Two groups address Demopolis BOE in Monday meeting

Dr. Milton Young addresses the Demopolis City Schools BOE in Monday's meeting. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Dr. Milton Young addresses the Demopolis City Schools BOE in Monday’s meeting. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

In a standing-room-only meeting of the Demopolis City Schools Board of Education Monday, two contingents of citizens and parents brought concerns to board members.

Heather Wilson spoke for parents of boys on the Demopolis Middle School basketball team asking the board reconsider reinstating Jesse Bell as the team coach.

Bell had been charged with several crimes, but all charges were dismissed in August. He remains a teacher at DMS, but he was suspended as a coach.

Heather Wilson addresses the Demopolis BOE in Monday's meeting. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Heather Wilson addresses the Demopolis BOE in Monday’s meeting. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

The second group represented graduates of the formerly all-black U.S. Jones High School. Dr. Milton Young, speaking for the former students, said they were attending the meeting to “get understanding and clarification” of the proposal to convert USJ to a tech-prep center. The group was concerned the name of the school would be changed and that it would be boarded up.

Supt. Kyle Kallhoff assured them that he would never consider changing the name of the school, a stand seconded by board member Carolyn Moore, herself a graduate of the school.

Kallhoff will work with the group to set up a date for a community meeting in January to answer all questions and concerns.

The board approved a contract to hire Andy Turberville as an adjunct instructor. She will begin the groundwork for the Education and Training Career Tech program to start in the fall of 2017.

This is the latest in new career tech offerings, with a heating and air conditioning curriculum in conjunction with Shelton State Community College opening in January and one in forestry planned to begin at the start of the next school year.

Kallhoff thanked local benefactors for $10,000 in donations and more than $20,000 in equipment given for the HVAC program.

The board approved the first reading of the High School Diploma Requirements and Endorsements that will go into effect next year for entering freshmen.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 4:30 p.m. Kallhoff said teachers already have had an input. Now it is time to hear from parents and students.

The proposal will provide for four endorsements for students who wish to complete more than the minimum requirements for an Alabama High School Diploma. They are Advanced Placement, Advanced, Advanced Career Tech and Career Tech.

In other action the board approved:

  • Substitute licensed for Louise Warren, Norma Ethridge, Edna Richardson, Ronnie Abrams, Leroy L. Harris and Rodney Rowser.
  • Retirement of Julie Lee, Special Education teacher at Westside Elementary, effective Dec. 31.
  • Meagan Gurley as head Tennis Coach with a supplement
  • Paula Price, CNP worker, a leave of absence.
  • Maternity leave for Janie Basinger beginning Feb. 24, 2017.
  • Travel for Kallhoff to the Alabama Association of School Boards meeting in Birmingham Dec. 8-10.
  • Overnight field trip to Birmingham for the DMS BETA Club Feb. 22-24, 2017.

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In keeping with the tradition Kallhoff started last year, the board recognized students and teachers of the month from two schools. From WES were first grader JeKiyah Ball and second grade teacher Dee Roark. LA’Cher Gray, a 6th grader, and receptionist Freddie James were honored from DMS.

The next board meeting will be Monday, Dec. 12.

Kallhoff presents five-year capital plan in Monday meeting (includes PDFs)

DCS Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff presents a five year capital plan to the Demopolis BOE in its Monday meeting (WAW | Jan McDonald)

DCS Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff presents a five year capital plan to the Demopolis BOE in its Monday meeting (WAW | Jan McDonald)

An ambitious, not to say pricey, capital plan for the next five years was unveiled Monday night at the Demopolis City Schools Board of Education meeting after more than two months of work.

Supt. Kyle Kallhoff has divided the plan into four priorities totaling $30,300,000.

“I am going to push hard for priorities 1-3,” said Kallhoff. “We must address our aging facilities if we want to keep families and/or attract families to Demopolis. The city is going to have to come together to make this a priority and brainstorm on how to fund these priorities.”

The most expensive and far-reaching is the first priority involving Westside and U.S. Jones elementary schools. The plan would make WES a pre-K through fifth grade campus, with the capacity for 1,300 students, and convert USJ to the career technology center for the school system. The estimated cost of the work is $18,435,000, he said.

Three new wings housing 10 classrooms each for fourth, fifth and sixth grades would be added to WES. The school would be flipped so that the main entrance would face Maria Street. Student pick-up would have a new drive with an entrance and exit on Herbert Street.

