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FACE TO FACE: Robert Lane Speaks with State BOE Vice President Sandra Ray Official Publication of the Alabama Association of School Boards


First Ever 2006 AASB President’s Award Winners and Masters Honor Roll


OFFICERS Jim Methvin . . . . . . . . . . . . . President Alabama School of Fine Arts Sue Helms . . . . . . . . . . President-Elect Madison City Florence Bellamy . . . . . Vice President Phenix City Tommy McDaniel . . . . . Past President Alabama School of Math and Science STAFF Sandra Sims-deGraffenried, Ed.D. Executive Director Sally Brewer Howell, J.D. Assistant Executive Director Denise L. Berkhalter Director of Public Relations Editor, Alabama School Boards Susan Rountree Salter Director of Membership Services Lissa Astilla Tucker Director of Governmental Relations Debora Hendricks Administrative Assistant Donna Norris Administrative Assistant Kay Shaw Bookkeeper Lashana Summerlin Receptionist Tammy Wright Executive Assistant Aeryca Ezell Clerical Assistant BOARD OF DIRECTORS Patsy Black . . . . . . . . . . . . . . District 1 Monroe County Steven Foster . . . . . . . . . . . . District 2 Lowndes County Jeff Bailey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . District 3 Covington County Katy S. Campbell . . . . . . . . . District 4 Macon County Jennifer Parsons . . . . . . . . . . District 5 Jefferson County Sue Jones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . District 6 Jacksonville Susan Harris . . . . . . . . . . . . . District 7 Winfield Dr. Charles Elliott . . . . . . . . . District 8 Decatur Laura Casey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . District 9 Albertville Sandra Ray . . . . . . . . . . . . State Board Tuscaloosa Robert A. Lane.. NSBA Board of Directors Lowndes County

Winter 2006 Vol. 27, No. 5


STOP, LOOK AND OBEY THE LAW: Violators Face Fines for Illegally Passing School Buses . . . . . . . . 14 Patricia Thomas — a Birmingham school bus driver for four years — values her young passengers and even encourages extra-good behavior by issuing sweet rewards from the two packages of Airheads candy she keeps taped up near the controls. Some things are completely predictable during Thomas’ daily bus runs. At least one car … will illegally pass the bus as it comes to a hissing halt and exhales children onto the street. “Apparently they don’t care,” Thomas said. “If a child or someone got hit, there'd be more concern. Then it’d be different.” FEATURES

Convention a Success, All-State School Members Honored . . . . . . 6 Face to Face with State Board of Education VP Sandra Ray . . . . . . 9 2005-06 Master Honor Roll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 2006 AASB Media Honor Roll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Flex Your Advocacy Muscles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 30 School Boards Honored with First Ever AASB President’s Awards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 DEPARTMENTS

Alabama Education News . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Executive Director’s Perspective Save Our Voice: School Calendars Should Remain a Local Decision . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 At the Table . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Calendar of Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Help . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Potpourri . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 PUBLICATION POLICY Alabama School Boards is published by the Alabama Association of School Boards as a service to its member school boards. The articles published in each issue represent the ideas or beliefs of the writers and are not necessarily the views of the Alabama Association of School Boards. Subscriptions sent to members of school boards are included in membership dues, and complimentary copies are sent to public school principals throughout the state. Additional subscriptions can be obtained by contacting AASB. Entered as third-class mail at Montgomery, AL. Permit No. 34. Alabama School Boards is designed by J. Durham Design, L.L.C., Montgomery, AL. Address all editorial and advertising inquiries to: Alabama School Boards, Editor, P.O. Drawer 230488, Montgomery, AL 36123-0488. Phone: 334/277-9700. Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 3

Alabama Education News District Meetings to Address Arbitration/ Teacher Tenure This winter’s AASB district meetings will offer practical guidance on the subject “The Tenure Law: Fixing the Fix.” AASB Executive Director Dr. Sandra Sims-deGraffenried will discuss the legislative fix that is needed in the Teacher Tenure and Fair Dismissal laws, and AASB Assistant Executive Director Sally Howell will update attendees on arbitration’s impact. The meetings, set for Feb. 527, begin with dinner, followed by a 45minute program. To view the complete schedule or for reservations and additional information, call Debora Hendricks at AASB at 800/562-0601 or go online to and click the “conference” link.

Boaz City Schools Win $1 Million Migrant Education Grant The 2-year-old Boaz Board of Education is the first in the state and one of only 10 in the nation to win a 2006 Migrant Education Even Start Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The $955,500 grant will be distributed over three years. The Boaz City Schools Migrant Education Even Start Grant project is designed in collaboration with Northeast Alabama Adult Education Program and Snead State Community College. The school system will use the grant money to provide family educational activities. Center-based adult education classes will be conducted several evenings a week. Center-based early childhood education will be provided, as well as home-based preschool services. The grant will allow the school system to continue all aspects of the program year-round and to offer peripheral services such as meals, transportation, field trips, health care, job training and placement and the opportunity for college scholarships. 4 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

Several boards of education recently announced Helping Families Initiative programs, modeled after a similar effort initiated in Mobile County. The announcement was made in Muscle Shoals by (l-r) Tuscumbia Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Royce Massey, Muscle Shoals Superintendent Jeff Wooten, Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr., Colbert County System Attorney Bryce Graham Jr., Sheffield Superintendent Richard Gardner and Colbert County Superintendent Billy Hudson.

Four School Boards Undertake Helping Families Initiative The superintendents of Colbert County, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia boards of education joined the Colbert County and Mobile County system attorneys to announce plans to implement the “Make the Right Choice: Helping Families Initiative.” The initiative taps schools and social workers to identify services needed by troubled students. Designed to cut red tape and knock down barriers through partnerships with various agencies and organizations, the program attempts to maximize existing community resources to prevent students from landing in the juvenile justice system. The program was recently featured in the national Education Week magazine. “We are excited to share what we’ve learned about new ways to prevent crime and improve educational opportunities for all students,” said Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr., who developed the program to help at-risk youth and families in Mobile County. “In Mobile County, a wide range of law enforcement agencies, educators, health, mental health and social service agencies have learned how to work together effectively to save kids from taking the wrong path. We’re seeing significant results.” Muscle Shoals Superintendent Dr. Jeff Wooten said he believes the initiative should be replicated statewide. “Alabama law requires parents to make sure that their children attend school, and that they behave themselves appropriately in class. I am mandated to vigorously enforce these laws,” Tyson said. “Catching these problems early enough — and giving families the targeted assistance they need — can help divert an at-risk child from trouble.” For more information about the Helping Families Initiative, call John Tyson at 251/574-6685 or Wooten at 256/389-2600.

“I’ve worked with Even Start in the past, and it is a truly valuable program,” said Jeana Ross, the grant writer and Boaz City School System Director of Community Education/Prevention and Support Services. “Our parents want to learn to read and speak English, so they can help their children.” Migrant Education Even Start Grants to support family literacy projects were first awarded in 1989. For more information, visit the USDE Web site at http://www.

Do You Know a Young Hero? Nominations for Alabama Public Television’s 2007 Young Heroes Award are open until Jan. 22. The award honors students in grades 9-12 who display courage, determination, volunteerism and a commitment to excellence. Five students who have excelled academically, served their communities and overcome unique hardships in their lives will be selected for $3,000 scholarships and other special gifts. Applications are available online at asp or by calling 800/239-5233, ext. 152.

AASB Mourns Passing of Former President AASB mourns the death of former association president Kennon “Ken” Washburn, who died at age 75 on Dec. 19 after a brief illness. Washburn served as AASB Washburn president from 1993 until 1995 and 21 years as a member of the Ozark Board of Education. Ken led the association well as president when Alabama hosted the 1994 National School Boards Association’s Southern Region Conference. His AASB service also included two years each as first vice president, second vice president and District 3 Director. In addition, he served on a number of AASB committees and reached the Master School Board Member level of the school board academy four times. The Auburn University graduate and former U.S. Army soldier owned and operated

Center Drug Company in Ozark and was a founding member of the Ozark Rotary Club. His wife, Shirley, preceded him in death, and he is survived by two daughters and sons-in-law and one grandson.

What is the Walk of Excellence? Boards of education that wish to participate in the National School Boards Association Walk of Excellence during the April 2007 NSBA Conference in San Francisco, must submit a proposal by 5 p.m. (ET) on Jan. 12, 2007. The exhibit is an opportunity for school systems to showcase individual

system programs, as part of a tabletop display using assigned space on 8-foot tables in a special area of the NSBA Annual Conference Exhibit Hall. Such system displays are the centerpiece of an all-conference event that typically draws 1,000 people and includes information on best practices, family entertainment and snacks. The event will take place Sunday, April 15 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Moscone Convention Center. School systems submitting display proposals must be members in good standing of their state school boards association. Proposals may be submitted online at ▲ conference.

