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Huntsville, Madison County schools celebrate AP increases

Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2010, 5:30 AM

Crystal Bonvillian, The Huntsville Times

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NEW MARKET, AL - There was celebration in the air at Buckhorn High School on Tuesday.

The school was the setting for the announcement that it is one of seven high schools in Huntsville and Madison County that have made huge leaps in their Advanced Placement scores for college credit in math, science and English.

Buckhorn and Hazel Green, Madison County and Sparkman high schools increased their passing scores on AP exams by 266 percent, the highest district increases in the state.

Three Huntsville schools, Columbia, Lee and Huntsville high, have increased their district's passing scores by 69 percent.

Those feats were accomplished in just a year's time, from the 2008-09 school year to the 2009-10 school year.

The 2009-10 year was the first year that both districts participated in the A+ College Ready program. The program, a division of the A+ Education Partnership, provides training, resources and incentives to help schools expand their AP programs.

"I think it's wonderful," Dr. Ann Roy Moore, superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, said about the increases. "As a system, we took a chance on this program. This took a huge investment from the system, and I'm really proud of the increases we see."

Dr. Terry Davis, superintendent of Madison County Schools, agreed.

"I am very excited about how our kids have done," Davis said as he watched students mill about in Buckhorn's gym. "This is what it's all about, right here."

Tommy Ledbetter, principal of Buckhorn, said his school's success is because of its participation in the program.

"I can personally attest to the impact this program has had on our school," Ledbetter said. "Before A+ College Ready, we had little to no AP success. This program has given the teachers the tools to be successful."

A+ College Ready was created in 2007. In its first year, it was used in 12 schools in Montgomery and Jefferson counties.

Last year, when Huntsville and Madison County got involved, it was used in 23 schools in five districts.

For the 2010-11 school year, it is in 43 schools in 17 districts, according to the program website. More schools are being considered.

Mary Boehm, president of A+ College Ready, said the program helps districts and their students improve their AP scores, but it also provides funding for AP courses to districts that otherwise do not have the resources.

Sandra Spivey, director of secondary education for Madison County Schools, said her district was on that list.

"We were ready for this," Spivey said. "We wanted to offer AP courses but, the bottom line is, it costs money."

In turn, the program brings AP courses to students who otherwise might not have the opportunity.

"People tend to think that AP is for the top 10 percent of students," Boehm said. "We're saying, 'Bust open the doors.' "


Baldwin County Education Coalition moving on long-range planning initiative

Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 6:52 AM on

Connie Baggett, Press-Register

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BAY MINETTE, Alabama -- With a successful sales tax campaign done and political clout growing, leaders in the Baldwin County Education Coalition said the group is moving on to its next project: making long-range plans with a reliable funding source for schools.

"I think the most meaningful part of this process so far has been the response we've gotten from participants," said Denise D'Oliveira, one spokeswoman for the initiative. "To sit with people -- all kinds of citizens -- in their homes and churches and listen to them talk about the community they want for their children and grandchildren has been nothing short of inspiring."

Most people just want to be heard, she said, and the talks will help direct the coalition's long-term proposals to school officials. "Given the large number of folks who have participated, we will have a much clearer sense of where we want to go as a community -- with the community being all of Baldwin County -- not just our own neighborhoods," D'Oliveira said.

In dozens of meetings across the county over the past months with parents, teachers and other leaders, coalition members led what they call "community conversations" designed to focus attention on education.

D'Oliveira told a gathering in Bay Minette last week that more than 70 meetings with more than 1,000 people had already taken place by mid-September. The meetings focus on six questions based on a tested public engagement model. The resulting discussions will help the group list priorities for a "community agreement."

Once the meetings wrap up in October, the coalition will formulate the agreement and present it to the Baldwin County Board of Education in December as a tool to help guide long-range planning.

The coalition of the seven education foundations in the county formed in September 2009 as the worst recession since the Great Depression left the Baldwin County Public School finances in shambles. The system serving some 28,000 students lost more than $61 million in state and local funding over a two-year period. Responding to the financial pressure, the system shed hundreds of employees including teachers and cut popular programs. Board members voted to close two schools. Superintendent Faron Hollinger left in December, a year before the end of his contract.