As the career tech center, USJ not only would provide class space for such curricula as finance and insurance, marketing, allied health serviced, industrial maintenance, welding and HVAC, but would provide space for an alternative school, Head Start, a virtual resource center and have room for expansion. The building would be available for evening classes for community adult education courses.

The other three priorities of the plan involve additions and renovations to Demopolis Middle and High schools, including additional classrooms, gymnasiums, parking and cafeterias.

The fourth priority would be a new gymnasium at DMS on the current baseball field and a new practice facility at the high school. Kallhoff hopes the athletic booster clubs would step in to help find the funding for the projects.

He said the plan will be presented to the Demopolis City Council in December. He hopes a joint meeting can be set up to find ways to pay for the ambitious plan.

The school system receives about $630,000 annually for capital improvements, he said. Most of that goes toward paying for the stadium, geo-thermal system and auditorium projects at the high school, leaving about $140,000 to cover other costs.

This year, when working on the capital plan, the committee took a long-term look at what will be needed in the next five, 10, or 30 years, he said.

“There are capital needs that we must take care of in the next five years,” Kallhoff told the board.

The capital plan is broken down as follows:

Priority One (2017-2018)

U.S. Jones ($2,390,000)

  • Convert to Career Technical Center
  • Include Industrial Maintenance Program
  • Include Welding Program
  • Create HVAC Program
  • Include Allied Health Program
  • Create Education and Training Program
  • Create Alternative School setting
  • Create Virtual School Resource Center
  • Have room to expand to meet workforce needs of the Demopolis area
  • Purchase school bus to transport students from Westside to the Ratliff Center Daily
  • Purchase school bus to transport students from DHS to the Career Center Daily

Westside ($16,045,000)

  • Create Pre K-5th grade campus (1,300 student capacity)
  • Update original building (floors, walls, doors, cabinetry, and paint)
  • Convert old cafeteria into extended day center and indoor playground
  • Convert old gym to two severe special needs classrooms with common physical and occupational therapy areas
  • Convert old library to AMSTI/STEM lab
  • Flip campus to face Maria Avenue
  • Include carpool lanes, parking, and bus/van pick-up areas to stack traffic on campus
  • Build three new 10 classroom wings
  • Build new administrative/elective building (media center, art room and patio, music room, a second AMSTI/STEM lab and offices)
  • Build new cafeteria
  • Build new multipurpose building with stage

Priority Two (2017-2018)

Demopolis Middle School ($3,425,000)

  • Renovate Interior of existing building (floors, walls, doors, cabinetry, and paint)
  • Create dining addition to current cafeteria
  • Build parking lot and carpool lanes on east side of campus

Demopolis High School ($515,000)

  • Create four lane entrance (two lanes from Hwy. 80 to field house and two lanes from the tennis courts to Hwy. 80)
  • Update all restrooms
  • Update all hallway floors
  • Update all carpeted areas

Priority Three (2018-2019)

Demopolis Middle School ($1,825,000)

  • Build new wing (STEM/robotics, art, broadcasting, severe special needs, two classrooms)
  • Update entrance and office space
  • Remove cut through and replace with common area/courtyard
  • Exterior enhancements

Demopolis High School ($1,500,000)

  • Build multipurpose activity/physical education gym on southwest of campus west of the auditorium

Priority Four (2020-2021)

Demopolis Middle School ($2,100,000)

  • Build 14,000 square foot gym on current baseball field

Demopolis High School ($2,500,000)

  • Build 20,000-square-foot indoor multipurpose indoor practice facility
  • Turf football field
  • Parking lot on southeast corner of campus

PDF renderings of proposed changes at each campus are included below:

Westside Elementary School

U.S. Jones Elementary School

Demopolis Middle School

Demopolis High School

Dr. Elisabeth Davis DCS Superintendent Interview – 7/24/2015

Dr. Elisabeth Davis addresses the DCS Board of Education and community members in attendance at Friday's interview at Rooster Hall. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Dr. Elisabeth Davis addresses the DCS Board of Education and community members in attendance at Friday’s interview at Rooster Hall. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Dr. Elisabeth Davis, director of curriculum and instruction with Pelham City Schools, interviewed for the Demopolis City Schools superintendent post Friday, July 24. The following is an overview of the interview that took place before the DCS Board of Education and a near capacity audience at Rooster Hall.

