By Elisa Ferrell
School Board Representative
My dad was a great storyteller and the best with bedtime stories. Whether he was making a story up as he went or reading my sisters and me a book, he had this steady, almost monotone voice that was reassuring, and sleep-inducing, the ultimate goal of the bedtime story. When dad would read with voice inflection, you paid attention because that didn’t happen often. For instance, mimicking Chicken Little squawking that the “sky is falling, the sky is falling” because he got hit on the head with an acorn.
Chicken Little wasn’t from Huntsville, because if he was, he would know the sky doesn’t fall, stuff does. When it does, we all head to our backyards with telescopes to watch the show. We have heard a lot about the sky falling in education. The Great Resignation, no teachers, no hope for the future… the sky is falling, the sky is falling. There was a need for concern, but I am happy to say the Great Re-engagement is in full gear, and the great resignation is diminishing into the past.
The last 3 years are probably the hardest years for teachers in modern history. It took a toll on our teachers physically, emotionally, and mentally. HCS looked for ways to encourage and help. Ethics laws prevent us from giving teachers bonuses, but we can give stipends for things like professional development on learning loss, and we did. The State of Alabama reworked the salary matrix and gave salary increases across the board. They also extended the steps for each year of service, so now our veteran teachers don’t max out on the salary matrix until their 35th year. Huntsville City Schools added to the matrix to make sure our teachers were well compensated. We have the highest teacher salaries in North Alabama and among the highest in the state.
Money isn’t everything though. Time is valuable as well. Our administrative staff is dedicated to our schools and our teachers. They are always looking for new ways to help. Time was something everyone needed more of. Making the last day of school a half-day so teachers can use the extra time to pack their rooms greatly impacted recovered time and morale. Expect to see more teacher time retrieved in the future.
There is an old saying “the proof is in the pudding”. Proof that the Great Re-engagement is working can be found in our hiring. We employ roughly 2500 people directly and through contract. This year we have fewer positions to fill before school starts than in years before. That is what you call progress, re-engagement. You might hear alarmists tell you the sky is falling, but we know the sky doesn’t fall. It is just their perception of the stuff they see, an acorn, and not the big picture everyone else sees. The sky is where it has always been, and it is looking clear and blue as can be.