Ryan deGraffenried Jr.,1950-2006 Sympathies to the family of AASB Executive Director Dr. Sandra SimsdeGraffenried, whose husband of more than 20 years, former state Sen. Ryan deGraffenried Jr., died Dec. 7 at age 56. Ryan deGraffenried has provided training for members of AASB’s Leader to Leader grassroots lobbying program since its inception. He was also a strong advocate for public education during his years in the Legislature. He was elected to the Alabama Senate in 1978 and served three additional terms. He was Senate president pro tempore from 1987 to 1994, served two years as acting lieutenant governor, and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor. A graduate of the University of Alabama and Cumberland School of Law, deGraffenried was a contract lobbyist and practiced law in Tuscaloosa. As she expressed her heartfelt thanks to the AASB family, Dr. Sims-deGraffenried said “2006 was a very hard year for me. I lost my mother, a dear friend, my husband’s sister, and now my husband,” she explained. “Each death hit me extremely hard and has been devastating. Ryan’s death has just been almost too much to bear. To each of you, I thank you for all the support you have given me — the prayers, the calls, the cards, the comments, the gestures of sympathy. Everything you have done has worked together to give me the strength I need in the face of such tragedy. Continue praying for strength for me.”

“Leeds school board member Dr. Grady Sue Saxon penned some words that gave me much comfort. I am sharing them with you.” — Dr. Sandra Sims-deGraffenried

PERFECT PEACE Deep inside each of us is an inner strength that can sustain us through our pain and heavy loads. Loving family and caring friends bolster that strength and help cushion us as we travel life’s bumpy road. But it is God’s love that provides the shelter we need from thrashing storms. When we reach out and place our hands in His, trusting Him for guidance and love, we receive the comfort and inner calm, the perfect peace we seek.

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 5


All-State School Board Members Honored Gov. Bob Riley addressed 425 school board members and superintendents from Alabama's public school systems Dec. 8, as part of the Alabama Association of School Boards’ annual convention at The Wynfrey Hotel near Birmingham.


iley’s remarks looked ahead to “The Next Four Years,” while lauding such successes as the sales tax holiday, distance learning and the state’s reading and its math, science and technology initiatives. AASB’s Dec. 7-9 convention also included special recognition of Congressman Artur Davis and state Sen. Hank Sanders for their work on behalf of public education and schoolchildren. AASB’s Immediate Past President Tommy McDaniel, who left the Cherokee County Board of Education after more than a decade of service, was honored for his dedication and hard work as an AASB officer. A mainstay on the AASB Board of Directors, McDaniel has served as chair of the National School Boards Association/ Southern Region 2006 Conference, as AASB’s immediate past president, and two terms each as AASB’s president, first vice president and second vice president. The convention’s theme was “Critical Issues for Critical Times: Looking Beyond the Horizon.” The event kicked off with a keynote address by Ian Jukes, director of InfoSavvy Group, who discussed “Living on the Future Edge” and focused on the critical issues global trends raise for public schools. Retired U.S. Navy Commander Scott Waddle moved the audience with his inspiring message that “failure isn’t final.” Waddle’s life was forever changed when he gave a military order that resulted in his submarine accidentally colliding with a 6 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

Japanese fishing board. The collision killed nine people. Waddle took full responsibility and learned a costly lesson about integrity, faith and resilience. Alabama native Ako Waddle Kambon, a nationally recognized expert in educational and leadership development and president of the Ohio-based Visionary Leaders Institute, challenged education leaders to create public-private partnerships to help students and find new ways to engage parents in their children’s education. Each year during convention, AASB presents its highest honor to five school The 2007 All-State School Board Members are (l-r, standing) Dr. Kirit Chapatwala of Selma, Morris Acker of Tuscaloosa County, (l-r, seated) Lillie Dove of Brewton, Lynda Powell of Covington County and Dr. Marianalice Moody of Oxford.

board members for their distinguished service to public education. The winners of the 2006 Alabama All-State School Board Member awards were nominated by their peers, selected by a panel of distinguished former school board members and presented plaques by AASB President Jim Methvin. All have been active participants in AASB’s School Board Member Academy, a continuing school for school board members. This year’s honorees are Morris Acker of Tuscaloosa County, Dr. Kirit Chapatwala of Selma, Lillie Dove of Brewton, Dr. Marianalice “Mally” Moody of Oxford and Lynda Powell of Covington County. Methvin said the honorees exemplify “the high standards this award sets. They are excellent school board members who are committed to doing the job well and serving the interests of all students in their school systems and Alabama.”

Chapatwala, a member of the Selma Board of Education for six years, was among the winners honored Dec. 9 for their commitment to ethical standards, proven records of activism, rapport with local officials and leadership in education and community activities. Chapatwala is the first Selma school board member to win the award. A former vice president of the school board, he has been active in AASB as a member of its Multicultural Committee, Leader to Leader grassroots lobbying program and the National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network. Chapatwala was nominated in part because of his contributions to the creation of the Selma Early College High School in 2003. The school features a curriculum delivered jointly by the school system and college and university partners. The first of its kind in the state, the program focuses on agriculture and agribusiness and related industries.

With a Ph.D. in microbiology, Chapatwala provides training for science instructors at schools in the Selma system, and his research has been a factor in the school system being involved with a pilot program for student nutrition and wellness. Dove has served on the Brewton Board of Education for six years. She taught in public schools for 30 years and is an avid public education supporter, providing strong leadership to the Brewton City Schools. In 2003, she campaigned actively — and successfully — for passage of a property tax increase in Brewton and Escambia County. She also is actively involved in the development of new policies for the school system.

At the state level, Dove has served on numerous AASB committees, including the Summer Conference Planning, Nominating and Multicultural committees. At the national level, she has worked with Alabama’s congressional delegation through the NSBA Federal Relations Network, traveling to Washington, D.C. on behalf of AASB’s and NSBA’s legislative agendas for public education. Dove is active in the Brewton Area Habitat for Humanity, Executive Committee for the Southern Normal Alumni Association and the Escambia County Retired Teachers Association. (Continued on page 13)

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 7

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S By Sandra Sims-deGraffenried, Ed.D.


Save Our Voice: School Calendars Should Remain a Local Decision t’s back, like a bad sequel. Alabama has repeatedly said “no” to uniform school calendars and mandatory start dates, but the issue just keeps cropSims-deGraffenried ping up. Under the guise of “saving our summers,” the uniform school start date problem is likely to rear its head again in the 2007 regular legislative session that begins March 6. It’s being driven by the tourism, hospitality and summer camp industries across the nation. Fundamentally, the start-date issue is about money and convenience for summer camp operators, merchants at the beach and hotels and condominiums. It places tourism and summer camp dollars ahead of academic issues. Already, nine states have adopted uniform calendars or mandatory start dates for public schools.


You Decide Locally In Alabama, however, school calendars remain a local decision. School calendars should be determined by academic, instructional and community concerns — not tourism and summer camps. While school boards have embraced the high-stakes accountability systems created by the state and federal governments, we want you to be confident that our students are learning at higher levels. We need every possible instructional day if we are to prepare them for Alabama’s high-stakes tests. Delaying the start of school until late August or after Labor Day, as these “save our summers” advocates have 8 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

backed, could make it almost impossible to complete the first semester before Christmas. In most cases, local school systems have gone to an early start date to get as much instructional time in as possible before state accountability tests are given. This is common sense. We have a high-stakes accountability system in which schools are sanctioned (or even closed) for poor performance. It’s only

Don’t let the tourism, lodging and summer camp industries take away your right to choose the best school calendar for your local community. fair to give teachers as much teaching time as possible before student performance is measured. Losing two weeks or more of instruction time is likely to impact schools’ adequate yearly progress results. Plus, the federal No Child Left Behind law raises the AYP standard every two years. How can schools meet ever-increasing standards with less teaching time before the test?

One Size Doesn’t Fit While it is impossible to please every individual, local school boards strive to solicit the input of parents and teachers and select a calendar that works best for everyone. If the legislature decides when schools across the state begin, parents, teachers and local residents lose all input

into this important community decision. Their voices won’t be heard. Instead of school calendars preferred by the majority and built around the academic needs of children, we will have an ill-suited one-size-fits-all plan. Since it’s founding, AASB has worked to protect local decision making and to ensure that the voices of school boards and their communities are heard. If the legislature mandates a start date, public schools statewide will have a one-sizefits-all plan. The 2007 regular legislative session will begin March 6, but the time is now to tell legislators that you oppose a mandatory start date and any interference with the school calendar that will result in students having fewer days to prepare for the accountability tests. Extract a commitment from your legislator that he or she will support your position. Don’t count on other groups to help. Speak out now. Let’s keep our local control in our communities! ▲

At Your Service The Alabama Association of School Boards has produced a “Save Our Voice” kit school board members can use to educate their boards and communities about the uniform school start date initiative. Copies will be mailed soon. If you do not receive your copy in January or wish to receive a PDF version, send e-mail to or call 800/562-0601.