Please give us a snapshot of your professional experiences and your belief in public education. We have five finalists for this position; convince us that you should be the one. 

A: Prior to her current position, she was assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Tuscaloosa City Schools; Distance Learning Instructor at the University of Alabama; and School Improvement Specialist, Program Specialist and an assistant principal and teacher with Shelby County Schools

“Through those experiences I think I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of understanding of what it takes to be an effective educator.”

At Pelham she has learned a lot about a small school system and what a small system can do for students.

“There is no one that can outwork me.” She is dedicated and committed to doing the best job possible to make sure all students are ready for college or a career.

“I’m the one to take that to the next level.”

Q: A superintendent has to have tremendous passion, belief and commitment. How do you know when it is time to act and when it is time to listen and learn? How have you balanced collaboration while maintaining your leadership role?

A: “Listening is the key component”

All decisions must be a team effort.

“I don’t know if there is any other way to lead besides to collaborate.”

Q: Please describe what you think the role of superintendent is as it relates to successfully engaging our staff, students, families and community toward a common vision and successful outcome. 

A: “Without all of those stakeholders, you wouldn’t have a school.”

She would form advisory groups and hold listening tours in the community and in schools.

“The school is the heart of the community.”

Q: High performing students and closing the achievement gap are priorities for Demopolis City Schools. What leadership and guidance would you provide to ensure that these expectations are properly evaluated and adjusted for all students?

A: Must always know what is going on and what is being mandated.

“My background brings a wealth of knowledge to this area.”

Must determine where the system needs to grow and make a plan to get there, a plan that is “workable and manageable.”

Q: When a new superintendent is hired, the transition should be as smooth as possible. How would you help both the educational community and the community at-large adjust to the new governing style that you would bring?

A: In a folder she gave each of the board members, she presented a 90-day entry plan that she would follow.

Included are the evaluation of current programs and building relationships, communicating and assessing the current state of the system.

Q: As you know, school districts across the state face financial constraints due to the economy and funding issues. How have you been involved with budget development and ongoing fiscal management in the past? 

A: She referred to her experience in Tuscaloosa in helping set up its career-tech center and in Pelham, which started its own school system one year ago.

“I’ve had a wide range of budgeting issues that I’ve dealt with from local school to larger system.”

Q: We are looking to expand partnerships with Shelton State, UWA and local businesses. We will need a facility for this project and major renovations will be necessary. What are your experiences in dealing with construction and budget issues on large project?

A: She again referred to her experience with Pelham.

Must meet state and federal guidelines.

Referring to the Career-Tech Center to be housed at the former New Era building, she said any construction or renovation must be based on workforce data to make sure the curricula fits the needs of employers.

She would meet weekly with the architect, visit other sites and get input from those who will be using the facility.

Q: Based on what you know about our school system, what do you think is the greatest potential for improvement?

A: “From everything I’ve seen, read and where I’ve been today you have a great school system.”

She said Demopolis schools are well rounded and have great support.

She referred to the community survey results stressing the desire for students to be college- and career-ready.

She suggested possible programs that would expand learning opportunities already in place.

“The sky’s the limit with innovation.”

Q: An increase in enrollment is one of our goals. Give us your best 2-minute speech to encourage parents to enroll their children in our school system. 

A: The logo of the schools system is very strong. “Interest to succeed. Lead to achieve.”

“People come to communities and stay because of the schools.”

Schools support all areas, academics, career-tech, athletics and arts.

“This is the perfect community to raise my children.”

Complemented the community for the Demopolis City Schools Foundation and the millage that supports schools.

Q: All employees appreciate being valued and respected. What is your plan for boosting and keeping morale up while requiring high expectations of everyone?

A: “You have to be a servant leader.”

Must be visible and build relationships.

Would address behavior, not the person.

Team building is powerful and important.

Pats on the back to those who deserve it, but individualize the recognition.

Q: Our district has a code of conduct. Describe your ability to cultivate a disciplined, safe and orderly school environment. 

A: Must follow the law

Hold everyone accountable.

Use problems as teaching moments.

Be fair and consistent.

Q: You have identified an administrator that needs improvement. What process would you use to improve the competence of that person and what corrective actions would you take? 

