A Message for Dr. Wardynski, Superintendent, Huntsville City Schools

Welcome to Huntsville. I hope that what I am going to tell you, you already know, and that what I’m going to suggest is on your agenda. So I will be brief.

In your Entry Plan, you named identifying three things going well in the Huntsville City Schools as one of your goals. Surely, New Century Technology High School must top the list.

  • It is the only school in North Alabama to be named one of America’s best 500 public high schools in the US by Newsweek in 2011.
  • It is a US News Silver Medal School.

The NCTHS graduation program lists 74 graduates in the Class of 2011. Of these:

  • 47 earned advanced diplomas [64%]
  • 45 were Pathway Completers
  • 36 were award advanced diplomas and were Pathway Completers
  • 1 earned an appointment to the US Air Force Academy
  • 24 reported having won at least one merit scholarship [32%]; 51 scholarships are listed, but the final total could well be higher since these figures are based on what information was available before the graduation program went to press.

Consider the demographics of the self-selected 2010-11 student body of 304 (142 female/162 male) pupils:

  • 16 Asian
  • 126 Black
  • 32 Hispanic
  • 1 Indian
  • 129 White

Also, 41.45 % qualify for free or reduced charge lunch. No other school in the City approaches such a racial or ethnic and economic balance.

It would be great to have the resources to enhance all programs at this high school, but the HCS does not. It costs nothing, however, to appreciate and, especially, protect such a school. NCTHS is not a problem and should not be made one.

Unfortunately, such an obvious analysis is not universally shared: one of the poorly executed Facility Utilization Study’s recommendations is to move NCTHS to Lee High School. However,

  • No money would be saved by moving New Century; Dr. Richardson acknowledged this at the fifth school closure public meeting.
  • A move could reasonably be expected to lessen the involvement of local industries in the School’s programs. NCTHS is now located in the same building occupied by Columbia High School in the southwest corner of Cummings Research Park. This is not a residential zone. The property was first secured for New Century to facilitate partnerships with Research Park tech companies, none farther than a 5-minute drive in light, low-speed traffic unlikely to pose problems for new drivers. Lee High School, in contrast, is 10 heavily traveled interstate miles and 20 minutes away from Research Park.

This brings me to my suggestion. Tell the Board to strike this recommendation. Remind them that they hired you to solve problems, not to create new ones; that it is foolish to make a change that would do no good and may well do harm; and that when people and programs are working well, sometimes – often, perhaps — the best thing to do is to stay out of their way and let them get on with it. End of discussion.

 

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