FACE TO F ACE with Sandra Ray Dr. Robert A. Lane, a member of the Alabama Association of School Boards’ and the National School Boards Association’s boards of directors, met face to face recently with state Board of Education Vice President Sandra Ray of Tuscaloosa. The discussion is the latest installment in a series of features recapping one-on-one conversations between school board members who serve as members of AASB’s grassroots Leader to Leader program and Alabama leaders. The program is a trusted resource to lawmakers and state government leaders on education policy and issues and also furthers school board members' role as a voice for schoolchildren and public education. ▲ Lane: Thank you for allowing us to interview you. I’d

▲ Lane: What are the differences between serving as a

like to start by asking you to give us a little background about yourself and what brought you to public service in education? ■ Ray: Well, it kind of goes back with people that have been involved through PTA and my children. Oh, 20 years ago, 25 years ago, I guess, I decided to run for our local board of education. And I did, and served a sixyear term on it. I did not run for re-election. There was an opportunity that Victor Poole, who was forever a state board member here, was not going to run for reelection. With my past experience and history — my father was in education just about my whole life — education has been a real avocation and has become a vocation. But, I decided to run for the state board at that point. I guess a lot of it has just been the fact that I felt like it was very important to my children, to me, to the community.

local board member and being on the state school board? ■ Ray: I think serving on a local board is immensely more difficult. You know everybody, and you see your constituents just about on a day-to-day basis. I think that’s very difficult. There are a lot of similarities, but being on the state board — while I know more about my district — I still have to look at the entire state. And, there are many, many more sides to an issue than what we had to consider at a local level. It seems like everybody has a particular position, and it’s not just black or white with issues. It has lots of different shades of gray. We have to consider that and then try and make decisions that are based on what’s best for the entire state, not a particular area of it.

▲ Lane: I guess it was sort of like my starting up. We

started attending board meetings because our kids were getting up so early in the morning. ■ Ray: Sometimes I think it may be one particular thing that spurs the interest, but then as you learn, you realize that there are just lots of different types of reasons to be involved, and I think that’s where I was anyway.

▲ Lane: What are the biggest challenges facing the state

board today? ■ Ray: My guess is that if you ask eight board members and the governor, they would probably give you nine different lists of priorities. From the beginning of my service on the state board, I think we’ve suffered from low expectations, and over the years, you can look back now and see the progress we’ve made. But they’re not (Continued on page 10) Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 9

giant steps. They’re small steps. A lot of us get impatient and want to have higher standards and higher expectations. To do that, not only do you have to have funding — and we’re not where we want to be in funding — but the Legislature has been very generous within the context of our economic situation, so I can’t complain there. Some of it is being able to decide what the higher goals are and then make efforts to work toward them. We are doing a good bit of that.

Anything that seeks a strict requirement really needs to have some flexibility in it, and as it (NCLB) has gone on, we’ve found that there is a little bit more flexibility. While there have been some good things, the biggest issue is they’ve set these goals and made these requirements but haven’t adequately funded it all. We can’t do that. We can’t afford that. ▲ Lane: I think we did a great thing in this past election

issues that they’ve never had to deal with before — like technology and the access schools and the children have to technology. The other side of that, too, ... is that everything that’s old is just new again. It seems like we’re still dealing with a lot of the same issues my dad, who is a longtime retired educator, dealt with. We’re still dealing with funding. We’re dealing with special education. We’re dealing with a lot of the issues that have been dealt with every decade before this. They may just have a little different bent to them, so school board members have to keep up on the issues. They have to know what’s happening nationally, and they have to know what’s happening in their own district, county or city. More is required of local school board members now than what used to be. ▲ Lane: I just was thinking back to one of the presenters we

had at one of our clinic sessions about the roles of school boards. We’ve got a multitude of things we have to do beyond the basic reading, writing and arithmetic. ■ Ray: Well, we’re really educating a greater percentage of our students now than we used to. ▲ Lane: How can local school board members interact with

the state school board members, both to share our local concerns and to help you in your statewide roles? Ray: I would specifically speak about myself, but I think the other board members probably are of the same mind. You know, we’re all very accessible. We pass policy at the state level, and unless we hear from superintendents, teachers, parents and school board members, we don’t really know how that policy is implemented at the local level. I encourage superintendents, teachers, parents and

with Amendment 2. ■ Ray: The passage of that (Amendment 2) and the Legis-

lature and even local support of education is a cumulative effect. It’s not just local, and it’s not just state. It’s the fact that we’re all working toward high goals. The public is seeing that, and I think the Legislature is seeing that, too, and seeing the successes that we’re having as a result. ▲ Lane: I agree with that. What accomplishment by the

state Board of Education has given you the greatest satisfaction? ■ Ray: Looking at these practices and setting those into policy like the Math, Science and Technology Initiative that we’re just beginning, the Alabama Reading Initiative, the higher requirements for graduation — even the graduation exit exam. All of these have to be part of us setting higher goals. That’s what we’re seeing that we’re accomplishing. The other part of that is once we set the higher goals, we’re actually having support from the communities and from the citizens and from the Legislature. ▲ Lane: Do you see our role as K-12 school board members

changing or getting more difficult? ■ Ray: Well, I’m of several minds. One is that I don’t see it

getting any easier. Local boards are having to deal with 10 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

About Sandra Ray Sandra Ray, vice president of the Alabama Board of Education, represents the state board as a member of the AASB Board of Directors. Ray has served the residents of the state board's District 7 since 1995. The Tuscaloosa resident’s current term ends in 2009. Ray earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama. She is a former elected member and past president of the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education and also served as a PTA president. Ray’s other community service includes roles with the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama; Adopt-A-School Committee, the Youth Workforce Development Board, Girls Scouts of America, Boy Scouts of America, Rotary Club, Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society, Women’s Auxiliary of Tuscaloosa County Bar Association and the Governor's Commission on Instructional Improvement and Academic Excellence. Her accomplishments include completion of the Leadership Tuscaloosa and the Leadership Alabama programs.

school board members to be touch with your local and state Board of Education members. All of us have our contact information on the Web site (http://www. We all have e-mail and telephones, so I would encourage them to at least let us know what’s occurring and if they’re real concerned. Generally the things that come to me are the ones that are real frustrating to either the board members or the parents. And very often, I can’t do anything about it, but I can direct them to someone in the state department that might be able to help them. So, while I want to understand what’s going on and how our policy affects the different systems, I think every other board member would want to do that too. ▲ Lane: How closely do you work with the governor in his

role as president of the board? ■ Ray: The governor is at our meetings, and when he’s there,

he chairs the board meeting. He generally has kind of taken the position that the board members will pretty much make the decisions. You know if he has a real strong position on something. He always has a person from his staff there at all of our board meetings and all of our work sessions. Whether he’s there personally or not, he has someone who can tell him and describe to him the actions that we took and the discussions that we’re having, so he keeps abreast of what’s going on. I know he probably has more of a periodic meeting with Dr. Joe Morton, the state superintendent, than he does necessarily with the board members. He has always been very accessible to me. So, while he may not be there at the meetings, he certainly is aware of what goes on. If we need him, he’ll be there. ▲ Lane: As you know, there is a national movement toward

uniform school start dates. What is your feeling about it, and does the state board share your view? ■ Ray: Well I can’t speak for the state school board members because we’ve very independent minded, but just in general conversation I know there has been an interest — in fact Dr. Morton has mentioned it different times — about having a set start date. There hasn’t been much of an inclination from the board members thus far to do that. I guess my position is that having been a former local school board member, I’m very jealous over the authority that the local board has and would like to keep as much of it locally as possible. Setting the calendar is something that should be up to the local school board. Now, that is not to say that there shouldn’t be windows in there where you have to be in school during those times or, as Dr. Morton said, not to start before a certain day. I think there probably had to be some parameters with that. I strictly think that decision making needs to be done at the local level. We need to give some big policy direction, and sometimes we have to get a little bit more specific if there’s some difficulty. In general, most of the implementation in the decision making should be done at the local level.

▲ Lane: Many local school board members rank No Child

Left Behind as one of their chief concerns. What specifically do you see as challenges and problems with NCLB? ■ Ray: Well, they don’t give any money along with their plan. And we hear this all the time about unfunded mandates. It’s probably one of the biggest unfunded mandates ever. My initial concern was the lofty goal of having 100 percent reading on grade level in 12 years. You know, that’s unrealistic. I don’t think you can get 100 percent of any completion within the public sector. I do think it’s something we should strive to attain, but I don’t know what is going to happen in 2012 when these things are to come due and our schools may have really had some successes but don’t have 100 percent. I feel like something will have to change before that time. Some of it has been good. It has focused on having teachers who are completely qualified. Anything that seeks a strict requirement really needs to have some flexibility in it, and as it (NCLB) has gone on, we’ve found that there is a little bit more flexibility. While there have been some good things, the biggest issue is they’ve set these goals and made these requirements but haven’t adequately funded it all. We can’t do that. We can’t afford that.