A: “Our goal is always to grow our leaders.”

Study the data, identify what it impacts, then focus on the area needing help.

Develop a plan with the administrator to address the problem, provide the support and measure the success.

Q: The Demopolis City Schools Foundation, the Demopolis PTO, the media and the community at-large play a vital role in the support of our schools. Describe what your relationship would be in continuing this tradition.

A: Embrace what is already in place.

Share the information; get the word out.

Identify resources

Q: Demopolis is a diverse community. As a new superintendent, what steps would you take to ensure that all groups are fully engaged and treated equally?

A: She would have an open-door policy, hold listening tours and set up advisory groups.

“It is important for everyone to come to the table.”

She wants her children in a diverse community “because that’s what the world is.”

Q: How would you handle a situation if a group or individual came to you with strong differing opinions concerning grades, punishment, athletics, etc.? Along with that, you have a respectful disagreement with a board member on a specific issue. How would you proceed?

A: Listening is the key. The focus should be on the student.

Make sure the proper channels are followed.

Investigate all issues. Be transparent.

As for the board, communication and transparency are necessary.

As superintendent, her job would be as management and operations, and the board’s responsibility is governance. “Respecting those two jobs and how they work together to make a great school system is so important.”

The two finalists for the superintendent opening will be announced by the DCS Board of Education on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Dr. Donald R. McPherson DCS Superintendent Interview – 7/23/2015

Dr. Donald R. McPherson talks with community members following a public interview at Rooster Hall on Thursday, July 23. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Dr. Donald R. McPherson talks with community members following a public interview at Rooster Hall on Thursday, July 23. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Dr. Donald R. McPherson, superintendent of Coffee County Schools, interviewed for the Demopolis City Schools superintendent post Thursday, July 23. The following is an overview of the interview that took place before the DCS board of education and a near capacity audience at Rooster Hall.

Please give us a snapshot of your professional experiences and your belief in public education. We have five finalists for this position; convince us that you should be the one. 

A: Prior to his current position, he was Federal Programs Director with Cullman County Schools; 21st Century Director with Lawrence County Schools; assistant principal in Blount County; math teacher in Arab City, and a coach.

“I love working with young people.”

“Public education is a staple in my life,” he said. “It truly is the great equalizer.”

He said he is very upbeat and positive, collaborative and a good listener.

“I’m going to do what’s best for children.”

He said he has the experience in K-12 schools and the background to be a good superintendent for Demopolis.

Q: A superintendent has to have tremendous passion, belief and commitment. How do you know when it is time to act and when it is time to listen and learn? How have you balanced collaboration while maintaining your leadership role?

A: “I am always going to listen.”

“You’ve got to be passionate in everything you do.”

He would set leadership teams in the schools, the central office and in the community.

He would seek all viewpoints before taking any action.

Q: Please describe what you think the role of superintendent is as it relates to successfully engaging our staff, students, families and community toward a common vision and successful outcome. 

A: “Sometimes you’re the cheerleader. You’re sometimes the one who’s carrying the banner. Sometimes you’re the bearer of bad news. Sometimes you’re the reality check.”

In all cases the superintendent must have compassion.

Q: High performing students and closing the achievement gap are priorities for Demopolis City Schools. What leadership and guidance would you provide to ensure that these expectations are properly evaluated and adjusted for all students?

A: The system must determine what it needs in order to improve.

Gather the data and then work through teachers and administrators.

“First of all they need to believe they need to improve.”

Have continuing student assessment with check-points to make corrections when needed.

Q: When a new superintendent is hired, the transition should be as smooth as possible. How would you help both the educational community and the community at-large adjust to the new governing style that you would bring?

A: “I’m going to be visible” by attending events, becoming involved and having an open-door policy.

“A lot of times I’m just going to look.”

Must build trust before the community can understand why change is needed.

Q: As you know, school districts across the state face financial constraints due to the economy and funding issues. How have you been involved with budget development and ongoing fiscal management in the past? 

A: Coffee County has a $21 million budget. He maximizes federal dollars.

He has an extensive background in preparing budgets on all levels.

He always asks, “What’s the return on investment?” That doesn’t always mean money, but how it will benefit the student.

Q: We are looking to expand partnerships with Shelton State, UWA and local businesses. We will need a facility for this project and major renovations will be necessary. What are your experiences in dealing with construction and budget issues on large project?

