Q&A: HCS Closing Meeting #5 Continued–New Century and Lee Questions


So why exactly was the new Lee High School built? Why is the demographer recommending that New Century be moved to Lee? Honestly, we may never know, but I believe there are some clues in the Q&A found below. Here are the continuing questions from the final community meeting on Tuesday. You may read the first collection of question here.

Lee Crowd 4

  • Q: Would New Century still exist in Lee as a separate school?
  • A: Moore responded that Lee was not built to accommodate New Century as a separate school.

This is a much stronger response than the one she offered at the meeting held at Columbia High school. There she claimed that she didn’t know if New Century would continue to operate as a separate school. Thus, instead of the demographer’s report recommending the closing of only one high school, it is in actuality recommending the closure of two high schools. One of which was just nationally recognized.

  • Q: What is the justification for moving New Century to Lee if it doesn’t save money?
  • A: Richardson agrees that moving New Century to Lee would not save money. It will instead help with overcrowding at Columbia. Moore followed up by saying that moving the schools will help to avoid overcrowding in the future. She then proceeded to offer her opinion about the need to re-zone in the future. She stated, “Huntsville doesn’t typically rezone, but now we have to. The financial situation has forced us to do so.”

Again, this simply doesn’t make sense. When they were, just earlier that evening, asked about how overcrowding issues would be addressed, Wilson, Moore and Richardson all claimed that that would have to be dealt with in rezoning that would take place after the closure decisions were made. If that’s good enough for the rest of the system, why isn’t the overcrowding of Columbia being dealt with via rezoning as well?


It would seem that New Century is being singled out in the rezoning issue in a way that won’t happen to the rest of the schools until later.


Honestly, the only justification that I can see for doing this is that someone has realized that building a $40,000,000 school that is projected to operate at a third of it’s existing capacity is going to cause problems. In order to cover up this horrifically bad decision, they’ve decided, before re-zoning takes place, to move New Century students to Lee to cover it up.

New Century is being used to cover up wasting $40,000,000.

Let me be clear here, the current Lee High School is in need of help. It does certainly have issues that the board needed to address. But, it seems once again that the board, the superintendent and the system made a decision to build the new Lee without any clear understanding of the need in the area. If you’re replacing a high school that is currently operating at half capacity and is projected to operate at a third capacity, then why would you build a new high school that has a higher capacity?

Reasonable people would not do so.

Oh and Dr. Moore, thank you for your assessment that now Huntsville is going to have to rezone. Interesting, you’ve been in office as either the assistant Superintendent or as the Superintendent for more than ten years, and yet during that time we’ve hear nothing from you concerning re-zoning. But seriously, we appreciate your candor as you walk out of your current office and into another one in the central office where you will still be paid your same salary until at least the end of the year. It’s helpful that you’re finally attempting to do your job now that it no longer is your job to do.

  • Q: Has Huntsville City Schools submitted a request to the Justice Department to close Butler?
  • A: Moore responded that we haven’t submitted an actual request about closing Butler to the Justice Department yet. But yes, the Justice Department is aware of Butler.

It’s impossible for this panel of experts to answer a direct question.

  • Q: A member of the community stood to oppose the closings of Davis Hills, Ed White, and Westlawn. He stated that if you do in fact save $500,000 with the closing of a middle school that we would then in effect be placing a $1.5 million dollar bet on a risky proposition.
  • A: Richardson responded that the decision would be the boards, but that he didn’t like the idea of combining three middle schools into a vacated Butler building either.
  • Q: What are the plans to improve schools in the north to avoid transfers to other schools? What will we do to improve Huntsville City Schools to assist in attracting BRAC personnel?
  • A: Richardson claimed that he believed that BRAC has been harmed by the quality of the schools. He says that the community needs to envision what the system will look like down the road. As poverty is a direct indicator of school performance, raising standards will require more resources to be directed to the schools in the north. But, he added, “everyone wants stronger discipline until their child receives detention, everyone wants high standards until their child brings home a D.”

It would really be nice if the leadership of this plan and our system could realize that insulting parents by implying that they don’t want high standards but rather special treatment for their child is not going to help solve the problems we face.


In fact, that very attitude of seeing parental involvement as a problem to be dealt with rather than a resource to be mined is at least one of the reasons why enrollment in the school system has declined while the population has grown. As you have left town, Dr. Richardson, I know that I don’t have to worry about hearing such insults from you in the future, but please, for the other systems that you might be called in to assist, stop insulting parents. If schools are going to improve, you’re going to need their support.

  • Q: We need equal support for both north and south schools.
  • A: Richardson agrees and uses this as an argument for closing schools. He says that class sizes go up when you cut personnel. Closing schools will allow you to have additional resources to meet critical needs.

This is a valid argument, and one that I believe most parents in the system can support. The problem is that neither the demographer’s report nor anything shared by Dr. Richardson in the subsequent meetings has offered any evidence that these closing will actually generate additional resources for the system. In other words, had the $75,000 we spent to generate the demographer’s report been well spent, the community might be able to support the closing of certain schools. As the standard response has been, “we’ll give you actual numbers only after the schools are closed,” they’ve given us nothing to win our support.

  • Q: When will the analysis of actual savings from the closings be released?
  • A: Richardson responded that Dr. Pouncey is bring additional state data to share with the Board at their meeting on Thursday, June, 23. Richardson has found out that the cost of demolishing as school is between $2 and 2.90 per square foot. He offered no specific data or information on the estimated cost savings for closing specific schools.

Nor did he offer any discussion of the report that was posted on the web earlier that day entitled “Consolidated Savings.pdf.” Although the fax header on this report shows that someone in the central office received this file on Wednesday, June 15th, it was not discussed at the school closing meeting on June 16th, even though Richardson received a direct and specific question about these numbers as the second question that night.


