In the next four years, the Anniston Board of Education will be working through system reorganization and possible school consolidation, addressing needed improvements in academic achievement. This will especially be the case at Anniston High School which has been unable to make adequate yearly progress as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act and budgeting in an age of falling revenue.
The stakes are high for Anniston’s public school students who in recent years have had to deal with technology lagging behind neighboring school systems, school book shortages and aging facilities in need of repair. All the candidates know it and these are just a few of the reasons each of them decided to join the race for office.
Ward 1 candidates:
Donna Satterlee Ross
Donna Satterlee Ross, director of Hobson City Library, moved to Anniston five years ago. Immediately she recognized there was a problem with the schools because their realtor tried to steer her toward other local towns.
“I believe that education and schools are the foundation of a community,” said Ross, 40. “If our schools aren’t top notch, then the rest of the city isn’t going to be able to flourish.”
Ross said her goals for the school system are to work on a five-year, 10-year and long-term plan to allow the system to set a course and stay on it. She also wants to work to increase literacy among students including adding reading coaches at the middle and high schools.
She also wants to improve community involvement with the schools.
“We have to focus on our schools and it’s not going to be just the elected officials or just the principals or just the superintendent,” Ross said. “It has to be everybody caring about the schools.”
Ross' husband works as the band director at Munford High School and her three children attend school in Munford.
Ernest G. Washington
Ernest Washington, 72, is proud to be a product of Anniston schools. He attended 12th Street Elementary and Cobb High School. Washington retired from a 30-year career in education including a stint on the Macon County Board of Education from 1993 to 1996.
“We are not meeting the standards and I think that with my background and experience I can be of great service to the Anniston school board,” Washington said.
He believes the system needs to reach out to the community to recruit volunteers for the schools and to create partnerships with the university to bring in student teachers to tutor students.
“Of course, money is one of the problems,” Washington said. “If we need additional people, personnel, we can hire those people if the money is available.”
The board needs to cultivate a relationship with the Anniston City Council so it can talk to them about the school’s needs, Washington said.
Ward 2 candidates:
William Hutchings is a life-long educator who worked as principal of C. E. Hanna School. Hutchings the current Ward 3 board member has served on the board since 2008 and is seeking re-election to be able to finish some of the things the board has started.
“We are at a crossroads,” Hutchings said, referring to the system’s discussions to reorganize. “New facilities and new things will enhance learning.”
Hutchings said he ran in 2008 at the request of residents who knew he wouldn’t shy away from speaking his mind in office and he has been very vocal about what he believes is the City Council’s lack of support for the school system.
“They don’t put the kids first in Anniston,” Hutchings said.
Still Hutchings said there needs to be more harmony between the Anniston City Council, which controls the local funding for the school system, and the board. The two bodies need to meet together more often to discuss their goals for the system.
Even with little financial support from the City Council, the school system has been able to become financially stable during his term, Hutchings said.
Trudy Moses-Munford, 67, was a product of Anniston schools and then she left for 42 years to pursue her education and a career in teaching. She came back three years ago and became more and more concerned about the school system. She was drawn into a conflict with a grandparent whose grandchild was failing school and administrators, which Moses-Munford said, they were able to eventually solve. She also attended some school board meetings, but even with her decades of experience in teaching, felt lost and confused during the meetings.
“It seemed like a personal conversation between the board and the superintendent,” Moses-Munford said.
She would establish an advocacy group for parents to act as a liaison between parents who may not understand educational processes and language and teachers and administrators. Even the report cards can be difficult to understand for those who are unfamiliar with the jargon, she said.
“It has everything you need, but takes some interpretation,” Moses-Munford said.
Moses-Munford also believes the school system has to work on improving reading academics in the schools. She also would like to see more focus on vocational training.
Ward 3 candidates:
Mary L. Harrington
Mary Harrington, the incumbent in Ward 3 and board president, said academics would be, and has always been her first priority as a board member. Although, Harrington notes, the board had gotten off track and only recently returned to discussing improving student achievement.
“As a school board you have to make sure that policies are in place that facilitate your expectations, that we expect a culture where learning takes place,” Harrington said.
Harrington said that was why she wanted to change a policy in the system that kept students who failed a class from advancing with their class. It meant that some students didn’t take their graduation test until their senior year and that hurt their chances for graduation.
One of the ways to improve academics is to improve community involvement in the schools, Harrington said.
“I want them to want to be involved,” Harrington said. “Most of the people that are telling me what’s wrong with Anniston, they haven’t been to a board meeting, they may not even have kids in the school system.”
