Supporters, opponents of Huntsville school leaders meet - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Supporters, opponents of Huntsville school leaders meet

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Members of the Parent-Teacher Association, Chamber of Commerce and others planned the event at the Annie Merts Center. Members of the Parent-Teacher Association, Chamber of Commerce and others planned the event at the Annie Merts Center.
Protesters also made an appearance voicing opposition to the school system and board. Protesters also made an appearance voicing opposition to the school system and board.
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

After weeks of public remarks and concerns surrounding Huntsville City Schools, community members met to show their support for school leaders Tuesday evening.

Members of the Parent-Teacher Association, Chamber of Commerce and others planned the event at the Annie Merts Center ahead of the night's scheduled board meeting.

The gathering was intended to show support for the school board and Superintendent Casey Wardynski. Supporters point to what they call academic, fiscal and infrastructure advances in the past three years.

Chamber of Commerce leaders said they are in support of the district's effort to get rid of the desegregation order. They said the board's re-zoning plan is the first step in doing that. Leaders said it will help Huntsville become more globally competitive.

More than 50 people took to the steps, standing behind speakers from the community in support of Wardynski and the board. "As a parent, I am proud to be part of this system, that keeps student interests at the forefront of all the decisions that are made," said parent Melissa Thompson. "Is our system perfect? No. But it is definitely on the right path."

Opponents of the school board and its plans, a parents' group concerned with the state of the city's schools, attended the gathering equipped with signs about equality and transparency. They were forced to stand on the sidewalk in front of the Annie Merts Center.

They questioned why there is a gathering to support a district with the largest number of failing schools in the state. Supporters counter by saying that many of those schools are no longer failing due to improved test scores over the years.

Following the rally was the board's regularly scheduled meeting, at which the public was welcomed to share their concerns.

Board member Jennie Robinson told the crowd she welcomes community involvement and hopes everyone can work together for a common cause: the students. "We're going to get there with you or without you, but I hope you will join us for the journey," she said.

At one point in the meeting, board member Laurie McCaulley made a plea to the public to remain civil, and spoke out about vocalized threats towards the superintendent.

After board and public comments, folks were allowed to ask questions about the re-zoning plan and the Department of Justice's response that followed. It was an effort to open the lines of communication that opponents of the board said has been lacking.

Parent Beth Wilder said she's always seen the district as an open book. "I've always been met with data and information, and my questions have been answered," she said.

"I believe even Dr. Wardynski knows one can always improve on interpersonal and communication skills," said Dave Hargrove, a business community leader. "But I tell you what, I don't think I or anyone else has ever questioned his integrity."

Roger Bultmon, a community member, said he strongly supports what Wardynski is doing. "I think they are treating him kind of unjustly right now for what he is trying to do for the Huntsville school system," Bultmon said.

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