'Year 3 of turnaround' in State of Schools address - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

'Year 3 of turnaround' in State of Schools address

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The superintendent will not speak on the subject of the district's re-zoning plan, according to a spokesperson. The superintendent will not speak on the subject of the district's re-zoning plan, according to a spokesperson.

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski gave his State of the Schools Address on Tuesday, in which he told listeners the city's schools are taking more initiative, calling this "year three of the turnaround" of the system.

At the top of Dr. Wardynski's list of topics was the district's financial state. Only a few years ago, Huntsville City Schools had millions of dollars in debt that has since been cleared.

The superintendent spoke Tuesday about allocating $2-million in funds to a summer school program and paying bonuses to "highly effective teachers." Wardynski went on to address the district's desire to retain the most promising new teachers.

Also on the list of topics was the capital improvement projects planned between now and the 2016-17 school year, including five new schools. Wardynski said the district was on-track to open a ninth-grade academy in August, as well as the new McNair and Jemison schools in August 2016, campuses which he said would  provide "strong programs and a safe learning environment."

Wardynski praised the progress and success of the district's computerized learning initiative, adding that over the past year, 800 visitors have come to Huntsville from around the country to learn about the computerized learning program.

He said that future curricula would include an increased focus on IB, AP and career tech courses and emphasized the value of Common Core standards, promising to keep the issue from becoming a political message.

"I was listening to a consultant tell us about how we ought to structure our magnet schools and there was something about climate change. I'm like, 'That's not happening.' That's a political agenda," said Wardynski.

The group Support Our Students (SOS) has been outspoken in the past about some of the district's decisions. SOS leaders said earlier in the day they did not expect much out of Tuesday's address.

"We're going to hear lots of numbers, but I think parents' minds are kind of numb to the numbers. What they're seeing in the schools and what's being put out there in numbers are two different things," said Terri Michael.

Wardynski also announced what he called a "major coup" - the launch of Green Power USA, a plan to put tracks for experimental electric cars at the new Grissom, Jemison and Whitesburg campuses for the National Green-Powered competition. It would mark the first time the Green Power Trust would hold its comeptitions outside of England.

"I think we're in good hands," said Elisa Ferrell with the Huntsville Council of PTAs. Ferrell has three children in middle school.

"There's always more to be done. There's always more that our kids can achieve and our teachers are well-equipped to do that," she said.

A spokesperson said before the event that Wardynski would not talk about the district's controversial re-zoning plan. However, he alluded to it by pointing out that the system's plans have the endorsement of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He also made reference to school renaming controversies when discussing improved graduation rates within the system. Wardynski said he didn't want students going out with diplomas that were "damaged goods."

As to why he didn't address the issue directly, Wardynski said that when you're being sued, it doesn't make sense to go off making comments that might attract the judge's attention.

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