A: As Coffee County superintendent he has overseen a $2.5 million school renovation projects, hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades and a $1.8 million baseball/softball complex.

Must be involved in all aspects of the project and bring in leadership teams, parents and others who have a vested interest in the facility.

Necessary to plan ahead to prevent problems.

Q: Based on what you know about our school system, what do you think is the greatest potential for improvement?

A: “I see everybody ready for ‘go’. I see everybody wants to achieve greatness.”

Q: An increase in enrollment is one of our goals. Give us your best 2-minute speech to encourage parents to enroll their children in our school system. 

A: “You’ve got a wonderful town. You’ve also got a great school system.”

“What can we do for you individually?” How can the school system work specifically with each child to make him the best person he can be?

Q: All employees appreciate being valued and respected. What is your plan for boosting and keeping morale up while requiring high expectations of everyone?

A: He would talk to people and be willing to listen, be visible, involved and have an open-door policy.

“Everybody has a part to play.”

Sometimes corrective action is needed.

Q: Our district has a code of conduct. Describe your ability to cultivate a disciplined, safe and orderly school environment. 

A: Schools must first be clean and safe. Then there should be discipline, and students should know and understand the rules. Only then can teaching begin and learning be possible.

Q: You have identified an administrator that needs improvement. What process would you use to improve the competence of that person and what corrective actions would you take? 

A: The administrator needs to understand there is a problem. Working with that person, he would come up with corrective action and then monitor progress.

Q: The Demopolis City Schools Foundation, the Demopolis PTO, the media and the community at-large play a vital role in the support of our schools. Describe what your relationship would be in continuing this tradition.

A: “They’re all much needed.”

“I’ll give everybody my cell phone number.”

“What everyone does is so important. They play a vital role in this system.”

Doesn’t want negative press.

Would be truthful, upright.

Q: Demopolis is a diverse community. As a new superintendent, what steps would you take to ensure that all groups are fully engaged and treated equally?

A: “You get involved. You ask questions.”

Give credit where credit is due.

Q: How would you handle a situation if a group or individual came to you with strong differing opinions concerning grades, punishment, athletics, etc.? Along with that, you have a respectful disagreement with a board member on a specific issue. How would you proceed?

A: In the first case, listen, determine who best to handle the situation and go through the chain of command.

“Every parent is passionate about their child.”

He puts “a lot of thought and prayer into a decision” and then sticks to it. He asks himself how he would decide if his own child was involved in the situation.”

“At the end of the day, we’re married,” he said of the board. “I want a 5-0 (vote) every time.” He won’t put anything before the board that won’t pass.

Superintendent interviews conclude Friday at 5 p.m. at Rooster Hall with Dr. Tena “Elisabeth” Davis, current director of curriculum and instruction with the Pelham City School System.

 

Kyle Kallhoff DCS Superintendent Interview – 7/22/2015

Kyle Kallhoff talks with community members following his interview Wednesday at Rooster Hall. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Kyle Kallhoff talks with community members following his interview Wednesday at Rooster Hall. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Kyle Kallhoff, superintendent of Chickasaw City Schools, interviewed for the Demopolis City Schools superintendent post Wednesday, July 22. The following is an overview of the interview that took place before the DCS board of education and a capacity audience at Rooster Hall.

Q: Please give us a snapshot of your professional experiences and your belief in public education. We have five finalists for this position; convince us that you should be the one. 

A: Began teaching in 1997. Served as testing and data specialist with Mobile County Schools; assistant superintendent with Fairfield County Schools in South Carolina; assistant superintendent/director of instruction with Clarke County Schools; technology trainer with Software Technology, Inc.; first superintendent of Chickasaw City Schools.

“I believe every child should be given the opportunity to learn. I believe it is our job as education administrators and as teachers to make sure we find whatever resources we can to make sure the children are successful.”

He said he is transparent in all his actions. “I’m an honest man.”

”Whatever system I lead, I’m going to produce students who are decision-makers, problem-solvers, critical thinkers and innovators.”

Q: A superintendent has to have tremendous passion, belief and commitment. How do you know when it is time to act and when it is time to listen and learn? How have you balanced collaboration while maintaining your leadership role?

A: “I’m pretty passionate about what I do.”

