HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - At his first Huntsville City Schools' State of the Schools Address, Superintendent Matt Akin told the public about how he plans to accomplish the schools' vision of becoming the model public education system in the nation.
He has only been in town for around five weeks, but he believes the boots on the ground are the key.
"If there's anything I want to accomplish for the rest of the year and my tenure is to recognize the teachers and give them the support they deserve," Akin said to applause.
Later, Akin told WHNT News 19, "I don't think it would be fair to say it's better than it was 5 weeks ago. I think that the state of Huntsville schools is good. I think we have to work on communicating and letting people know the great things going on. But I think probably the biggest key is connecting with our teachers and celebrating the value they bring to the school system."
Akin highlighted the good things going on in the district, from academic student stars to AP courses, career academies, and growth.
"By the start of next school year we will have completed 10 new facilities in the past five years," he explained, noting that the new Grissom High and Morris P-8 open in the fall.
But he knows things need to go up and on. Akin has several plans for the future including:
- Recruiting teachers through scholarship incentives and partnerships with local colleges
- Increasing the percentage of Nationally Board Certified teachers
- Expanding curriculum with personalized learning
- Adding a "power hour" to help high school students connect and do more activities
- Continuing and expanding support for fine arts and athletics
Akin said he believes a blend of technology and creativity will provide more opportunities to reach every child.
"It's important that as we think of the future, we think innovatively and think outside of the box. It's not just a traditional 8-to-3 school day," he explained.
Akin wants everyone to buy in, and provide suggestions to make Huntsville City Schools better.
"We have kids sitting in classes in every one of our schools every day that can't wait. They need us to move forward and move forward quickly," he said.
Akin added that the schools were in good financial shape, and holding two months operating funds in reserves. He wants to continue doing that.
We spoke with the district's Alabama Education Association UniServ Director, Adam Keller, about how he thought the speech went.
"I think there was a nice emphasis on recognizing our teachers and how important they are for the future of our school system," said Keller. "I think it's positive. It's been a hard several years, but I think Dr. Akin, with community support, we can rally around him."
Akin said there is more to be done, and the district is making strides on the issues that hold it back.
"All the issues, whether it's teacher retention or discipline, those things have been ongoing conversations," he said. "One of my top priorities has been to connect with teachers and principals and hear it straight from them, how we can improve. And I've been really impressed with some of their ideas. We will start implementing some of them over the summer."
Akin came to Huntsville City Schools following former superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski's departure. The school board chose Akin to lead the district. He started March 13th, but has told WHNT News 19 he is off to a running start.
"It's been busy, but it's been busy in a good kind of way," Akin said in an interview two weeks ago. "There's so many good things going on. I've been able to get out in schools some. Not as much as I would like. But if I can't get in during the day, I try to get to an event on the weekend or at night," he said. "It's been a good way to get to know the community and the teachers and kids."