The only way they are really going to know what is going on in the system is for them to get involved and then they will also have a personal stake in the system, Harrington said.
Harrington, believes the system has made a lot of progress during her term. Its finances are stabilized and the system has reinstated field trips for the students.
Harrington, who works at Cleburne County Schools as director of federal programs, elementary curriculum and testing, said she wants to see progress in academic achievement at the high school as well as see through system reorganization if re-elected.
Attempts to contact C. K. Huguley for comment for this article were unsuccessful. She did however, send in answers to a candidate forum questionnaire in which she said her goals as board member would be to improve academics.
She would work to increase parental participation and community involvement and increase board transparency. In addition, she would encourage greater participation in dual enrollment programs at Anniston High School with Jacksonville State University and Gadsden State Community College.
Her daughter will be entering the school system this fall.
“I expect her to be challenged to achieve a high level of academic performance,” Huguley wrote.
Glen E. Ray, Sr.
Glen Ray, 59, who is retired from Regional Medical Center, said he decided to run for office after his grandchild started having problems at school. His grandchild, who previously did well in school, all of a sudden started failing classes. However, when he started working with her, she did fine.
“We need to have something in place to monitor our kids,” Ray said. “Kids don’t just be good and go bad.”
Ray said if elected he will try to implement motivational classes for students to teach them to take pride in their school. He also would like to push early education starting in preschool and kindergarten. He believes the entire community pays if a city’s education system fails, so it is very important to involve the community in the local system, even going so far as to provide transportation to school activities.
“If you go down to city jail, most of them (inmates) didn’t finish school,” Ray said. “Most of them could have been saved.”
But he notes the school system is suffering under a racial problem in the city. The prolem is illustrated, Ray said, by the racial breakdown of the students in the system. The system’s student population is overwhelmingly black although the city’s black population is just a slight majority.
Bill Robison, 73, has been a member of the Board of Education for 12 years. A veteran of city politics, he has also served as mayor, city councilman and on numerous boards. Robison said he is proud of the fact that he’s always stood up for what he believed in on the board even if his one vote wasn’t enough to change the outcome.
“When the board changed the policy to allow non-graduating seniors to walk with their class, I think that was a mistake,” Robison said. “But I’m proud of the fact that I stood up for what I feel to be an error in judgment on their part.”
Robison had first announced a campaign for city councilman, but changed his mind and qualified for re-election to the board because he was impressed with the field of candidates for City Council, he said.
Robison said he would like to try to see the system reorganization through.
The reorganization, financed by the potential sale of the middle school to the city, could be a win-win situation for the whole community, Robison said.
Robison said the most pressing issues for the school system are the systems facilities and budgetary concerns and they could both be improved by the reorganization.
“We can’t do it without selling the middle school,” Robison said.
Arthur Cottingham is the current at-large board member. He was appointed in December to finish the term of previous board president Richard Hooks. Cottingham, who has been active in the high school Parent-Teacher Organization, will have a granddaughter entering the system next school year.
He is focused on improving reading scores in the system. Cottingham would like to add remedial reading classes at the middle and high school level for students who aren’t reading at their grade level, he said.
“Our graduation rate is running neck and neck with our reading scores,” Cottingham said “If we can bring our reading scores up, I’m almost certain our graduation rate will increase with our reading scores.”
However, Cottingham notes that looming proration has been a problem as the school system, along with others across the state, tries to educate students. We have to anticipate possible cuts when planning how much to spend on staff and programs, Cottingham said.
“You never know from year to year how that’s going to come out,” Cottingham said. “It’s like a cloud hanging over us.”
Mary L. Klinefelter
Mary Klinefelter, 66, is married to current Ward 1 board member Jim Klinefelter. He has decided not to run for re-election, which gave her the opportunity to enter the race herself.
“I’ve always wanted to serve on the Board of Education,” Klinefelter said.
She held back, because of her husband’s seat on the board and also her career in the school system. She retired from Tenth Street Elementary in July, and has worked at every level from kindergarten through 12th grade, Klinefelter said.
She said the board needs to address several issues in the system: the graduation rate, academic achievement, declining enrollment and public perception of the school system.
“We have wonderful students and wonderful families,” Klinefelter said.
But she noted that the community may not know that because they don’t get involved with the schools. Klinefelter said the system needs to work harder to involve the community in decisions about the schools. That could include talking to the business community when expanding the career education program offerings so the curriculum would be based on what is needed in the workforce, she said.