Huntsville schools focus on 1 of 6 steps towards unitary status - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Huntsville schools focusing on 1 of 6 steps towards unitary status

Dr. Casey Wardynski presented proposed changes to Huntsville City Schools at a Thursday special session. Dr. Casey Wardynski presented proposed changes to Huntsville City Schools at a Thursday special session.

The Huntsville city school system announced rezoning projects and plans to close some schools during Thursday's special session.

Later this month and in early February, Huntsville City School leaders will host a series of meetings to talk about future plans for the system.

Following those meetings, school leaders will submit proposed changes to a judge for approval. The system is under a desegregation order and has been for decades, the result of a lawsuit filed in 1963. The order requires federal approval before making changes to zoning or closing schools.

According to Alabama School Connection, 126 of Alabama's 135 school districts faced a desegregation order at that time, including Decatur City Schools.

The Decatur school system has cleared all but one hurdle to being what's called "unitary," the status of which Huntsville City Schools is aiming to achieve.

Federal officials cleared the Decatur City Schools system from five of six requirements in July 2012. The system has been declared compliant in student assignment, non-teacher staff assignment, transportation, facilities, and extracurricular activities.

The federal requirement the Decatur school system is still working on is the certified teacher hiring process. They are not mandated to hire more minority teachers, but to increase the pool of candidates, which in theory would lead to more minority candidates and ultimately more diverse hires.

Decatur Superintendent Ed Nichols said the school system has been expanding the candidate pool over the last seven years, and minority hires have increased by three percent over that time.

Each of these requirements, called "green factors," are intended to guide a school system to show no intentional segregation practices are happening.

Of these six factors, Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski said the district is focusing on student assignment. The board is working with the Department of Justice to meet the requirements in that category before moving on to others on the path to unitary status.

Dr. Wardynski said the step to rezone the schools is a major milestone. "There are proposed boundaries. If a court was to approve those boundaries, they would come into effect not next school year, but the school year after that," he said.

If the DOJ doesn't approve the school re-zoning plan, Wardynski said the school system's lawyers will prepare a case to take to court.

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