Speegle: Build learning throughout system

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &045; Whether it is for building small learning communities throughout the system or strengthening professional relationships to build better schools, Dr. Tony Speegle and Dr. Edward Brown agree that communication is the key to continued success for Demopolis Public Schools.

Speegle and Brown were the second set of candidates to face questioning in interviews to replace retiring superintendent Dr. Wesley Hill. Dr. Neil Hyche, a retired Tuscaloosa County superintendent, led the interviews as a consultant to the school board.

Speegle: More communication is paramount

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The principal at U.S. Jones Elementary School, Speegle said he has found great success in building what he calls learning communities throughout the school. The communities are small groups of educators who share ideas, work on curriculum and develop plans to help students reach educational goals. The Demopolis native said it is a model that could be expanded throughout the district to help build better lines of communication.

Speegle targeted specific areas in which building teamed structures of personnel would be beneficial to the superintendent and the system as a whole. One of those was in long-term planning of capital outlays.

Speegle said he believes that professional development should be approached in the same manner as curriculum development.

Speegle related how the manner in which teachers and principals develop curriculum based on test scores has evolved over the years. At one time, he said, educators would say, &8220;We need to focus on math.&8221; Now, with the data available through standardized testing, specific areas of mathematics can be targeted as problem areas.

Speegle said he wanted to see Demopolis become one of the top 10 school districts in Alabama.

Returning to the need for better communication, Speegle said he would like to see more regular written updates circulated through the administrators and teachers as to progress on benchmarks and improvement plans. He said continued focus on the progress of such plans will help the district build on its current successes.

Brown relates personal experiences

While the previous three interviews lasted approximately an hour, Brown’s interview wrapped up after nearly an hour-and-a-half. That was largely due to the Bibb County High School principal sharing personal experiences to relate to the questions being asked.

Brown stressed that building relationships was how he set about leading. He said the best way to build relationships was to be honest and fair, knowing that hard decisions would have to be related.

In the first of many personal experiences shared, he related how his relationship with his father and brother are strained after he refused to fire the Brown County High School baseball coach over a dispute concerning his nephew.

Brown said his training in conflict resolution has helped him understand how to deal with groups of people who have passionate views on subjects, views that often differ with other groups. Brown said in such situations he believes the best decision is one where all parties involved make concessions.

Brown also said having good relationships with teachers and administrators helps breed an atmosphere of trust and empowers educators to do their jobs with confidence.

Brown is in his 31st year in education after becoming an administrator at the age of 24. He said he has done much of what he set out to do in his career and that becoming a superintendent was the next logical step.

Interviews continue in two weeks

The school board opened interviews Tuesday night with Demopolis High School principal Dr. Isaac Espy and Dr. JoAnn Horton, the assistant principal at Foley Elementary School.

The next set of interviews will take place on March 13-14.

On Tuesday, March 13, the board of education will interview Lawrence Vickers, the principal of Hillcrest Middle School in Tuscaloosa County, and Dr. Douglas Lee Ragland, superintendent of Greene County Schools. On Wednesday night, the board will interview William Holiday III, principal of Oxford High School, and Ronald Roberts, the former principal at Demopolis High School. All interviews are open to the public.