Huntsville school board hopefuls discuss district's troubles - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Huntsville school board hopefuls discuss district's troubles

Candidates had 30-90 seconds to reply to questions posed to them. (Source: WAFF) Candidates had 30-90 seconds to reply to questions posed to them. (Source: WAFF)

Round two. Monday night, Huntsville School Board candidates were in the hot seat for the second time ahead of municipal elections.

All of the candidates answered questions about controversial issues the district is presently dealing with.

It was an opportunity for the public to hear the responses and decide who they will vote for later this month in the election.

Topics ranged from communication problems in the district to the desegregation order. Depending on the question, candidates had 30 to 90 seconds to give their replies.

Communication was one of the first proverbial pitches candidates had to swing at. District 3 candidate Ellen Brusick and Pat Sanders, as well as District 2 candidate Richard Buchanan made it clear that communication with teachers is a top priority.

"I would definitely go to the schools and ask the principals and teachers what is going on, and I would bring that back to the board," said Brusick.

"Talking to teachers, they feel like they work in a hostile work environment," said Sanders.

"We need to make sure that we, from top down, along with our superintendent, are showing the same respect and dignity that we expect them to show to our kids," said Buchanan.

Anson Knowles, also running in District 3, said he would work to change current policies regarding communication, citing the public comment portion of board meetings, which he said needs to be given "equal respect." He suggested that portion should be extended and be aired live on the district's public television station.

District 4 candidate Walter McGuinness wants more town hall meetings. His opponent, Kimberly Battle, said the board needs to be more up-front with the public, especially when it comes to major issues like the desegregation order.

"Part of the reason there is such confusion now is because the public wasn't included in this major change that we are going through," she said.

When asked about what the candidates view as the biggest challenge, District 3 candidate Kathy Rooker said the overall climate has to change in the district. Her opponent, Elisa Ferrell, said her biggest issue was getting schools off the failing schools list.

Beth Wilder, District 2 candidate, said achieving unitary status will be challenging, but key to moving forward.

Each candidate was also asked to rate Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski. Nearly everyone said when it comes to doing the things he was asked to do, such as fixing the budget, he deserves an "A." However, when it comes to communication, most said there was plenty of room to improve.

In their first forum, held Aug. 13, topics revolved around progress the district was making and how to continue to make that success grow.

Voters will choose who they want to replace departing school board members David Blair, Jennie Robinson and Topper Birnie in the city’s elections on Aug. 26.

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