I encourage superintendents, teachers, parents and school board members to be touch with your local and state Board of Education members. I would encourage them to at least let us know what’s occurring. ▲ Lane: What grade overall do you give state government for

its support of public education in Alabama? ■ Ray: Well, I guess I would kind of have to divide it up. I

think local support overall would probably have to be a C. I think state support would be a B over the last few years. I think they’ve seen the results. Within the framework, the legislature and the governor have been strong supporters of as much financing as possible for local K-12 schools. I think they would only do that if they see some progress. And I think that is occurring. One thing for a lot of us that have gone to national meetings like NSBA, you talk to other people from other states and school boards, but when they talk about their funding issues, their issues are local because most of the funding comes from local support. Ours is just the opposite. Most of ours comes from state support. So, while they may have some of the same issues, they have different ways of solving those issues than what we do. I guess (Continued on page 13)

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 11

AASB Launches

MASTERS HONOR ROLL AASB recognized its first ever Masters Honor Roll this year. The list includes distinguished school board members who have reached the master’s level of the AASB School Board Member Academy for five consecutive years.

Mary Etta Bailey ................. DeKalb County Florence Bellamy....................... Phenix City Clinton Brasfield ...................... Hale County Laura Casey ................................. Albertville Max Eady............................. Colbert County Dr. Charles Elliott ............................ Decatur Wayne Faught........................... Hale County Elzora Fluker ........................ Greene County Joe Frank Fowler............ Lauderdale County Leon Garrett .................................. Piedmont Susan Harris.................................... Winfield Wade Harrison* ............... Lawrence County Dianne Hooper* .................... Henry County Annie C. Hunter ................ Lowndes County Billy Jones.............................. Butler County

Each academy year — from July 1 to June 30 — the “school for school board members” founded in 1986 provides training in eight key areas: roles and responsibilities; policy and planning; financial accountability; the optimal learning environment; academic achievement; staff development; board meetings and school law; and community engagement. Based on the number of credit hours they earn through the academy, board members can reach four achievement levels by attending AASB conferences and workshops. Members who complete every academy level and continue their commitment to training can earn the distinction Master School Board Member. Listed at the right are the 200506 Masters Honor Roll honorees who were all celebrated during the association’s annual convention in December. 12 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

Robert A. Lane .................. Lowndes County David Lowe ......................... Bullock County

Convention a Success... Continued from page 9

Powell has been a member of the Covington County Board of Education for eight years and was nominated in part for her dedication and service to the schools and Covington County. A retired teacher, she has missed only one regular board meeting and that was during her battle with cancer. Her work to help the school system revamp its hiring practices is credited with helping the system win unitary status this year, ending its longstanding desegregation case. In addition, she campaigned actively in support of an effort to raise the minimum property tax for education to 10 mills, an effort that will help stabilize the Covington County school system’s finances as well as those of other poorly funded systems around the state. She also personally invests in student achievement, sponsoring a $100 savings bond each year to four students achieving the highest Stanford 10 achievement test scores; sponsoring a $250 band camp scholarship; and serving on the committee for the Andalusia Pilot Club to award a $500 nursing scholarship each year. Moody, who has been a member of the

Tommy McDaniel............. Cherokee County Jim Methvin ... Alabama School of Fine Arts George Miller* .............. Lauderdale County William Minor ....................... Dallas County Rev. Preston Nix ................................ Attalla John Rumph ........................ Bullock County Kathy Sherrill....................... Etowah County Robert Sims* ....................... Elmore County Chuck Spann ................................... Winfield Henry Spears............... Montgomery County Linda Steed ............................... Pike County Tommy Sykes................................... Decatur Larry Teel ............................. Elmore County Frankie Thomas* ........... Tuscaloosa County Ralph Thompson............ Lauderdale County Mae Ella Todd ....................... Clarke County Carolyn Wallace ................. Morgan County Harold White......................... Macon County (* No longer on their boards.)

AASB’s Immediate Past President Tommy McDaniel was honored for his dedication and hard work as an AASB officer.

Face to Face... Continued from page 11

I’ve always felt that where most of the money comes from also comes most of the control If you want to have local control, you have to at least have local support of your schools. ▲ Lane: What do you hope to accom-

As well as informative sessions, attendees were treated to entertaining events, including music provided by the Carver High School Choir from Birmingham.

Oxford Board of Education since 2002, currently serves as president of the Oxford school board. She is an active partner with the mayor and city council in efforts to showcase the school system and encourage businesses to locate in Oxford. With her help, an international company decided to locate to the city this year. An educator with over 30 years’ experience, Moody is an enthusiastic supporter of students and faculty. She takes the time to applaud kindergartners who can count to 100 and to judge middle school science fairs. She adds a personal touch by taking time to write a note of thanks to teachers who do a good job. In addition, she donates books to the school libraries and provides gift certificates for academic competition prizes. Moody also is the founder of a “Books for Babies” project through Altrusa’s Literacy Committee in Oxford. The program provides a book to every new mother while she is still in the hospital so that she may introduce reading to her child early. Acker, who has served two terms as president of the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education, has been a member of the school board for 10 years. Among his other contributions, he worked with the commission several years ago to pass a one-cent

sales tax to generate over $80 million for the Tuscaloosa County and City schools to go toward construction of new schools, the elimination of portable classrooms and to critical maintenance and upkeep of facilities. Once the senior varsity football captain, he has been a familiar sight at Wildcat Stadium holding the “down marker” in yardage chains at the county high football games for 38 years. Although he no longer marks the downs, he still is in the stands showing support or listening to the Wildcats on the radio each Friday evening. Active in Tuscaloosa County civic affairs, he has served on the Northport Zoning Committee and SouthTrust Bank Board of Directors. He also is a member of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, and serves as a deacon and Sunday school teacher at Northwood Hills Baptist Church. Also during the convention, 249 school board members statewide were honored for their achievements in the School Board Member Academy. They earned the recognition because of their efforts to improve their boardmanship skills, increase their understanding of education issues and heighten their leadership skills by partici▲ pating in the Academy.

plish during your tenure as vice president of the state board? ■ Ray: Being presiding officer means that I don’t get to participate in as much discussion as I used to as a board member because there are more mechanical things that need to be done. From the vice presidency standpoint, I just want to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to be a part of our discussion and things. We can’t do anything individually. One of the issues I’m hoping we’ll look at would be literacy with the K12 and the two-year systems. We have some real difficulties with the parents that my not be literate, and they don’t promote it in their children. So, it’s kind of a vicious cycle. That’s something we certainly need to work on. The literacy issue is just kind of a hard thing to get your hands around, though. It takes more than just education. The community has to be involved. I realize illiteracy is not an easy problem to solve, but if we don’t address it, we’re just going to continue having the same lack of support that we’ve had. ▲ Lane: You’ve just spoken about one

main point that the public needs to understand. Board members can’t do anything individually. ■ Ray: No, we can’t. Our board does a pretty good job of sitting down along with Dr. Morton in trying to set some goals. We must determine our approach to the Legislature on what we want as far as additional funding or areas that we want support. ▲ Lane: I thank you for taking the time

to talk with me a while. ■ Ray: I enjoyed it. Good talking to you. ▲ Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 13

Patricia Thomas — a Birmingham school bus driver for four years — values her young passengers and even encourages extra-good behavior by issuing sweet rewards from the two packages of Airheads candy she keeps taped up near the controls. Some things are completely predictable during Thomas’ daily bus runs. She’ll make her first pickup at 6:55 a.m. each day. And, at least one car at the intersection of 26th Street North and 35th Avenue North in Birmingham will illegally pass the bus as it comes to a hissing halt and exhales children onto the street. That location is one of at least three on Thomas’ 145-minute afternoon route where motorists routinely break the law. “Apparently they don't care,” Thomas said. “If a child or someone got hit, there’d be more concern. Then it'd be different.”

