Listening in on Tuscaloosa Schools Listening Tour

The new superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools Paul McKendrick made the second stop on his listening tour at Central High School Tuesday night.

In the same room where he was interviewed by community members as a finalist for Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent two months ago, Paul McKendrick gave the mic to the community Tuesday  night.


The auditorium at Central High School was not quite as full as it was in early July when McKendrick was one of two candidates in the running to head the new school system.

But it’s safe to say the crowd of nearly 100 topped the number of those reported by the Tuscaloosa News who attended the first of three stops on McKendrick’s listening tour.

” Our purpose for tonight is to sit and listen to you.  We need to hear from you, ” McKendrick said as he invited those in the auditorium to come to one of two microphones.  “What do you want us to stop doing? What should we start doing?”

One of the highlights of the 90-minute question-and-answer session was when an impassioned industrial arts teacher from Westlawn Middle School urged McKendrick to let him use more traditional methods for teaching his classes instead of places so much emphasis on computers and technology.

“Our kids need more hands-on activities,” Harold Body said.  “The technology is fine.  It’s not meant for all kids.”

Body told of how he started industrial arts programs at the former Eastwood Middle School and how the generation of students since then have changed.

Ironically, only a few blocks from Body’s school, the old Westlawn Middle School on Martin Luther King Boulevard was razed last month to make way for the new Tuscaloosa Center for Technology.

Many of the parents and other teachers who spoke gave McKendrick an earful on a variety of topics:

  • Teachers should be ABA-certified (Applied Behavior Analysis) for those working with students with Autism.
  • Central High’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program needs the community’s support.   Teacher says: “We need you all to believe and have faith in us.”
  • The achievement gap (between students of various racial groups and various schools) needs attention — There is a “culture of  low expectations”
  • Kids today need more attention and after-school programs is one way to get them the necessary attention

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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