Ranae Bartlett: 2019 delivers historic year for Madison City Schools
By Ranae Bartlett
Madison City Board of Education President
MADISON – We stood on the shoulders of those who preceded us and reaped the benefits from a citizen-led movement for a better school system over 20 years ago.
This year, our community answered the call for continued support of public education by passing a 12 mil property tax increase to enable our school system to continue to strive for excellence for the next generation.
This historic vote and affirmation for high quality public schools is a shining beacon for our entire North Alabama region. Investing in education is the smart thing to do and pays huge economic dividends.
King Solomon wrote: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We have met our purpose, and future generations will look back with appreciation for the work so many have done to pave the way for success.
We are so grateful to our Superintendent, Robby Parker, and our Chief School Financial Officer Jana Gray for leading our communication efforts in explaining to our community why we needed a tax increase to build additional schools, create a safe learning environment, and continue to offer outstanding academic programs.
The Madison Forward citizens group and our PTAs were instrumental in the success of this campaign. Our city leaders and legislative delegation made it possible for us to cast this historic vote where 70% approved a property tax increase for our schools. We appreciate everyone who engaged in this effort and showed up to vote.
Immediately after the election, our Board and Superintendent began work to address our overcrowding. We achieved our own bond rating so we could borrow money to finance these projects without the debt being carried by the city as in the past.
This helps the city manage its own debt while the school system moves forward on major capital projects.
We approved site development work on a new elementary school so that it can open in the fall of 2021. We will soon be doing the same for a new middle school next to our central office and stadium on Celtic Drive. The new middle school is targeted for opening in fall 2022 and will be sharing the football field with our two high schools. The shared use will necessitate some stadium and field renovations that were budgeted in the cost for a new middle school.
School safety and security remains a top priority as we work with Police Chief David Jernigan to provide more School Resource Officers (SROs) for our growing student population. In January 2019 Dr. David West joined Madison City Schools as our Safety, Security, and Emergency Management Coordinator. He holds quarterly meetings with key city and school system members that focus on student safety, mental health and well-being.
Our academic programs continue to impress through the hard work of our administrators, teachers, and students. Through aspirational goals that our Board has set for Superintendent Parker, our school system has focused on strengthening Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education programs for our students. This translates into assigning teachers for each elementary school dedicated to offering STEAM, and math acceleration opportunities in addition to the outstanding core instruction they receive every day. Another goal of second language fluency by graduation has resulted in our system awarding a Seal of Biliteracy to graduates for the first time in 2019. Our students are now introduced to Spanish from Pre-K to 5th grade, are then able to take 9-week electives in French, Latin, German, and Mandarin in middle school, and can earn high school credits, including AP classes in multiple world languages.
We do not take our responsibility lightly as our school system moves forward to build schools and offer state of the art programs for our students. To whom much is given, much is expected. Transparency on how money will be spent and a demonstration that Madison City Schools will continue to be good stewards of the funds that have been entrusted to us to benefit our students is paramount.
Toward that end, our school system has invested in a study to better understand how to manage student population growth and quantify how our city’s growth impacts the school system. We already know that growth does not pay for itself, and we will be sharing information with the public so everyone better understands what it will take to continue to offer the educational services our community expects.
Maintaining the high quality of our school system is our ultimate goal.