Will gather information before acting with the following exceptions: student safety, laws that might be broken and the integrity of the school system being compromised.

“Collaborations is a large part of my leadership role.”

“I’m a shared leadership kind of person.”
Will work with key leaders and stakeholders

Q: Please describe what you think the role of superintendent is as it relates to successfully engaging our staff, students, families and community toward a common vision and successful outcome. 

A: “That’s almost my job description.”

“I’m the CEO of the organization.”

Will attend meetings of community groups to get feedback.

DCS will be updating its strategic plan during the 2015-2016 school year. As superintendent he would lead that process to make sure it is aligned to the current needs and goals.

Q: High performing students and closing the achievement gap are priorities for Demopolis City Schools. What leadership and guidance would you provide to ensure that these expectations are properly evaluated and adjusted for all students?

A: He said Demopolis schools already have high-performing students.

Principals are the instructional leaders and are guiding the discussion and studying the data to determine how students are doing.

If not measuring up, must determine the reasons together and come up with a plan that all agree with.

As for achievement gap, “the process is similar, but first you have to identify the gap.”

He suggested professional development days for teachers during the school year and collaboration of teachers within each school and among all schools.

Q: When a new superintendent is hired, the transition should be as smooth as possible. How would you help both the educational community and the community at-large adjust to the new governing style that you would bring?

A: “I’m a hands-on, visible superintendent.”

“They’re going to see my ‘students first, support teachers, high energy, optimism’ immediately.”

“I’m going to volunteer to speak at every civic organization in Demopolis” to build trust.

Q: As you know, school districts across the state face financial constraints due to the economy and funding issues. How have you been involved with budget development and ongoing fiscal management in the past? 

A: Reviewed the steps he took in starting Chickasaw City Schools in 2012 with a budget of $26,000 and the system’s growth since then.

Seeks partnerships to pay for what can’t be budgeted and for resources.

Q: We are looking to expand partnerships with Shelton State, UWA and local businesses. We will need a facility for this project and major renovations will be necessary. What are your experiences in dealing with construction and budget issues on large project?

A: Reviewed the ongoing $400,000 renovation projects in Chickasaw.

“If we’re dealing with public funds,” he said, “we have to hold folks accountable.”

He will rely on community partners.

Q: Based on what you know about our school system, what do you think is the greatest potential for improvement?

A: “Demopolis is the jewel of the Black Belt.”

“You have all the ingredients to be a great school system.”

Most scores are above average. Having scores below average is not acceptable in Demopolis schools.

“Demopolis should be in the top 10 when it comes to test scores.”

Q: An increase in enrollment is one of our goals. Give us your best 2-minute speech to encourage parents to enroll their children in our school system. 

A: Asking the board and audience to “fast forward” one year, he answered that he and his wife Christina moved to Demopolis with their four children and enrolled three of them in the city’s schools.

The schools, he predicted, provide a safe, secure, well-disciplined learning environment. Students are engaged, challenged and using technology; teachers teach rigorous college and career-ready standards, administrators who visible and instructional leaders. Clean, welcoming environment.

“I wouldn’t have my children in any other place.”

Q: All employees appreciate being valued and respected. What is your plan for boosting and keeping morale up while requiring high expectations of everyone?

A: Review of ways he has recognized teachers, school workers and students for their accomplishments

Using social media to inform the community of achievements

Q: Our district has a code of conduct. Describe your ability to cultivate a disciplined, safe and orderly school environment. 

A: “Part of our job is to overcome opposition.”

He would get the community into the schools to show what is going on.

Make sure students know what is expected.

Provide consistency

Have consequences for actions.

He hasn’t seen bad kids, only those who are bad decision-makers.

“When kids have that sense of ownership and pride,” he said, that ends some of the discipline problems.

Q: You have identified an administrator that needs improvement. What process would you use to improve the competence of that person and what corrective actions would you take? 

A: He would work with the administrator to see the problem and then work collaboratively to find support to solve the problem. Together they would put a plan in place and then monitor progress.

Q: The Demopolis City Schools Foundation, the Demopolis PTO, the media and the community at-large play a vital role in the support of our schools. Describe what your relationship would be in continuing this tradition.

A: “First and foremost, establish trust.”

In his current post he gives a State of the System address and invites all stakeholders to attend to keep them abreast of the health of the schools.

