HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Huntsville has a new plan to move forward from a federal desegregation order, and the school system does so with a judge’s opinion that the consent agreement is a good solution.
Wednesday, school administrators and board members spoke at a news conference to applaud U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala, who issued an opinion Tuesday in support of the proposed consent agreement between Huntsville City Schools and the Department of Justice. The two sides reached the consent after several months of mediation.
“Every school in Huntsville City Schools will benefit from the proposed consent order,” said Dr. Casey Wardynski, Superintendent of Education. “This historic day has been 52 years coming.”
Laurie McCaulley, President of the Huntsville Board of Education, echoed that sentiment.
“Everything we have, every educational opportunity we have will be in the hands of every child,” McCaulley said.
McCaulley also addresses concerns many in north Huntsville have, that schools will remain predominantly African-American under the new student assignment plan.
“My home is in District 1,” said McCaulley. “Diversity may not happen, but equity will. These [changes] won’t necessarily be what our district desires. But what I mean by equity — the advanced course offerings , the Pre-K, the AP classes, the College Academy, all those things — whatever Huntsville City Schools has, will be in the hands of every child.”
Huntsville’s school rezoning plan will take effect in the 2015-16 school year.
One of the major changes to be implemented is with student discipline. The consent agreement calls for a culture change; changing each school’s entire “feeling” to a more positive climate. Walker McGinnis, a former principal, is the current school board member for District 4 and said he has visited local schools to see the new approach being implemented.
“You can get a feel for the positive effects when you walk through the door,” said McGinnis. “We create a positive and safe environment for our students. Our students are our most precious commodity and we need to protect them.”
Some may view the new disciplinary approach as ‘easier said than done.’ Dr. Wardynski acknowledged it won’t happen overnight.
“There’s a lot of work to be done there, with changing the climate to positive,” he said.
District 5 school board member Mike Culbreath said the agreement, and all the months it took to complete it, was done with a single goal.
“The public needs to understand this entire process was done with the children in mind,” said Culbreath. “The children are always first in the schools. This entire process has been done for the betterment of children, and their safety, in Huntsville City Schools.
Wardynski said the next step in the process is to put the various parts of the agreement in place and work through them. This includes teacher assignment, transportation, construction, discipline, magnet schools, majority-to-minority transfers and continuing to improve quality education.
“We’re talking years, but not decades. Certainly not 52 years. We now have a plan in place, a very good plan, and one the court expressed a positive opinion about,” said Wardynski. “We’ll implement things and prove we can sustain them, once we’re under local control.”
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Wardynski added that applications for magnet schools are up 120 percent due increased notification to students and families, which was another facet of the court agreement.
WHNT News 19 is covering several angles of the ruling today. We’ll have more throughout the day on WHNT.com and team coverage in our newscasts Wednesday on WHNT News 19.