TODAY: Interviews begin for Huntsville Superintendent finalists

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Huntsville Board of Education has a busy week planned, interviewing each of the five finalists for superintendent between January 17 and January 23.

Each meeting will be held in the board room of the Annie Merts Center, located at 200 White Street and will begin at 5:30 pm. All meetings will be broadcast live on ETV (Comcast channel 17, WOW channel 3, and on the web at  We will also link to each of these interview sessions on

The interview schedule is available at  Board members also want community input about the candidates, so they encourage you to visit this  feedback form. They say staff also has a portal for anonymous commenting, where they can give opinions without fear.

“We want them to feel free to speak their minds about the candidates,” said Board President Elisa Ferrell.

Top: Dr. Agnella Katrise Perera, left and Dr. Matthew Akin, right. Bottom: Dr. Robyne Thompson, left, Dr. Sandra Spivey, center and Dr. Verna Ruffin, right.
Top: Dr. Agnella Katrise Perera, left and Dr. Matthew Akin, right. Bottom: Dr. Robyne Thompson, left, Dr. Sandra Spivey, center and Dr. Verna Ruffin, right.

Here is the candidate interview schedule:

  • Tuesday, January 17 – Dr. Agnella Katrise Perera
  • Wednesday, January 18 – Dr. Sandra Spivey
  • Thursday, January 19 – Dr. Robyne Thompson
  • Friday, January 20 – Dr. Verna Ruffin
  • Monday, January 23 – Dr. Matthew Akin

The board will hold a special called meeting on January 30, 2017 at 5:30 pm to select a possible finalist for superintendent.  The school board hopes the new superintendent will be in place by the beginning of March.

Here is more information about each of the finalists.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the finalists in person, and not just on paper,” commented board president Elisa Ferrell. “There’s nothing that we want more than the right person to be taking care of our children,” she added.

Data pix.


The board developed a list of questions to ask the candidates. Each candidate has the same amount of time to prepare. They will all be asked the same questions, with the exception of the tenth question which is tailored to each candidate:

1. Describe your views on system-wide digital/textbook curricula?

2. Your list of accomplishments is impressive, however, what has been your biggest disappointment or weakness in accomplishing your goals in your current position?

3. Clear communication is vital to success. What methods would you employee to assure clear communication and understanding not only from the superintendent's office to the BOE, but also the superintendent's office to the teacher and the teacher back to the superintendent .

4. What is your perspective on Special Ed, including finances, hiring, and retaining quality Special Ed teachers and aides?

5. Alabama does not require school systems to provide alternative schools for students who have had discipline problems or been expelled. In a purposeful effort to help challenged students complete their education and a diploma, Huntsville City Schools provides these services. It doesn't come without challenges though. What is your experience in dealing with alternative schools and how would you approach the issue should you become superintendent? )

6. We have students of all academic abilities in our school system. How will you decrease the achievement gap, bring up the students who are struggling, and still maintain rigorous course offerings for high performing students?

7. Our community has been under a federal desegregation order for decades. We have recently implemented a consent order with the Federal courts and the Department of Justice. What experience do you have in dealing with the federal courts, what value do you place on achieving unitary status, and how would you lead the system forward in earning unitary status? )

8. We have heard that enrollment in teaching colleges is diminishing at an alarming rate. Teachers in STEM and Special Education are especially difficult to find. There is competition to hire these teachers increasing with the state, and neighboring school systems offer higher base pay. How would you improve teacher retention, given the current conditions across the nation regarding teacher shortages, and lack of adequate funding in the Education Trust Fund?

9. Based on what you know of our school system, what do you think is the greatest potential for improvement and what is your long-term vision for our school system?

10. Our school system has a $261,000,000 budget this year, plus another $53,000,000 in our capital plan. There are 24,000 students and roughly 2500 staff members. In the last system where you served as superintendent your budget was around ______ and your student population was _____. Do you feel you have the experience you need to manage a budget, staff and student population our size? Please explain.