He would serve on committees and boards and invite those organizations to be represented on school system committees.

Q: Demopolis is a diverse community. As a new superintendent, what steps would you take to ensure that all groups are fully engaged and treated equally?

A: He would work with the community in preparation of the next strategic plan, keep the city informed through social media and perhaps send a newsletter to all residents of the city as he does in Chickasaw.

Q: How would you handle a situation if a group or individual came to you with strong differing opinions concerning grades, punishment, athletics, etc.? Along with that, you have a respectful disagreement with a board member on a specific issue. How would you proceed?

A: After they go through the proper procedures before reaching his office, he would listen and then try to view the issue from their perspective.

He would share data to support the decision that was made.

“You want to support teachers and administrators.”

The board and superintendent will not always agree, but they have common goals.

Dr. Vicky Spear DCS Superintendent Interview – 7/21/2015

Superintendent Spears-5051

Dr. Vicky Spear, left, talks with former Demopolis City Schools Board of Education member Laura Foster following Tuesday’s interview at Rooster Hall.

Dr. Vicky Spear, principal at Vinemont Middle School in Cullman County and adjunct professor at the University of Alabama, interviewed for the Demopolis City Schools superintendent post Tuesday, July 21. The following is an overview of the interview that took place in front of the DCS Board of Education and audience of community members at Rooster Hall Monday.

Q: Please give us a snapshot of your professional experiences and your belief in public education. We have five finalists for this position; convince us that you should be the one.

A: “I love this question,” Spear said. “Because this is a time I get to say ‘I don’t know’ because you guys are going to have all the information…you know your community and your needs more than I do.”

Noted that she had to trust the board’s decision at this point. Said she would like to be that “one,” but ultimately it was up to the board.

Q: A superintendent has to have tremendous passion, belief and commitment. How do you know when it is time to act and when it is time to listen and learn? How have you balanced collaboration while maintaining your leadership role?

A: Focused on involvement in education as both a teacher and an administrator. Said that knowing when it’s time to listen and when it’s time to act is a result of experience. Noted that while every decision may have not been the right decision, she learned from those experiences.

Again pointed out that the board and the community members know what the system needs and her role would be to listen, collect data, and then act.

Q: Please describe what you think the role of superintendent is as it relates to successfully engaging our staff, students, families and community toward a common vision and successful outcome.

A: Referred back to her visit to campuses earlier in the day.

“There are a lot of things going on in this school system. The challenge is to focus on those things that you can move forward with and not be so scattered that everybody is doing something different.”

Noted that collaboration is key. Streamlining of efforts is critical. Identify the outcomes, and then move forward. Said that goals must be formalized so that a plan can be created to act on those desired outcomes.

Q: High performing students and closing the achievement gap are priorities for Demopolis City Schools. What leadership and guidance would you provide to ensure that these expectations are properly evaluated and adjusted for all students?

A: Said that they have struggled with this at her current school.

Again focused on the importance of formally sitting down and deciding where students need to be, where they are, and how to get them to the desired level.

“When you have a clear understanding of what that expectation is, then you provide that professional development for teachers, you listen to teachers…”

Noted that professional development can be as simple as teachers sitting down together as a group to discuss what’s working and what’s not. Also mentioned making sure that the appropriate progress monitoring tools were in place.

Q: When a new superintendent is hired, the transition should be as smooth as possible. How would you help both the educational community and the community at-large adjusts to the new governing style that you would bring?

A: “Again, I’m a servant leader.”

Focused on collecting data and really understanding where the system currently stands. Noted that coming in making sudden changes without input is a recipe for failure.

Once data is collected and a plan is created, then comes the time to move forward.

Q: As you know, school districts across the state face financial constraints due to the economy and funding issues. How have you been involved with budget development and ongoing fiscal management in the past?

A: Referred back to her experience as Secondary Curriculum Coordinator where she was involved with the CSFO, Federal Programs Director, and the superintendent to leverage the available funds to make sure classrooms were adequately staffed.

Said that having teachers in the classroom was more important that having computers and technology.

Also discussed her time as Federal Programs Director and the ability to create a strategic plan.

Discussed the Demopolis City Schools Foundation and how lucky Demopolis is to have such an incredible foundation.

Noted the importance of “having your community leaders who are here and are involved and who want to help you solve your financial problems.”

