One Year Later: Another Search for Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Begins

Submitted by Phyllis Jones, SON Sr. Staff Writer

HUNTSVILLE SCHOOL BOARD – – (ABOVE LEFT – RIGHT): Michelle Watkins, School Board, District 1; Elisa Ferrell, School Board President, District 3; former Huntsville School Superintendent Dr. Matt Akin; Beth Wilder, School Board Third Presiding Officer, District 2; Walker McGinnis, School Board Vice President, District 4; and Pam Hill, School Board, District 2. Dr. Matt Akin has agreed to become the first superintendent of Gulf Shores City Schools effective June 1, 2018

During the past 17 years, there have been three superintendents for Huntsville City Schools. Dr. Ann Roy Moore served as superintendent from 2001 until 2011. She received favorable reviews including Superintendent of the year for 2008. However, any continuance of her leadership became

questionable when the district began facing financial issues and there were massive layoffs as a result. Not to say this was their reasoning, but the Board voted not to renew her contract.

Dr. Casey Wardynski, a retired Army colonel who taught economics at West Point, replaced Moore. After serving Huntsville City Schools since 2011, Dr. Wardnski resigned September 2016. His resignation came a month after the arrival of two newly elected board members who opposed his views. In addition, Dr. Wardynski announced his engagement and intent to marry Ms. Karen Lee. Lee was the CEO of Pinnacle School, an alternative placement school for Huntsville City School system. If the marriage between the two would have taken place while Dr. Wardynski was still superintendent, he believed that it could become an issue.

Nobody saw it coming – – It took less than 48 hours for (center) former Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski to tell the school board he was resigning, to announce it to the public, and then to have his resignation accepted.(LEFT): Former District 1 School Board member, Laurie McCaulley and (RIGHT) Elisa Ferrell, School Board, District 3

Numerous interviews after Wardynski’s departure, the new kid on the block was Dr. Matt Akin. Dr. Akin was the Superintendent of Piedmont City School District. He began his term as Superintendent for Huntsville City Schools March 2017 and will move on the greener pastures May 31, 2018. Dr. Atkin will become the new superintendent for the Gulf Shores School District beginning June 1, 2018.

So, where do we go from here? School Board member Michelle Watkins (District 1) did not vote for Dr. Atkin, but regrets losing him and considers him a man of honor and integrity who puts students first. When asked if anything can be done to prevent another quick superintendent position turnover, Watkins replied, “A contract that will ensure that if the Superintendent left early, the district will recoup part of their salary.” She went on to suggest that creating a work atmosphere of collaboration would also be helpful. “We are a district of 24,000 students and it is difficult to please everyone. However, we need to allow the Superintendent to operate free from pressure from individuals and organizations.”

Laura McCaulley, former School Board Representative and President, also had a few superintendent selection suggestions to consider. She suggested that the next superintendent should be familiar with the Desegregation Order. This individual should have also studied the data and academic progress or the lack thereof, and develop a draft plan on how to progress.

Last but not least, McCaulley believes that experience in a diverse environment (racial, socio-economic), including the diversity of thought, will be helpful.

In the meantime, Christie Finely, the school system’s current Deputy Superintendent of Strategy and Innovation, will serve as Interim Superintendent. The board has 180 days to permanently fill this position.