14 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006


hings are different for school bus passers in Alabama, since a new state law took effect Oct. 1, 2006. The law sets stiff fines for violators and makes it easier for bus drivers to report the incidents. The Alabama Association of School Boards lobbied heavily for the legislation, another inroad to making Alabama’s highways and byways safer for the 362,980 students riding to and from school on 8,511 buses. On a recent afternoon, Thomas craned her neck to follow a black pickup truck that ignored the flashing lights and extended stop-arm as a student got off the school bus. She noted the license plate number. With the new law, that’s all she needs. Previously, bus drivers had to identify the passing driver, the vehicle and the license plate number. No

easy task, considering that they’re also driving a bus with, on average, 50 passengers. “It was just about impossible,” said Tico Sanchez, Jefferson County schools assistant director of transportation. “Now all you have to do is get a tag number and file the offense, and that’s what’s making it so much easier for us.” In Tuscaloosa, bus drivers already have given police the license plate numbers of several illegal passers. “The bus drivers just want some relief and to deal with the people that are doing it,” said Allen Walker, director of transportation for Tuscaloosa city schools. “We’re just very fortunate that no one’s been hit. We’ve had some pretty close calls.” (Continued on page 14)

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 15

Uniform Penalties With the new law, illegal passers are fined from $150 to $300 for the first offense; $300 to $500 for the second offense; $500 to $1,000 for the third offense; and $1,000 to $3,000 for the fourth offense, which also carries a felony charge and a driver’s license suspension. Previously, penalties varied. “This makes it uniform across the state, whereas before in one court it’d be dismissed, and in another it’d be a $300 fine” said Rep. Randy Davis of Baldwin. Davis co-sponsored the bill with State Sen. Ted Little of Auburn. Davis said it became clear that Alabama needed a stronger illegal bus passing law when an annual statewide survey of passing incidents showed that the number of times motorists illegally passed a school bus was approaching 2,000 on a given day. In 2004 on the day the survey was conducted, 1,746 motorists illegally passed a school bus. That number in 2005 went up to 1,862. “We’re approaching a couple of thousand illegal passings a day,” said Joe Lightsey, director of pupil transportation for the state Department of Education. “And each of those illegal passings is a chance for a child to be either killed or injured.” Davis said there have been 11 childpedestrian-bus-related fatalities since 1998. Nationwide since 1995, 170 school-age pedestrians have died in school trans-

ALABAMA SCHOOL BUS FACTS 8,511 Total number of school buses 362,980 Number of students transported daily 48.85 percent Percentage of students transported 329,092 Daily miles 57,703,904 Annual miles

portation-related crashes, according to 2005 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Loading and unloading is the most unsafe time for children,” Lightsey said. “Even if the bus is in an accident, the chances of them being injured are very, very small. The thing that worries me is when they’re outside the bus.” Little said the death of 6-year-old Maegan Ptomey — a Yarbrough Elementary School student who was killed in 2000 after a motorist illegally passed a stopped school bus in Auburn — underscored the need for a tougher law. “People in their fast pace of life are not giving a school bus the same respect that they give an ambulance or a police car,” Little said. In addition to fines, the law metes out punishments ranging from 200 hours of community service to felony charges. “When the word begins to get out in the courts,” Little said, “motorists are going to become more aware that they are to give total allegiance to the yellow bus.”

Slow Coming The bill was a couple of years in the making, but timing prevented it from being passed sooner, said Lissa Tucker, AASB’s director of governmental relations. As school boards became increasingly concerned with school bus safety, the associa-

$316,697,013 2007 student transportation budget Birmingham school bus driver Patricia Thomas can now report to authorities the tag number of a vehicle that illegally passes her bus when it is stopped and the stop sign arm is extended. The new state law went into effect Oct. 1.

$763.07 Annual cost per transported student (fiscal 2007) 6,953 Number of route buses 10 years or less in age 96.6 percent Percent of route buses 10 years or less in age

Source: “Alabama Pupil Transportation Facts for 2006,” Alabama Department of Education

16 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

Gigi Douban

50 Average number of students per bus

Gigi Douban

Transportation Law

Lewis Elementary students board their school bus in Birmingham. Uniform penalties are now in effect statewide for illegally passing stopped school buses.

tion pushed for the legislation. “Nobody was against this legislation,” Tucker said. “Nobody said safety for our students was not important. It just was a matter of so many competing priorities.” The law’s higher fines should get motorists’ attention, Tucker said. “We think that folks got used to seeing that yellow bus. Passing it up had just become common, but this legislation makes it something that folks have to think about. We really think that it will have a dramatic effect on folks who will stop and make sure the students are safe.” Lightsey is optimistic that the increased fines will lead to stricter enforcement of the law. What’s more, there’s a built-in incentive for municipalities: they keep 90 percent of the fines collected; 10 percent goes to the state. Davis said the law’s earlier version gave the state 90 percent of the citation fees, and municipalities kept 10 percent. “This is a perk to open the eyes of the municipalities a little bit,” he said. The new law protects motorists, too, proponents say. Vehicles on a divided highway — four-lanes or more with a median — traveling in the opposite direction no longer have stop for school buses. “We’re doing signage changes across the state to indicate if it’s legal to pass,” Davis said. Also, it’s assumed that the owner of the car is the driver during a violation. But if that’s not the case, Davis said, the car owner may appeal before a judge.

Illegally passing a school bus is one part of pupil transportation addressed in Alabama law. Other guidelines cover transportation of children with special needs and safety inspections, for example. State law requires the education department to fund school systems for at least 80 percent of the cost of transporting special needs students. The Alabama Department of Education pays districts 100 percent of that cost. State law also requires districts to offer special needs children the same transportation services as nondisabled children, including transportation to extracurricular activities, if provided for regular education children. Also, school systems must provide transportation for children with disabilities to benefit from special education. “This includes transporting a preschool-aged child to the site at which the education agency provides special education and related services, if that site is different from the site at which the child receives other preschool or day-care services” according to the law. The state requires school systems to inspect school buses monthly, and the state Department of Education inspects bus fleets annually. Lightsey said the percentage of buses with a major deficiency has decreased from 8 percent in 1999 to about 3.5 percent in 2005. Lightsey attributes that to stellar staff training. In addition, the state Board of Education requires one mechanic for every 20 buses. “That’s probably better than any state in the nation,” Lightsey said, “so I think we have adequate staff and they’re doing a great job.” And with 96 percent of Alabama’s buses 10 years old or newer, the state’s fleet is in good shape, Lightsey said. “Alabama’s transportation program is among the best in the country, as far as I’m concerned,” he said, “funding-wise, safety-wise, the whole nine yards.” ▲ Gigi Douban is a free-lance writer. She resides in Birmingham.

GET ON THE BUS: What School Boards Can Do Motorists and bus drivers aren’t the only ones who play a role in protecting school bus riders. According to the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute’s “School Transportation Safety Assessment Checklist” (, school board members and superintendents enhance their school system’s student transportation system when they: Maintain up-to-date, written school board policies for key transportation issues, including: student eligibility for transportation; roadways designated unsafe to travel or cross; student discipline; employee discipline; weapons and violence; emergencies; and transportation employee responsibilities Require transportation employees to report safety concerns and seriously consider employee suggestions for improving safety Establish functioning safety and accident review committees Ensure bus drivers are skilled and adequately trained Train students in bus safety procedures, such as how to get off the bus safely and staying seated until the bus comes to a complete stop Understand that even “minor” bus accidents and incidents can have major financial and public relations ramifications for the school system Recognize that high driver turnover can impact efficiency of the transportation system and the quality of service provided to children and principals Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 17

AASB Announces 2006 Media Honor Roll AASB congratulates the 2006 Media Honor Roll winners listed by name and/or news organization and the nominating school board. ▲ Jimmy Dale Abrams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .TV6 Sylacauga Board of Education

▲ Harry Franklin . . . . . . . .Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Phenix City Board of Education

▲ Archie Anderson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WRAB Radio Arab Board of Education

▲ Elizabeth Gentle . . . . . . . . .WAFF-TV (Channel 48) Decatur Board of Education

▲ Delton Blalock . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Cullman Tribune Cullman County Board of Education

▲ Lew Gilliland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Times Journal Fort Payne Board of Education

▲ Robert Booth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WOPP Radio Opp Board of Education

▲ Stan Griffin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .News-Aegis St. Clair County Board of Education

▲ David Brewer . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Huntsville Times Marshall County Board of Education

▲ Mike Gurspan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WTVY News 4 Coffee County Board of Education

▲ Anthony Campbell . . . . . . . . .The Advertiser-Gleam Marshall County Board of Education

▲ Cannon Hamlin . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Clay Times Journal Clay County Board of Education

▲ John Childs . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Oxford Independent Oxford Board of Education

▲ Gary Hanner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .St. Clair Times St. Clair County Board of Education

▲ Jim Cook . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Dothan Eagle Dothan Board of Education

▲ Mark Harrison . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Times Journal DeKalb County Board of Education and Fort Payne Board of Education

▲ Ed Darling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Cullman Times Cullman City Board of Education and Cullman County Board of Education ▲ J.D. Davidson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Times Journal DeKalb County Board of Education and Fort Payne Board of Education ▲ Justin Dean . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Clay Times Journal Clay County Board of Education ▲ Anita Debro . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Birmingham News Trussville Board of Education ▲ Sherry Digmon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Atmore News Escambia County Board of Education

