PIEDMONT, Ala. - Dr. Matthew Akin (or Matt, as he prefers to be called) will soon move from Piedmont City Schools to lead a much larger district, Huntsville City Schools.
He's been superintendent in Piedmont, Alabama, for 14 years. It's been his family's home, and he has put down major roots there. In fact, his wife is a guidance counselor in Piedmont. It's where he raised his kids, and his wife's family lives there, too.
"It was a very hard decision. My heart and soul is in Piedmont, because we've all worked so hard together," he confessed about his decision to apply for the Huntsville job.
But when he saw the Huntsville City Schools job posting, he says it awakened a dream he didn't even realize he had.
"I think Huntsville was always in the back of my mind," he explained.
Akin says he has always worked for Piedmont City Schools to be the best for the children it serves. He explained that he has, in many ways, led the district in innovation.
He has some high goals for when he arrives in Huntsville, too.
"One goal is, as the superintendent and board, we need to be a team. We need to have some time to have real conversations, real honest conversations. I mentioned having retreats," he said.
He also wants to get out and meet people, standing by his interview goal to spend many hours per week in the schools ("It's all about scheduling") and go to band, sports and other after-school events.
"It's just who I am and who I've been for 14 years, so I won't change that," he commented.
He said he will also plan on spending lots of time listening to the community, and starting several innovative projects during his first few months. But he's not sure what those may include, because he still needs to address the schools' needs.
"You can't go work in Huntsville City Schools and not innovate," he explained, "because there's innovation going on all over the city."
Of the consent order that he must work hard to follow in his new role, he said: "It's not intimidating-- it truly is a pathway to, 'Here's what you need to be doing to make your school system the best possible, serve the kids in Huntsville the best way.'"
Instead, he noted what makes him most agitated about the move.
"I guess it's fair to say I'm a little overwhelmed, because there's so many things I want to-- I care about this district so much, and I want to make sure when I leave, as many loose ends are tied up."
During a walk-through of Piedmont Middle School, Akin stopped to say hello to teachers, students, office personnel and aides.
"He's very easy to work with," explained Akin's colleague and Piedmont Chief Financial officer Alicia Gilley. She laughed, "The day we heard he got the position, he was going to get one day of mourning, and that would be it. So we all dressed in solid black!"
"It was all in good humor," Akin chuckled.
We asked Akin if he can handle the size of Huntsville City Schools. Piedmont has three schools, and Huntsville has six high schools alone.
"If I didn't think I could rise to the challenge, I wouldn't have applied," said Akin in response. "You don't apply for a job you don't think you can do. Certainly I can, but it will be a challenge. I'm smart enough to know it's a lot of work." He reiterated that his job is also to surround himself with smart people to help him along the way.
That's how he feels he's leaving Piedmont: in good hands.