Douthitt: no plans to close McKenzie

Published 2:33 pm Friday, May 14, 2010

The new Butler County School superintendent got a warm welcome while delivering welcome news to the people of McKenzie Thursday night. Darren Douthitt spoke at the first of three public forums across the county.

Contrary to rumor, Douthitt made it clear there are no plans in the immediate future to consolidate south Butler County schools.

“Consolidation is the last thing any superintendent would want to do; you don’t want to close a school. But what we do have to look at is at every single dollar and how best to spend it in our district,” Douthitt said.

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“I have many other priorities within the district and let me assure you, possibly closing McKenzie is pretty far down on that list. I want to make sure all of you have the opportunity to give us feedback before any major decision and I am committed to that.”

Douthitt told his audience plans for the system “can’t just be mine.”

“They have to be our plans, not my plans. There can be no ‘behind-the-scenes’ or ‘in-the-dark’ decisions made. I am here to serve you,” Douthitt said.

In response to an audience question, the new superintendent said he wanted to create active parent and student advisory boards across the system to give everyone who wants a chance to participate in the educational process a voice.

He also said he would work to raise teacher attendance statistics, one of the areas the SACS accreditation team said needing improvement.

“I never missed a day of school in 12 years. I know that if teachers aren’t there to teach, the students cannot learn.

The staff has to be held accountable and so do the students,” Douthitt said.

The superintendent, who has been on a walk-through of the McKenzie campus and also attended their recent athletic banquet, said he is impressed with the community commitment to and support of their school.

“I know I am preaching to the choir here, but parental involvement is vitally important . . . we need it in every community in this district to be successful,” Douthitt said.

In response to a question about possible cuts to the hugely successful Alabama Math Science Technological Initiative (AMSTI) and Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI), Douthitt said he believed the last thing the state would want to do was cut these programs, which have received national accolades for their effectiveness.

“I promise I will go to Montgomery if necessary and make a noise about protecting and enlarging these programs,” Douthitt said.

He also expressed hopes the seeming upswing in the economy would allow pink-slipped employees to “be welcomed back into the fold.”

MHS principal Randy Williams said new leadership in the district brought exciting opportunities.

“We are really glad Mr. Douthitt decided to hold these forums. He is still learning the system and as much about our school as he can and we look forward to working with him as much as possible in the coming weeks,” Williams said.

Approximately 150 students, family members, faculty and staff attended the McKenzie forum. Additional forums are set for 6 p.m. May 19 at Butler County Magnet School in Georgiana and 6 p.m., May 20 at the BOE Central Office Board Room in Greenville.