Q: We are looking to expand partnerships with Shelton State, UWA, and local businesses. We will need a facility for this project and major renovations will be necessary. What are your experiences in dealing with construction and budget issues on large projects?

A: “As far as managing a construction project, I don’t have that experience. As far as managing big projects with multiple funding sources, I do have that experience.”

Noted that the system has people whose expertise is in this area.

Q: Based on what you know about our school system, what do you think is the greatest potential for improvement?

A: Noted that there were lots of pieces that needed to be cohesive.

“Everyone must understand the goals of the system and what your part is in achieving those goals.”

Said that student achievement needed to be elevated, just as it does across the country. Indicated that the Aspire test was likely part of the reason for the seeming lack of achievement.

Q: An increase in enrollment is one of our goals. Give us your best 3-minute speech to encourage parents to enroll their children in our system.

A: “If my children were still in school, I’d want them to come to school here, okay? That’s the first thing.”

Noted the following items that “don’t show up in a test score”:

  • community spirit
  • community support
  • career tech/trade programs
  • AP tracks
  • dual enrollment/college partnerships
  • safe and nurturing environment
  • quality of life
  • any student can come into the system and feel safe

Q: All employees appreciate being valued and respected. What is your plan for boosting and keeping morale up while requiring high expectations of everyone?

A: Mentioned the notion that teachers seem to think that an administrator showing up at their campus carries with it a negative connotation or indicates that something is wrong. Noted that it was a natural response. Discussed how she was able to overcome that notion and opened the door for communication between teachers and administrators.

“I say yes as much as I can, I value your input, and I appreciate what people have to say…I’m not emotionally attached to being right—I’m emotionally attached to getting it right.”

Q: Our district has a code of conduct. Describe your ability to cultivate a disciplined, safe and orderly school environment.

A: Focused on the difference in discipline and punishment.

Discipline is what you do every day. Discipline starts with adults in the school, from the central office down to the teachers. Unless teachers are at school on time and prepared, you cannot expect students to do the same.

Punishment is what happens when individuals do not adhere to the rules that are set forth and is done for the students’ benefit.

Q: You have identified an administrator that needs improvement. What process would you use to improve the competence of that person and what corrective actions would you take?

A: “First of all, as superintendent, I think I’m responsible for every lesson plan every day in our schools.”

Said that principals are often stretched too thin and may need a little help.

“You know, I’m having a hard time with this question because everybody I talked to today was just top notch…I can’t imagine that that’s a problem here, but if it were a problem, I would deal with it in the proper channels.”

Elaborated and said that when someone just needs a little help, there are coaching methods that can be used to help that administrator become more competent including peer evaluation.

Q: The Demopolis City Schools Foundation, the Demopolis PTO, the media, and the community at-large play a vital role in the support of our schools. Describe what your relationship would be in continuing this tradition.

A: “The media can make or break you. If we’re doing the right things in our schools, then the good press is going to follow.”

Noted that the biggest advocate for the school system should be the superintendent.

“Everything that’s important that happens in this system or any system starts between the teacher and the student and what happens in that classroom. I think if we do that part right, the rest will follow.”

Q: Demopolis is a diverse community. As a new superintendent, what steps would you take to ensure that all groups are fully engaged and treated equally?

A: “I just take people at face value.”

“I don’t care how much money they have or how much they don’t have, I don’t care what your race is, what your ethnicity is, when you come into a public school system, you are equal. Period. I welcome the diversity. I think it adds a richness.”

Noted that the community was well represented on the city council and the board of education.

Q: How would you handle a situation if a group or individual came to you with strong differing opinions concerning grades, punishment, athletics, etc.? Along with that, you have a respectful disagreement with a board member on a specific issue. How would you proceed?

A: Noted the chain of command for disagreements stemming from the school level. Gave the example of a parent having an issue with a coach. The proper channel is for the parent to speak to the coach then principal and resolve the issue at the school level. If no resolution at the school level, then it would escalate to central office.

Regarding a disagreement with a board member, it is crucial to remember that students come first. However, she noted that she is cognizant that the board is the final decision.

Noted that she has seen issues where boards split over issues that did not justify a split and she does not wish to see that.

Each candidate will see the same 15 questions from the DCS Board of Education. Interviews will resume at Rooster Hall Wednesday at 5 p.m. with Kyle Kallhoff.