The foundations representing each feeder pattern include South Baldwin Chamber Foundation, North Baldwin Coalition for Excellence in Education, Supporting Educational Enrichment in Daphne Schools, Central Baldwin Education Foundation, Alabama Gulf Coast Area Education Enrichment Foundation, Fairhope Educational Enrichment Foundation and Spanish Fort Educational Enrichment Foundation.

Despite a down economy, voters approved a 3-year, 1-percent sales tax in March to help bridge the financial gap and save hundreds of additional layoffs.

Newly appointed Superintendent Alan Lee took the helm of the system in July and started restructuring management.

The coalition meetings follow the "Yes We Can" model developed in Mobile County in 2001 when voters there supported the first property tax increase for schools in 40 years.

In the meetings, leaders ask those who attend to answer questions like "What kind of community do we want to live in?" and "What do we want public schools to be like?" among others. Answers from one community to the other are strikingly similar, coalition members said.

Parents want strong teachers with ongoing professional development, some said, and they want better communication with administrators both in local schools and in the central office. They want openness and challenging curriculum with logical ties to industry and business in the area. They want aggressive economic development, and community pride. Parents want all students in the county to have the same opportunities to achieve, according to feedback from various meetings.

One main challenge listed for the county was funding. Parents agreed that local and statewide education funding needs to come from a more stable source than sales tax.

Education funding in Alabama comes primarily from income taxes and sales taxes, both of which can be erratic revenue streams. Baldwin schools also depend heavily on sales taxes for local funding, so the economic downturn hit the system hard.

Several at the Bay Minette meeting agreed that sales taxes need to be lowered and property taxes increased for schools.

Overall, D'Oliveira said, people want excellent schools and greater accountability and the move to secure reliable funding for schools is advancing statewide.

Terry Burkle, who leads the Central Baldwin Chamber foundation, said planning and holding the evening meetings have been hectic, but worth the effort.

"Everyone wants the same thing: the very best for our children," Burkle said. "And the best way to achieve our aspirations is by working in solidarity."


The Schools Foundation: Speak Up Initiative Receives $10,000 Donation from ADTRAN

The Schools Foundation:  Speak Up Initiative Receives $10,000 Donation from ADTRAN

Huntsville, Ala.-October 1, 2010


The Schools Foundation community engagement initiative Speak Up: A community partnership in support of public education in Huntsville, Madison, and Madison County has received a donation of $10,000 from ADTRAN, Inc..  Speak Up is designed to bring citizens together to talk about the state of local public education and to effect positive change in schools.


Speak Up is a program of The Schools Foundation that launched in August with a community forum.  The program's purpose is to give individuals and organizations-through community conversations-the opportunity to address what they perceive to be the public schools' strengths, weaknesses, and wishes.  The program's mission is a unified plan to enhance the quality of local education developed through a shared vision, shared responsibilities, and an identification of the resources needed to guarantee the plan's success.


"Education powers the success of our business," Delen Boyd of ADTRAN said as he presented the check to Schools Foundation board member David Blair and executive director Debbie Beaupre.  In supporting Speak Up, ADTRAN sets the pace for businesses to recognize that education is the means to a competent, quality, sound workforce and a healthy, prosperous community and to support the effort.


ADTRAN provides networking and communications equipment around the world and is headquartered in Huntsville.


The Schools Foundation is a 501©3 non-profit organization supporting the three public school systems in Madison County, Alabama.  The foundation serves as an advocate and leading organization for community engagement, as well as a vehicle for individuals and businesses to support public education.  The Schools Foundation's mission is to create higher expectations and widespread community support for Madison County schools, leading to world-class performance of principals, teachers, and students.  For more information about opportunities for school partnerships, contact The Schools Foundation at 256-503-3213 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .










Joe Still, Speak Up Co-Chair and Steve Mann, Schools Foundation Board Member and Speak Up Leadership Team Member

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