Struggling schools, PAC money influencing Tuscaloosa school board election

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August 19, 2013

Alabama

By Nick Katers

Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Voters in Tuscaloosa will face a ballot crowded with school board candidates on August 27. All eight seats on the Tuscaloosa Board of Education are up for election next week. The board faces serious challenges going forward including improvements to four schools failing according to state standards and continued rebuilding from a 2011 tornado. A political action committee (PAC) called Educate Tuscaloosa has also spent $100,000 to support reforms to school board policy.

Parents and community members are looking to rebuild the district’s facilities while improving the curriculum. A tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011 left many buildings in ruin including several district schools. Progress in rebuilding school facilities has taken time with the Alberta School of Performing Arts re-opening as recently as April 2013.[1][2] The district will also look to improve four schools considered failing according to the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013. Central High School, Davis-Emerson Middle School, Martin Luther King Elementary School and Westlawn Middle School have failed to meet minimum benchmarks for standardized math and reading tests at least three of the past six years.[3]

Educate Tuscaloosa is supporting a shake-up of the board by criticizing existing members. The group founded by Michael Echols has raised $100,000 to support board reforms with mailers that criticize the current board’s failure to improve academic performance. A postcard sent by the PAC in April argued that the district was ranked 7th in Alabama in terms of funding but only 87th in the state for academic performance.[4][5] During a July 30 candidate forum, incumbent Harry Lee argued for four more years based on the need for continuity. "What we have gotten started is going to take a strong learning curve to catch up to if you're coming in for the first time," Lee said.[6]

Candidates

Chair (At-large)
UncheckedBox.jpg Lee Garrison
UncheckedBox.jpg Denise Hills

District 1
UncheckedBox.jpg James Minyard
UncheckedBox.jpg Earnestine Young

District 2
UncheckedBox.jpg Earnestine Tucker

District 3
UncheckedBox.jpg Norman A. Crow

District 4
UncheckedBox.jpg Kelly Horwitz
UncheckedBox.jpg Cason Kirby

District 5
UncheckedBox.jpg Harry Lee
UncheckedBox.jpg Joe Gattozzi

District 6
UncheckedBox.jpg Marvin Lucas
UncheckedBox.jpg John Lollar

District 7
UncheckedBox.jpg Erskine Simmons
UncheckedBox.jpg Renwick Jones

See also

References