Needless to say, there are many issues with the numbers in this report. The first of which is, why have they included teacher’s salaries in this report at all? If the teacher was going to be fired, it would have happened even if the schools hadn’t closed. And if the teachers at the closed schools moved to other schools, there was no cost savings at all.

This again demonstrates the system’s inability to produce accurate data that they are willing to discuss.

This is why we don’t trust their leadership.

Ed. Note: The Q&A will conclude in the posting to follow.

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"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. Thanks for posting this very interesting and informative blog. You are absolutely right that New Century is being used, not only to cover the collective behind of the school board, but also to justify their pet projects by using New Century to fill voids they create until there is again no room for New Century. This is not the first time New Century has been(ab)used in such a way. New Century was the whole reason land was donated in research the park. The entire faculty of New Century was driven to the site and told by members of the school board that it was the site of their “new home.” They were told that the school built was to BE New Century. Then, once the building started, the plans were changed. It galls me that a remarkable school like New Century is not just being overlooked by our school board, but it is being fostered out to justify every building expense they make.

    Twelve years they’ve been shoved aside and forced from place to place, and even without a permanent home, they have excelled and become one of the strongest schools in the system and the only one recognized by Newsweek as one of the top 500 schools in the nation. They deserve better than this. There is absolutely no reason that the districts cannot be redrawn so that the excess students in what should rightfully be New Century Campus can attend elsewhere. There is hardly any neighborhood near that campus to justify a neighborhood school of that size.

  2. Concerned About NC: You are absolutely right.

    I began my questioning of the panel Tuesday night at Lee by asking if the purpose of the demographer’s hiring and these meetings was to deal with the $20 million issue. Richardson agreed. I then asked if a single penny would be saved by moving NC. He said no. So I asked why is moving it one of the recommendations. He passed the question to Wilson, who said Columbia was overcrowded. I replied that the building is as much NC’s as it is Columbia’s, and, more importantly, presently the building is not over capacity — unlike Huntsville High, which already is 20% over. He said his projections show in 5 and 10 years’ time Columbia will be. I asked how he came up with these projections. In his long-suffering tone, he said he had shown this every meeting. I told him he had not. At this point Moore snuck in a comment about the community not liking rezoning.

    First, regarding Wilson’s projections. There are materials. And there is methodology. We’ve seen his materials. But not his methodology. It’s like being given a cookbook with a picture of a sack of flour, a sack of sugar, a carton of eggs, and a brick of butter on one page and on the facing page a picture of a cake. That is not a recipe. It is useless.

    It is absurd that a Lee with double needed capacity is being built.

    The Board must have told the demographer not to make any recommendsations regarding zoning because the obvious one is to rezone Huntsville High to alleviate overcrowding there and to make use of the Lee absurdity. But the Huntsville High folks won’t put up with it.

    So make New Century the sacrificial lamb. After all, half its population’s parents live in the Butler/Johnson/Lee zones. They’re used to getting kicked in the gut.

    1. Actually his predictions are that the old Lee will be three times larger than necessary in ten years, not just double. Wonder how long it will take the board to question those numbers? 🙂

  3. I don’t know if school board members are looking at this blog. But I hope they are. For starters, there is nothing we can do to change the decision to build a huge Lee High School. In hindsight, the old school should have been renovated or a much smaller school built. Now, it is way into construction and will be completed soon. I do like the idea of rezoning to put some of the Huntsville High students at Lee. For New Century (where my daughter graduated as its first four-year National Merit Scholar), it would be best served with its own building. I know this means being taken out of research park. But, it’s better than being forced to share a building with another high school. I think the old Clinton School building would be a good consideration for New Century as long as it is renovated into a high school. Stone is another good location for New Century. It is so weird that the school board would even have thought in the first place to put two high schools in the same building. I don’t think this has ever happened anywhere else in the nation. It boils down to very, very poor planning — New Century should have its own high school — somewhere, anywhere. It needs to be its own school and it needs room to grow. Rezone to fill the new Lee with a mix of white and black kids from neighboring zones.

    1. Kari,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and especially to respond. It means a lot to know I’m not the only one out there! 🙂

      I agree that there’s nothing to be done about the new Lee, and as I said, I don’t even disagree with the need for a new high school on the north end. Lee and Johnson are both in poor condition.

      The only reason I bring up questions about the decision to build Lee is that if we fail to learn from our past mistakes (and attempting to cover them up isn’t learning from them) we are going to repeat them, again and again.

      Your ideas for making use of empty buildings makes perfect sense to me.

  4. The panel was asked several times across the public meetings why the new Lee was built for a much greater capacity than needed, and as they did so often, they simply refused to answer the question.

    I find it very sad that the closings/moving NC are targeting many of our best schools! Let’s start this whole process by destroying the good schools… That makes sense to me. I did find it funny that the demographer apparently didn’t realized that one of the schools touted for closure has a magnet school inside of it!

    The demographic report is an abysmal failure. As detailed elsewhere on Have A Little Talk’s blog the vast majority of the report was cut and pasted directly from other sources or is filler. Perhaps 10-12 slides are even original! Repeatedly, the panel was asked for the methodology and other information used to make the report and the answer was always “This is all there is. The report is very solid, contains vast amounts of information, and you, the public, is simply not able to understand it.”

    1. Yeah, my favorite Wilson response was, “Your interpretation of the data is flawed.”

      What they don’t know about this system was astonishing. I’m not convinced that he knew if the data in the report concern Lee High was for the current or the new building. He claimed, after debating it with himself for a long time, that it was for the current Lee, but I am not at all convinced he’s right.

      Even if he is, well then we’re looking at a ten year projection for a school that will be closed in a few months.

      As I’ve said numerous times, this would be funny if we weren’t talking about our children’s future.

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