He'll have to adjust to the size of the system, but I think some of that energy, that interest, the innovative ways he looks at things could be a real boon," said Blair.

Of finalist Verna Ruffin, he explained, "She gave really good insight of how she's handled things in the past, which is a really good indicator of how she'll handle things in the future."

Blair believes the board should look at how the candidates interact with teachers and staff, can handle the desegregation order, and deal with finances. He said those are the big three subjects that could make or break a candidate in this search.

What's important now is that when the board begins to discuss the options, they reach a consensus. Board President Elisa Ferrell said she isn't sure how easily that will come.

When we asked Blair what he thought, he said the odds that this board will agree on a finalist, at least right away, are slim. But he thinks the goal would be to at least achieve a 4-1 vote, noting that it's difficult to please everyone.

"You're not going to like 100% of a person, so what you really want to do is what's important to you, and really see what candidate lines up with that," he explained.

Now, it's important for parents to give their feedback about the finalists. Blair's advice: "All the candidates have negatives, but they all have strong positives. So find which one lines up best with you, and we will live with the negatives as long as the positives are strong enough to really move the system forward.

"Remember, education is the cornerstone of economic development in this area," he continued. "It goes to who can we hire, what businesses we can attract, it goes into so many things. It's vital. So please get involved, call your representative, write your representative, let them know what you think."

Click here for more coverage of the superintendent search on WHNT News 19.

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