▲ Beverly Harvey . . . . . . . . . . . .Opelika-Auburn News Auburn Board of Education ▲ Doug Holderfield . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WELB Elba Board of Education ▲ Hollie Huey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Centreville Press Bibb County Board of Education ▲ Bayne Hughes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Decatur Daily Decatur Board of Education ▲ Beecher Hyde . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WAVU Boaz Board of Education

▲ Eddie Dodd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Abbeville Herald Henry County Board of Education

▲ Mo Jackson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Gadsden Times Etowah County Board of Education

▲ Gigi Douban . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Birmingham News Jefferson County Board of Education

▲ Laddie Jones . . . . . . . . . . .Greene County Democrat Greene County Board of Education

▲ Semone Doughton . . . . . .WTVM - Channel 9 News Phenix City Board of Education

▲ Tommy McGraw . . .Sumter County Record Journal Sumter County Board of Education

▲ Jared Felkins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Times Journal Fort Payne Board of Education

▲ Cassandra Mickens . . . . . .The Selma Times Journal Dallas County Board of Education

18 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

▲ Rosco Miller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WKXN Butler County Board of Education

▲ Jonathan Willis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Times Daily Russellville Board of Education

▲ David Moore . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Arab Tribune Arab Board of Education and Marshall County Board of Education

▲ Doris Wismer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Opp News Opp Board of Education

▲ Bennie Myles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Cox Radio Inc. Birmingham Board of Education

▲ Chuck Woodard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WVOK K98 Oxford Board of Education

▲ Saige Newton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .St. Clair Times Trussville Board of Education

▲ Craig Wysock . . . . . . . .The Sand Mountain Reporter Marshall County Board of Education and Boaz Board of Education

▲ Anthony Paganelli . . . . . . . . . . .The Journal Record Marion County Board of Education

▲ Alex Zequeira . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WTVY Dothan Board of Education

▲ Brock Parker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WTVM - TV Opelika Board of Education

▲ Blackbelt Gazette Marengo County Board of Education

▲ Leewanna Parker . . . . .Greene County Independent Greene County Board of Education

▲ Comcast Cablevision Dothan Board of Education

▲ Ernie Pearce . . . . . . . . . . . .Carroll Video Production Lanett Board of Education

▲ Demopolis Times Marengo County Board of Education

▲ Penny Pool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Randolph Ledger Roanoke Board of Education

▲ Fox 34 Dothan Board of Education

▲ Keith Reason . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Messenger Etowah County Board of Education

▲ Graceba Total Communication Dothan Board of Education

▲ Lisa Rickman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Times Daily Lauderdale County Board of Education

▲ Greene County Democrat Greene County Board of Education

▲ Patrick Sands . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Valley Times News Lanett Board of Education ▲ Bill Singleton . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Birmingham News Tarrant Board of Education ▲ Monia Smith . . . . . . . . . . . . .The DeKalb Advertiser Fort Payne Board of Education ▲ Chuck Stricklin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WDNG Oxford Board of Education ▲ Briana Webster . . . . . . . . . . . .Daily Mountain Eagle Jasper Board of Education ▲ Cindy West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Gadsden Times Marshall County Board of Education and Boaz Board of Education ▲ Charles Whisenant . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Arab Tribune Marshall County Board of Education

▲ Greene County Independent Greene County Board of Education ▲ HIS Radio Dothan Board of Education ▲ South Alabama News Butler County Board of Education ▲ The Dothan Eagle Dothan Board of Education ▲ The Dothan Progress Dothan Board of Education ▲ The Greenville Advocate Butler County Board of Education ▲ WDHN Dothan Board of Education ▲ WJJN Dothan Board of Education

▲ Elizabeth White . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WTVM - TV Opelika Board of Education

▲ WOOF Dothan Board of Education

▲ Jerry Whittle . . . . . . . . . . . . .The DeKalb Advertiser Fort Payne Board of Education

▲ WTVY Dothan Board of Education

▲ Robert Williamson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .WGYV Butler County Board of Education

▲ WWNT Dothan Board of Education

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 19


Your Advocacy Muscle

As the only locally elected officials chosen solely to represent the interests of children, school boards have a profound opportunity to influence state and federal education policies by speaking out on behalf of schools and children. chool boards play a critical role in building and maintaining support for our public schools — and in engaging the public in our schools. In terms of legislative advocacy, board members are uniquely qualified to serve as the link between children and state leaders because board members serve the same constituencies as their state legislators. By providing valuable information, insight and the “truth” about public education, board members gain credibility with legislators and the public, and as a result, become an integral part of the legislative process. One of the best ways to become more active and make a difference for children is to act when called upon by the Alabama Association of School Boards’ legislative advocacy team. Members of AASB’s grassroots Leader to Leader initiative not only act as trusted resources to lawmakers on education policy and issues, but also work to further school board members’ role as a voice for schoolchildren and public education. The group works closely with AASB’s Executive/Legislative Committee that assists the Resolutions Committee in developing a legislative program for the association. All of these groups will call on AASB’s members to tap into relationships with governmental and legislative leaders in their local communities, to rally behind AASB’s legislative agenda and to petition local media and constituents to support key education issues. AASB’s legislative Web site ( cfm) is a great place for local board members to go during the regular legislative sessions to stay well informed about breaking education issues and to view easy to use legislative bill tracking, By staying informed, school board members can flex their advocacy muscles back home or at the state Capitol in Montgomery. If you think you’re not in a position to make a difference legislatively, consider the advice Rep. Richard Lindsey, chairman of the House Education Finance and Appropriations Committee, gave to school board members recently. Alabama’s school board members, he said, are respected leaders in their communities who shouldn’t underestimate themselves. “This is an important organization,” he said about AASB. “It’s a strong organization. It’s one that legislators would respect if members would communicate with them.” In a recent interview with Alabama School Boards, Gov. Bob Riley seemed to agree. “If school board members in the state of


20 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

Alabama ever understood how powerful they were,” Riley said, “you could almost dominate the conversation here. I don’t know many school boards that don’t have the leaders of the community serving on their boards. If they ever can get to the point that you can agree locally and in a statewide issue and effectively lobby your legislator, your senator, your representative down here, you can pass anything.” So, now that you know school boards have the power of influence, here are some tips on how you can flex your advocacy muscle:


Get to know local legislators and their staff. It helps to know local legislators on a first-name basis and to make sure they know you by name. Also, get to know legislative district office staff and understand the role, the importance and the power of legislative staff. Get to know your legislator’s interests. Some legislators have particular areas of interests and are especially appreciative when you can help provide them with information or data about these areas.

familiar with the legislative process, 2. Become legislative calendar and composition of key committees. Understanding the political process will allow you to schedule activities so as to be most effective in influencing legislative decisions. Be prepared for meetings with legislators. Make sure you understand the issues thoroughly and are prepared to discuss issues and present facts. Also be prepared to respond to concerns raised. current on legislative issues. Read AASB’s 3. Keep legislative newsletter alerts and other publications to stay on top of legislation impacting education. information. Make your legislator so familiar with 4. Share local schools and how their decisions impact local schoolchildren that they seek out the school board’s opinion when education issues arise. You can become a valuable resource to legislators if they know they can turn to you for a truthful answer or objective information about an issue. You can facilitate this process by occasionally providing legislators with

news articles, reports or tidbits of information that you think they might be particularly interested in.

and television shows. By developing positive relationships with reporters and sharing information about education, board members can heighten the community’s awareness of critical issues and, in turn, have an influence on the development of state and federal education policies.

Tell the truth. Truth telling is crucial to making long-term 4. relationships work successfully. Always try to answer a legislator’s questions succinctly and in an honest and straightforward manner. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I will try to find out and get the information to you later” and follow up. It is better to admit when you don’t have an answer than to make it up and potentially give misinformation. areas of common agreement. A good way to 5. Find foster a positive relationship with a legislator is to identify a common concern or issue and develop a plan to work toward accomplishing it. it professional. Don’t allow a disagreement over a 6. Keep position to end in harsh words or personal remarks. Never be abusive or threaten defeat in the next election. Don’t hold a grudge when legislators disagree with your district’s position. The board needs to understand the reason for a legislator’s position and continue to work with the legislator on the next issue. Legislators should be assessed based on consistent, long-term support for education issues. community support for education. Educa7. Build tion is a vital community interest. Some state and federal issues are of such fundamental importance to children that school board members need to expand their personal advocacy efforts in order to mobilize entire communities. By engaging local businesses, parents, seniors, service clubs, neighborhood groups, taxpayer groups, churches, law enforcement, local government, local associations and others in your advocacy efforts, school boards can more forcefully impact education policies. Here’s how: ▲

Focus on mobilizing key issues. Various groups and individuals will be more willing to get involved if you prioritize your issues and only ask them to help on two or three of the most significant ones each legislative session — this also helps to sharpen the focus of your message.

