As superintendent of Bullock County Schools for the last 11 years, Stewart said, he has helped improve graduation rates despite being in an impoverished area and having less funding than what is available in Anniston.
"I see no reason why Anniston can't be a world-class school district," Stewart said. "I see the opportunity here for something special ... I see an opportunity to provide the leadership."
The Anniston Board of Education interviewed Stewart Tuesday at the Anniston City Meeting Center for the job of superintendent. Stewart was the fourth and final candidate the board interviewed for the position, which will be vacated by Superintendent Joan Frazier when she retires at the end of the school year.
The board plans to choose a final candidate Friday at noon during its regular meeting.
Stewart, 52, has worked in education for the last 22 years. Before being superintendent, Stewart worked as a principal in the Tallapoosa County and Tallassee city school systems. He has a master’s degree in elementary education from Auburn University Montgomery and recently earned a doctorate in organizational behavior and education leadership from Grand Canyon University, a private, for-profit university in Phoenix.
Stewart said that to improve reading levels and graduation rates in Anniston, he would first ensure quality teachers are in every classroom.
"There is no substitute for quality teaching," Stewart said. "And we should not promote a child that has not mastered the skill."
Stewart added that school staff must be held accountable.
"You must get into those classrooms and make sure there is teaching going on," Stewart said.
Stewart said he was a strong supporter of using technology in schools. Stewart visited several Anniston schools before the interview and noted that though he saw many positives, he also saw a lack of technology.
"You don't have enough technology and your infrastructure needs to be upgraded," Stewart said. "Most students are more proficient with technology than the teachers ... you have to keep students engaged."
Stewart also discussed the process of closing a school. The board is considering closing at least one of the city's five elementary schools due to low enrollment.
Stewart said he had to oversee the closing of a school in Bullock several years ago. Stewart said that though the school is closed, efforts are underway to repurpose it.
"We're working with the city of Midway, looking at the possibility of making it a community center," Stewart said. "When you close a school and just leave it boarded up, it can be vandalized and become an eyesore."
Staff Writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.