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

Tuscaloosa City Board of Ed Names Finalists For Superintendent, Finalizes Interview Process

Outgoing Lynchburg (Va.) School Superintendent Paul McKendrick and San Diego Area School Superintendent Tony Burks are the two finalists for Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent.

By the evening of July 7, we may know whether a soon-to-be retired Virginia school superintendent or an area school superintendent from San Diego will be the next leader of the 10,000-student Tuscaloosa City Schools.


Paul McKendrick, who announced his retirement as superintendent of the Lynchburg Schools  and Tony Burks from the San Diego Unified School Districts will be invited for second interviews July 6th and 7th here in Tuscaloosa.

The two were just here Tuesday night for Day 2 of interviews as semi-finalists.

After the last two semi-finalists interviewed Wednesday night, the board ranked the six candidates and McKendrick and Burks came up with the highest ratings, which involved a matrix used by Ray and Associates Inc, the search firm hired to assist with the selection of the superintendent.


The board held two rounds of closed-door deliberations to discuss their rankings before returning to an open business meeting  around 11:30 p.m.

After a brief discussion about whether two or three finalists should selected, the decision was made to invite McKendrick and Burks.

But, the decision was not without some discussion about whether the candidate with the third highest ranking, Limestone County Superintendent Barry Carroll should also be invited.

“I think he did very well,” said School Board Member Harry Lee, referring to Carroll, who was the last of the semi-finalists to interview with the Board of Education.

Lee voted against the motion to select just McKendrick and Burks for second interviews.

Following the discussion about the finalists, board members talked for nearly an hour about the dates and process of the final interviews.

The end result of the marathon Board of Education meeting that did not end until 12:15 a.m. Thursday,  was the candidates who advanced to the final round will be interviewed on July 6th and 7th with the board possibly making a final decision as early as July 7th.

Process for Public Input Debated

As has been reported previously, a community forum is set for July 6 at Central High School.

“It is going to be a very structured approach,” said Dan Meissner, chairman of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to submit questions, which will be screened and then posed to each of the finalists, who will appear in separate 45-minute sessions at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m on July 6.

At the end of the 45-minute sessions, attendees at the public forum will be asked to fill out feedback forms.

The information from the feedback forums will be tabulated and reported to the Board of Education, which will have its second interview with the candidates on July 7.

In addition to the community forum, separate focus groups or small group sessions are being organized.    But, exactly who will be invited to those small group sessions was still undetermined.

The board was set to further outline the events for the interview days at its regular open work session Thursday evening.