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Superintendents talk growth, challenges with realtors

HUNTSVILLE – Superintendents of the three major school districts in Madison County recently spoke to the Huntsville Area Association of Realtors.

Robby Parker with Madison City Schools, Dr. Matt Akin with Huntsville City Schools and Matt Massey with Madison County Schools visited the realtors’ luncheon at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville.

Parker joined his counterparts to explain highlights and challenges in their school districts to the realtors. “Schools are the primary driver of growth in almost any area so it was an attentive audience,” MCS Public Relations Manager John S. Peck said.

Parker reported that MCS has climbed to Alabama’s eleventh largest school system, with 10,300 students currently enrolled and potentially 200 more added in coming weeks. Madison County Schools with 19,000 students and Huntsville with approximately 24,000 students are in the top 10 of 137 public school districts in size.

Parker said MCS ranks within the top three to five districts in Alabama in almost every measure of academic quality. “That’s remarkable, given that it is fifth worse in average class size, meaning 132 systems have fewer students per class,” Parker said.

“Those challenges will continue to stress the system if growth continues at its current pace of about 250 to 300 students per year,” Parker said. “Current funding just cannot keep up with the growth.”

Parker wants to focus on three immediate goals:

* Stronger math programs — Especially for students in grades K-6 level who excel in math but need creative ways to learn beyond their grade level.

* Gradual acceleration of foreign language — Offer across all grades with objective of fluency in a second language for all Bob Jones and James Clemens high school graduates.

* Concentrate on programs for students who are not college-bound — “We are a college prep school system with 85 percent of our kids going on to college,” Parker said. “That means 15 percent choose something else. We need to do a better job preparing those kids for not only those blue-collar jobs but what I call ‘new-collar jobs.”

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