Dr. Tony Speegle interviews with BOE

Published 4:06 pm Friday, April 23, 2010

Dr. Tony Speegle, principal, U.S. Jones Elementary School, Demopolis.


Been in Demopolis for 23 of 25 years in education. Received doctorate from Samford.

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On developing a mission

“You want to include your parents, business leaders, your students…Demopolis has always supported education. The main thing you want to do is make a difference in the quality of instruction each student receives.”

On lowering dropout rate

“We focus on every child. We take every test score that we can find and we look at all the strengths and weaknesses. You focus on the weaknesses and work on them, but you don’t forget about the strengths.”

On a school improvement plan

“We take our continuous plan and fill it out according to our strengths and our areas of focus.”

On management style

“We’re all in this together. I want my teachers to know that and principals, too. I’m here to help you; I’m here to support you. We may disagree, but I’m here to support you. Somebody has got to be responsible for the decision, and that’s me. I would best describe my management style as a service leader. If there’s a way I can help you do your job better, then I need to be in that role. You have to have an open door policy. They have to know that if they have a problem that you’ll solve it or you’ll listen.”

On communication

“There’s nothing like word of mouth, but you have e-mails, and I don’t send a lot of e-mails. I try to go to people and speak to them. There’s two types of communication: Communication and miscommunication. The best way to eliminate miscommunication is to speak directly to people.”

On special-needs students

“What’s in that IEP is what you have to do. Where you get in trouble is when you don’t do what you have to do. We’ve got a wonderful special education coordinator who focuses directly on children, and that’s exactly what we need to do. You need to have open communication with the parents…You better be proactive and involve parents.”

On curriculum change

“Change is hard sometimes…I think one of the things is that a lot of teachers like to teach like they were taught. One of the things we have to do is get professional training…We have to look at our test scores and see what this particular course is covering. Your test scores will show you where you’re lacking. Test scores will show you where you need to change. If there’s opposition, you have to support them…again, my job is to help you and help you give better instruction.”

On superintendent’s role with board of education

“It’s up to the superintendent to fulfill the wishes of the board. The superintendent has to be the liaison between the schools, the principals and the community. It has to be a harmonious relationship.”

On paying civic rent

“Demopolis has been the beneficiary of some great stewardship in the past, and I feel like it’s my duty to uphold that.”

Speegle is an active deacon at the First Baptist Church and is active Rotary member. Was a founding member of the Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame and is a graduate of Leadership Marengo.

On budget development

“We used to prepare our own budgets at the school when I first started as an administrator. That causes you to think about what do you need and what can you cut back on. I’m glad to see our CFO (chief financial officer) now takes that burden off of us, but you have to have a close relationship with your CFO.”

On grant writing

Wrote a $500,000 grant for U.S. Jones and it was awarded.

Recently received an arts grant for $15,000.

On budget cuts if necessary

“Look at everything you can see. Can you cut down the air and save on the power bill…You don’t want to affect classroom instruction. That’s just one of the things you have to guard.”

On teacher recruitment and development

“It’s always been my quest to hire the best…Get to be on a first-name basis with the dean of college of education at all the colleges around…Staff development needs to be ongoing and needs to be year-round. You can’t have enough technology training in staff development.”

On accomplishments

“The greatest accomplishment is when I go in and ask a teacher what they need to improve instruction and they pause and think…That means they’ve got what they need to maximize instruction.”

On discipline

“There’s a difference between discipline and punishment…You try to counsel more. As a superintendent, you’ll have to work closely with all the principals. You’ll get some phone calls, but you need to touch base with the principals to see what’s happened.”

On seeking contract extension or other opportunities

“I began my career here. I’d like to end it here. I can’t see myself living anywhere else or being anywhere else right now. Demopolis is a good place to be. I’ve only applied for one superintendent’s job.”