HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Huntsville City Schools will begin the new school year with a new superintendent - Dr. Clarence Sutton. Huntsville City Schools is the largest school district in North Alabama.
It's a new era for more than 23,000 students, but also a new era for Superintendent Dr. Clarence Sutton.
FOX54 had a sit-down with Sutton at Jones Valley Elementary School about his plans for the future. The following is a transcript of that conversation.
KENEISHA DEAS: Hi!
SUPT. DR. SUTTON: Hello!
KENEISHA DEAS: It's a pleasure to finally get to meet you face-to-face. Congratulations!
SUPT. DR. SUTTON: Thank you so much. It is my honor to be here today.
KENEISHA DEAS: Oh, yes. The pleasure is all mine too. Quite a journey it took for you to get to this point. Supt. Dr. Sutton.
SUPT. DR. SUTTON: Yes. A long journey. Thirty years in education. But we're finally here.
KENEISHA DEAS: You said thirty years of public education, and I think you started working with Huntsville City Schools on the cusp of the pandemic?
SUPT. DR. SUTTON: Right. I arrived January, and I think right in that Spring or Summer it started happening. I didn't get a chance to really learn people, because I didn't get to learn people. That's why I categorize myself as an outsider, insider. Even though I've been here three years, it shut down, by the time I got here I'm still learning people, learning the area. Meeting new people. So, I still have a tinge of excitement about me, because it's still new even though I've been here three years."
KENEISHA DEAS: Obviously there's a difference because you served as interim at one point. Now, it's official. You're head over Huntsville City Schools.
What differences did you see from in that transition from serving interim to now?
SUPT. DR. SUTTON: Not to minimize but it wasn't a great difference, because we always kept the team concept. From Supt. Finley, to me, it was a transition but not a drastic transition because we believe in the same values. It's all about students, and about student success. And once you keep that in front and build you a good team where everyone has the same belief values, it's just really changing positions, change the roles, a big role, proud of the role, but the vision didn't change. The mission did not change. So that's why I'm proud to be the superintendent. I'm glad for the opportunity, but we're going to keep going forward.
SUPERINTENDENT DR. SUTTON ON 'STUDENT SUCCESS' AND CAMPUS SAFETY:
KENEISHA DEAS: Dr. Sutton you already know, Huntsville is now the number one biggest city, metropolitan city in the state of Alabama. Last year we were ranked the Best Place to Live, we're now #2, we fell a spot. But we're getting that attention, and more people are moving here because of what the Rocket City has to offer so of course, with people moving here with new jobs they have families that come with them.
How are you able to handle that number of families moving in to Huntsville?
SUPT. DR. SUTTON: I have to say we have a culture of planning. So we work directly with the city, we work directly with the county. So we know the population growth. We know the areas, and so we've already gone with our plan. So with the strategic plan, we have a capital plan to not just react, but it's a plan to be proactive. So we know where the area is going. So we know we're growing, that's an exciting time for us because anything that grows means you're still living. We have a plan to address that growth to make it easier for our people. So, I'm excited about that. We're planning five, ten years out. That way, that adds to the transition, so it's seamless."
KENEISHA DEAS: Does it ever cross your mind concerns of overcrowding in certain schools?
SUPT. DR. SUTTON: We've studied that. We're already looking at renovations for schools. Soon we're very excited to have a new career technical education center, that will accommodate some of that growth. Again it goes back to the plan that we discussed earlier. When we put those students in those areas, it eliminates some of the growth in the building because we're going to use our community colleges. We're going to use our universities. We have two universities here in Huntsville, Alabama. We have community colleges here and Huntsville City limits, in Madison County. We're going to use those programs. So now, students are not only using our wonderful facilities, but now we're using all the resources we have at Huntsville City Schools and that eliminates - that's the planning the communication, the collaboration - some of the crowding that people were worried about because we have so many resources.
KENEISHA DEAS: Awesome. Was there anything else that you wanted to add Dr. Sutton.
SUPT. DR. SUTTON: No we're just excited about this school year. Again, we're here. We're a major part of the city, and we want people to know we're a major part of the city. Our goal is to be the premiere district in the state of Alabama and the nation, and we cannot do it without all of our stakeholders on board and we're asking for their support.
KENEISHA DEAS: Thank you so much!
SUPT. DR. SUTTON: Thank you!
KENEISHA DEAS: It was a pleasure, thank you!