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HSV Times article: "'Summit' speakers show schools spirit"
Sunday, April 12, 2009
By KENNETH KESNER -Huntsville Times
Times Staff Writer This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

More involvement by parents is one hope after session

Eddie Turner was in the pulpit Saturday morning, delivering a fervent sermon on the importance of making sure all students get the best possible education and preparation for work so our country can prosper in the competitive global marketplace.

"At the rate we're going, we're giving away our standard of living," said Turner, principal of the Huntsville Center for Technology. He was among the speakers for an "education summit" to explore "Real Challenges, Real Choices, Unified Solutions" held at Union Hill Primitive Baptist Church, where about 150 parents, teachers and community leaders shared information, ideas and experience.

The aim was to empower everyone who is willing to take action that benefits the school systems, said the Rev. Dr. Oscar Montgomery, pastor.

"It's going to take all of us," he said, talking about the need to see teaching as a ministry rather than a job if you want to make a difference.

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore discussed the system's strategic plan and curriculum audit; Huntsville Times reporter Challen Stephens talked about what he found in writing about student achievement and testing; Barbara Williams of Huntsville City Schools Pupil Services talked about student discipline; and Turner addressed preparing students for the work force.

After the round of speakers in the morning, everyone met in smaller groups on the impact of poverty, new teaching strategies, family and parental involvement, student perspectives and the A+ College Ready initiative to better prepare students for rigorous college science and math classes.

Moore fielded a number of questions from the audience, ranging from how best to get district curriculum or testing data to whether any federal economic stimulus dollars would be coming to schools. When someone inquired about the federal desegregation order the system operates under, she pointed out that it must be seen as a city-wide issue, not simply an education or schools problem.

"The school system is a reflection of the local community," Moore said to applause.

She said people at the summit were responsive to what they heard, that she expected it to spark dialogue and, perhaps, more involvement.

"We need as much of that as we can get, as long as it's positive," Moore said.

"We have people here who are listening intently," said Scott McLain, chairman of the Schools Foundation of Huntsville and Madison County. He hopes that more people, regardless of their job or role in the community, will "buy in" to the idea that they must take responsibility for helping make area schools the best they can be.

"Education is the most important aspect of Huntsville's quality of life and economic development," he said.

Montgomery said the summit idea was, in part, born out of frustration.

"The frustration as a result of my observations about the real and perceived inequities across the school system," he said.

Laurie McCaulley, who represents northwest Huntsville on the school board, was one of the summit organizers. She was very pleased with the participants at the "grass-roots" event, said they captured a great deal of information and is optimistic they would follow up with action.

"They are truly committed to the process of making things better," McCaulley said. "When you know better, you do better."

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