These are the comments I made at the closing meeting tonight.
Over the past decade, the population of Huntsville has grown by 13.5%. During that same period, and unlike the rest of the state, the workforce of Huntsville has grown by 8.2%. Additionally, live births in Huntsville have increased by nearly 10%. And yet, over the past decade, Huntsville City School enrollment has remained flat, while enrollment at private schools and parents homeschooling their children has exploded.
This should indicate to you, Dr. Richardson, Dr. Moore, Dr. Wilson, and to the School Board members who are present that parents in the city of Huntsville have lost faith in the leadership of our school system. Respectfully, Dr. Richardson, your performance since February has not corrected that problem. Nor has the Demographer’s report.
In March, we lost faith in the leadership of this system when we learned that you planned to segregate special needs students.
We lost faith when Mr. Blair promised that nothing could happen without board approval even though even though those segregation plans were already being implemented.
We lost faith when you refused to put your plans in writing.
We lost faith in you Dr. Richardson, when you claimed on April 7, 2011 that you had not considered making cuts to special education, even though 41% of the support personnel cuts are special education cuts. Additionally, 53% of the cuts made when the ONIN contract was cancelled were special education cuts.
On the closing issue, we have lost faith in you when you told Dr. Robinson on June 2, that, giving the board and a specific business case, and not just state averages, would, and I quote, “just confuse it at this point.” You repeated the same sentiment, that the board would need to make a decision before the actual figures could be determined, to parents on Tuesday night.
In short, we have lost faith in the leadership of Huntsville City Schools. That is why enrollment has declined. That is why closing schools in the manner you are currently taking will only exacerbate the problem.
If you are interested in solutions and not just creating additional problems please, I implore you, the superintendent, and the board to do the following.
- You must show the public that your decisions, every single one of them, are being made in the best interests of the students. I know that having a financially solvent system is an important part of meeting the student’s needs, but it is only ONE part of the total picture.
- You must provide the public with a specific detailed analysis of exactly the cost savings that will be produced as a result of the closings. Your state averages are not sufficient. There are not “too many options” in this proposal to do that. There are only two options in this plan. There are no options for Butler, New Century, Davis Hills, Monte Sano, West Mastin Lake, or Monteview.
- The school system must publish all financial records on the web on a monthly basis. The reason we are in a financial mess is that the finances of the system are being managed in the dark.
Finally, Dr. Richardson, you claimed, at least twice, Tuesday night that parents, “always support high standards until their kid brings home a D.” Respectfully sir, good parents support high standards even when their child doesn’t reach them. You are not winning public trust by insulting us. Until these steps are taken, this “plan” for closing schools must be put on hold.