Get the word out. Board members can share important news about education in many ways, such as speaking to local groups, writing guest editorials, providing news and updates for news letters. The more you are able to keep people informed about education issues, the more they will come to understand the issues and feel comfortable contacting legislators.

Ask local individuals to write or call legislators. Encourage the people in your community to mention whether they are parents, local business owners, members of neighborhood task forces, seniors, etc., when they contact legislators. This reinforces the notion that education is a community interest that concerns all citizens.

Engage the local media. Legislators read their local newspapers. They care about what is being said on local radio

with your legislator. Meeting with your legisla8. Meet tors is one way of communicating with them. A personal visit may be made either at the Capitol office of at a legislator’s district office. Several steps are outlined below that you may wish to follow in preparing to meet with your legislator. Before the Visit ▲

Gather information. Meet with other board members, school system staff and the public to discuss your ideas and be aware of community response and interest. Note who your supporters are and any opposing viewpoints and constituencies, and be prepared to respond to these concerns if raised by your legislators. (Continued on page 23)

A Look Ahead 2007 Regular Legislative Session FOR THE RECORD ▲ January 9: 2007 Organizational Legislative Session

Convenes. ▲ March 6: 2007 Regular Legislative Session Con-

venes. ▲ Throughout the legislative ses-

sion, track education-related bills and actions online. ▲ For Copies of Acts: Call AASB at 334/277-9700 or

visit ▲ Lissa Astilla Tucker: AASB’s Director of Govern-

mental Relations ▲ State Your Position: Provide feedback to AASB’s

Executive/Legislative Committee, which assists the Resolutions Committee in developing a legislative program for the association. AASB’s resolutions drive the association’s legislative program. Delegates decide on amendments and changes suggested by the Resolutions Committee during the association’s winter conference. Call AASB for copies of the Resolutions and Bylaws booklet.

DID YOU KNOW? An organizational session of the Alabama Legislature occurs every four years and lasts no more than 10 calendar days. The members of the House and Senate reorganize the Legislature by electing officers, adopting rules of procedure, appointing committees, adopting resolutions, etc.

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 21


The prestigious awards will be presented annually at fall district meetings to school boards that have had at least 60 percent of their members attend three or more AASB School Board Member Academy courses in the previous year. The recipients of the 2006 President’s Award were the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners; the Bessemer, Birmingham, Fairfield, Madison, Midfield, Muscle Shoals, Pell City, Russellville, Selma, Sylacauga, Talladega, Tarrant, Tuscaloosa and Winfield city boards of education; and the Dallas, Lowndes, Butler, Cherokee, Colbert, Elmore, Etowah, Greene, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Macon, Morgan, Tuscaloosa, and Winston county boards of education. ▲




4 5

22 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006


“We’re proud of the first winners of the AASB President’s Award. They take seriously their roles as education leaders, community representatives and advocates of student achievement. So, they strive to strengthen their leadership and boardmanship skills through meaningful training and educational opportunities.” — AASB President Jim Methvin.

Flex Your Advocacy Muscle... Continued from page 21 ▲

Call or write your legislator for an appointment. If you plan to see him/her in the Capitol office, call shortly before you leave to confirm the appointment. Occasionally, hearings or other meetings occur that demand their presence elsewhere at the time of your meeting.

Give your legislator an “issues packet” during your visit. AASB’s government relations director can provide you with a packet of legislative action information to focus discussion and reinforce matters discussed after you have left. You may wish to supplement this material with local information and facts that reinforce the AASB issues being raised. If you provide detailed local information, you will have a greater chance of influencing decisions. Include any news articles that support your position, and be sure to include the business cards and/or names of contact people in your packet in the event the legislator needs more information.

Opposite page: Pictured with AASB President Jim Methvin are representatives of President's Award winners (1) Lowndes, (2) Macon and (3) Elmore county boards of education and (4) Midfield and (5) Madison city boards of education.

Below: District 6 Director Sue Jones is shown with Andy Gardner of Etowah County Board of Education.

During the Visit ▲

Have confidence in yourself. You, too, are an elected official and have local support. Do not let the fear of visiting a state legislator intimidate you. If you or your system staff have expert knowledge, share it with your representative. If you or a dsystem staff person have a strong background on a subject (i.e. your business manager’s understanding of your system’s financial problems), share this background with your legislator. A conscientious legislator welcomes advice and counsel.

After a summary introduction, note your purpose and objective for the meeting. Be as concise as possible. Depending on the time you meet with the legislator, he/she may be on a limited time schedule and time may be of the essence.

Try to obtain a commitment after your legislator has considered all the facts. A legislator has various considerations, such as other constituencies, other provisions of the bill, future amendments, etc., to weigh before making a commitment. Also, do not be carried away by a friendly reception and interpret this reception as support for your position without having heard this support stated.

to Your Legislator. Write your legislator as 9. Write an individual board member, as well as from your board. Above: District 8 Director Dr. Charles Elliott is shown with Jimmy Dobbs of Morgan County Board of Education.

Because you are an official chosen to represent your community, elected officials respect your information and opinions. ▲

Letters should be written on personal or business letterhead. If you do not have letterhead printed with (Continued on page 27) Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 23

Alabama Association of School Boards

Professional Sustaining Members

AASB appreciates these professional members for supporting association activities and you all year long. Exford Architects Birmingham, Alabama 205/314-3411

Paul B. Krebs & Associates, Inc. Birmingham, Alabama 205/987-7411

Alabama Beverage Association Montgomery, Alabama 334/263-6621

Fuqua & Partners Architects PC Huntsville, Alabama 256/534-3516

Lathan Associates Architects PC Birmingham, Alabama 205/879-9110

Alabama Gas Corporation Birmingham, Alabama 205/326-8425

Gallet & Associates Inc. Birmingham, Alabama 205/942-1289

McCauley Associates Inc. Birmingham, Alabama 205/969-0303

Alabama Supercomputer Authority Montgomery, Alabama 334/832-2405

Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood Inc. Montgomery, Alabama 334/271-3200 Birmingham, Alabama 205/879-4462 Mobile 251/460-4006

McKee & Associates Architecture and Design Montgomery, Alabama 334/834-9933

Barganier Davis Sims Architects Montgomery, Alabama 334/834-2038 BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama Birmingham, Alabama 205/220-5771 Christian Testing Labs Montgomery, Alabama 334/264-4422 Council of Alabama Coca-Cola Bottlers, Inc. Birmingham, Alabama 205/841-2653 Davis Architects Inc. Birmingham, Alabama 205/322-7482 24 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

Hoar Construction Birmingham, Alabama 205/803-2121 Jenkins Munroe Jenkins Architecture Anniston, Alabama 256/820-6844 JH Partners Architecture/Interiors Huntsville, Alabama 256/539-0764 KHAFRA Engineers, Architects and Construction Managers Birmingham, Alabama 205/252-8353

Payne & Associates Architects Montgomery, Alabama 334/272-2180 PH&J Architects Inc. Montgomery, Alabama 334/265-8781 Sain Associates Birmingham, Alabama 205/940-6420 Sherlock Smith & Adams Inc. Montgomery, Alabama 334/263-6481 Evan Terry Associates PC Birmingham, Alabama 205/972-9100 Volkert & Associates Inc. Mobile, Alabama 251/432-6735

At the Table Clinton A. Brasfield School Board Hale County Board of Education

January 29February 27, 2007

Hometown Akron

Academy District Programs

March 2007

A Board Member for 12 years. Books at Bedside The Holy Bible and NEA Today Inspiration My agribusiness teacher at Hale County Training School (now Greensboro East High School), the late W.W. McCurdy, my late father Henry Brasfield Jr. and my late principal Dr. C.A. Fredd Motto as a Board Member The board must do what's possible to make sure no child is left behind and that every child reaches his or her potential.

Regular Legislative Session Convenes


AASB Leadership II(C) Core Workshop & “Early Bird” Workshop Birmingham

9-10 AASB Core Conference Birmingham

April 2007

Walter Mitty Fantasy A reality check for Alabama. The people of our state need to realize the importance of education to the future of Alabama and America. At one time, Americans thought we were ahead of everybody else. We stopped to take stock in 1983 and realized that America is part of an international economic system and that there are people in other parts of the world who are doing just as well or better and creating competition for us. We need to keep that in mind. Advice to New Board Members Attend all training sessions. Establish goals and a mission for your school system. Greatest Accomplishment as a Board Member Maybe I ought to let someone else answer that. I will say that in 12 years, we've seen some redirection, and we're hoping that as a result we can see improvement financially and otherwise. Pet Peeve as a Board Member I have a problem with the highly qualified terminology. After 20 years in the classroom, a teacher may be able to recognize the qualities of a kid who comes from a different culture as opposed to assuming that kid needs special education, which is a different animal altogether. A person who just took a course to become highly qualified may not be able to recognize that difference. Reason I Like Being an AASB Member Through diversity — when you can pull the good ideas together and look at them from all sides — growth takes place. As a member of AASB, people know me, are cordial and make me feel as if I'm part of the group. We give our input and work together to reach a point where understanding is developed and communication takes place. That's very important, and I appreciate it. My Epitaph He tries to treat people right.


14- NSBA Annual 17 Conference and Exposition San Francisco, California

HELP! Is it possible for a school board employee to serve on the board?


In most cases, the answer is no. State law prohibits an employee from serving on the school board. A population-based exception in the law for county boards allows one classroom teacher to serve as a board member. However, a similar code related to city boards was litigated and struck, meaning no school board employee can serve on city boards. The court found that the population limit made no constitutional sense.


— Denise L. Berkhalter ▲ Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 25

Potpourri PEOPLE ▲ Kudos to Madison City Board of Education member and AASB PresidentElect Sue Helms, who will present Helms “Going the Distance for Learning” along with Madison City’s ACCESS Coordinator Dr. Anne Davidson and others during the National School Boards Association’s “Share the Success” program. The event is part of NSBA’s national conference set for April 14-17 in San Francisco. ▲ Great job to Montgomery County

Board of Education member Henry Spears, who was recognized recently at the 38th Annual Council of Urban Boards of Education Conference for his 30 years of exemplary school board service and dedication to urban schoolchildren and public education reform. The recipient of the CUBE Lifetime Achievement Award is the council’s former vice chairman. ▲ Welcome to new Wil-

cox County Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Rosie Shamburger, who took her new post Oct. 1. The former Wilcox County Shamburger special education coordinator replaces Malcolm Cain, who retired Sept. 30. ▲ Welcome to the following new superin-

tendents who take office Jan. 1: Jenny Seals, St. Clair County; Randy Fuller, Shelby County; Dr. Vonda Beaty, Walker County; Sue Moore, Choctaw County; Terry Davis, Madison County; Don Elam, Bibb County; Keith Moore, Chilton County; Hank Allen, Cullman County; Tim Nabors, Marshall County; Robert Balch, Morgan County and Dr. Mark Neighbors, Opelika. ▲ Congratulations to Morgan County

Board of Education member Kenneth Henson and Henry County BOE 26 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006

member Roger Davis. Henson, who recently attended AASB’s annual convention, and Davis, who attended the Leadership I course, won free registration for either the March 2007 or October 2007 AASB School Board Member Academy conferences. They were chosen from those who completed and returned AASB evaluation forms at the December events. ▲ Greetings to new Albertville Superin-

tendent Dr. Frederic Ayer, who takes office April 1. He replaces Interim Superintendent Smiley Veal.

ence were Calcedeaver Elementary School’s Felicia Myers, Rebecca Lakes and Nicole Williams; Vestavia Hills Elementary School East’s Christina Tucker, Jo-Ann Walsh and Charlotte Wilson; and Wrights Mill Road Elementary School’s Lynda Tremaine, Shannon Brandt and Jennifer Dempsey. The schools are part of the Alabama Best Practices Center’s Powerful Conversations Network. ▲ Congratulations to

who was awarded the ninth annual Alabama Association of School Boards District Five Fine Arts Scholarship. Smith, son of Gerald and Dianne Smith, was active in the Hoover High School Music Department and now attends the University of Alabama.

Robin Hunt, the newly appointed executive director of the Alabama Parent Teacher Association. Hunt joined the Hunt staff Nov. 10. The former chief of membership development with the Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, is a graduate of Auburn University.

▲ Kudos to Rep. H. Mac Gipson Jr. of

▲ Good luck to the Alabama schools nom-

▲ Hats off to Nathan Smith of Hoover,

Prattville who became the first Alabama lawmaker elected as chair of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Legislative Advisory Council. Gipson has served on the board since 2000. AASB Executive Director Dr. Sandra SimsdeGraffenried is also a member of the board. ▲ Applause goes to Vestavia Hills, Mobile

County’s Calcedeaver and Auburn’s Wrights Mill Road elementary schools, which represented the state at the Microsoft U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum in Redmond, Wash. Teachers chosen to attend the September confer-

inated for the 2007 National Blue Ribbon School honor. The state’s nominees are Forest Avenue Magnet Elementary School in Montgomery; Holly Hill Elementary School in Enterprise; Virgil Grissom High School in Huntsville; Rosalie Elementary School in Jackson County; and K.J. Clark Middle School in Mobile County. Winners will be announced next fall and recognized at a November ceremony in Washington for closing student achievement gaps and success in making adequate yearly progress goals under No Child Left Behind. Dr. Wayne Ray (pictured at right with his wife, Lela) is Alabama’s 2007 Superintendent of the Year. Under the Russellville Board of Education superintendent’s leadership, the school system was the first with a 100 percent highly qualified faculty. State Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton and state Board of Education Vice President Sandra Ray (shown at left) presented Dr. Ray with a plaque at the December board meeting. The National Superintendent of the Year will be announced in March.

New Staffer Joins AASB

Flex Your Advocacy Muscle...

The Alabama Association of School Boards recently welcomed Aeryca Ezell of Montgomery to the staff. Ezell is earning valuable experience as an AASB clerical assistant. Selected through her school’s student worker program, the Jefferson Davis High School senior carries out clerical and related duties. She began working at AASB in June 2006 and will continue through May 2007. Ezell Ezell has earned several academic awards and is very active in school organizations. Among these are her role as president of her school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America chapter and her membership in the Spanish Honors and American Honors societies. She was also a varsity cheerleader from 2004 to 2006.

Continued from page 23

your return address, be sure to include your return address on the letter. Envelopes get thrown away. Typed letters are not necessary if writing is legible, but they are desirable. Appropriately address your letter using the legislator’s correct title and the correct spelling of his or her name. ▲

Limit your letter to one specific subject. Reference the bill number that you are writing about in a subject line or the first line of the letter. Correspondence received on a bill is filed by bill number. If you have not prominently identified the bill number or your letter references more than one subject, your letter could get lost.

Be succinct. In most cases, a one paragraph justification for your position is sufficient and desirable. Anything longer and your points could be lost in the crush of a heavy work load. Explain the facts as they exist in your school system and how the particular bill will impact your school system. In the last paragraph, restate your position and ask the legislator for a specific action. If no immediate action is required, then simply ask for support as the bill moves through the legislative process.

Introduce legislators to your school system. Invite legislators to visit your schools. Sometimes an invitation is all it takes. Invite them on-site to see exciting programs in the system’s schools and see firsthand the condition of your facilities. The best time to do this is when the Legislature is generally out of session and legislators are in their district. The 2007 regular session doesn’t begin until March 6. However, the organizational session begins Jan. 9.

If you have not been able to get your legislator to visit your programs, be creative. Send pictures or a tape recording.

▲ Congratulations to J.E. Turner Elementary School teacher

Lynn McCain and the Mobile County Board of Education, as well as Wrights Mill Road Elementary School’s Shannon Brandt of Auburn Board of Education. Each won $25,000 as 2006 Milken National Educator Award winners. ▲ A well done goes to Baldwin County Board of Education’s

Loxley Elementary School and Mountain Brook Board of Education’s Crestline Elementary School, winners of the 2005-2006 President’s Challenge State Champion School. ▲ Congratulations to the students of Mountain Brook High

School, whose joint production of the play “To Kill a Mockingbird” with Fairfield Preparatory High School received national attention in October on NBC Nightly News, the Today Show and National Public Radio. ▲ Thoughts of compassion go to the family of Macon County

board member Ora G. Manning, who died in November. She was employed by the Macon County Board of Education for more than 30 years and once served as interim superintendent. ▲ Condolences to the family of former state representative and

senator Robert L. “Bob” Ellis Jr., who died at age 84 in October. Ellis served on the Jefferson County Board of Education for six years and was elected to the board in 1960. ▲

Sen. Figures Tours Decatur Schools Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, pictured in the center, visited several Decatur schools recently at the request of Decatur City Board of Education member and AASB Leader to Leader member Karen Duke. Superintendent Dr. Sam Houston joined Figures on the tour.


Show appreciation. Be sure to thank your legislators if they have done something you think is right on a particular issue. Thank them for their service, past votes or current position. Legislators, like everyone else, get tired of only hearing complaints. Let them know when you support their positions, too. Try a personal note, an official letter from the board or special thank-you notes from students. ▲

(Sources: These legislative advocacy tips were primarily reprinted with the permission of the California School Boards Association and supplemented with information from AASB, the National School Boards Association and Nancy M. LaCasse’s book Impacting the Legislative Process, published by School Services of California, 1995.) Alabama School Boards • Winter 2006 27

Alabama Association of School Boards Post Office Drawer 230488 Montgomery, Alabama 36123-0488

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2006 Winter Alabama School Boards Magazine  

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