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Douthitt discusses school issues in final two forums

Discipline, transparency and structural woes were some of the many issues discussed by Darren Douthitt in Georgiana and Greenville Wednesday and Thursday nights. The new superintendent of Butler County Schools held the final two public forums at Butler County Magnet School and the BOE Central Office Boardroom.

He expressed his unhappiness with the physical state of the new Georgiana school, which has experienced numerous structural problems since opening last fall.

“If we pay people to build a school and they leave us with leaks, cracks, flooding and all these other issues, we want our money back or we want them to correct the problems,” Douthitt said.

“If a brand-new building is old after one month, something is wrong. It’s not fair to taxpayers or the children. The builders are asking for more money; I want them in my office so I can tell them to get out of my office until they fix what is wrong.”

Douthitt said fencing in a pond adjacent to the school was a “pressing issue for which monies have already been requested.”

The new superintendent stressed he wanted the system to be “good stewards of the public’s money.”

“I’ll tell you, it leads a bad taste in your mouth when public tax dollars are wasted,” Douthitt said.

According to Douthitt, a long list of public records will be added to the district’s website including financial statements and disciplinary referrals for all schools.

“Transparency is important in everything we do and I intend to have it as long as I am here. You have the right to know what is happening and it forces us to do the right thing with our money and resources,” Douthitt said.

“Discipline is also vital. No one wants their children to be part of a chaotic animal house. If a student refuses to learn and to behave, we are not going to perpetuate such foolishness in our classes. They will be expelled. And the same thing applies to our teachers. If they are not doing their part, they don’t need to be here,” he said.

When asked about the possible elimination of the alternative school in Greenville, Douthitt said, “It serves a purpose. But we are going to take a hard look at its structure. If it’s broken we have to fix it.”

During the Q&A session in Georgiana, Douthitt said the goal was to maintain as much rigor in the curriculum as possible at the Georgiana school in spite of the loss of the magnet program.

“Obviously a smaller school cannot have all the electives that a larger school has, due to fewer teaching units. That’s why we have to make use of programs like ACCESS learning that allow students in McKenzie or Georgiana or even Greenville to expand their learning opportunities, regardless of size,” Douthitt said.

With the name being changed to Georgiana School, he said the BOE was committed to making sure the students got the band and athletic uniforms they needed.

Support would also be given for uniform fundraisers as long as they met state and federal guidelines, Douthitt said.

In terms of the original decision to change the name from Georgiana School to Butler County Magnet School, the new superintendent said he saw something “flawed in the whole name change.”

“There should have been more community input into that decision,” Douthitt said.

The fate of the troubled band program – which has seen six band directors in seven years – was another major concern for many parents.

“The band will continue to exist,” Douthitt. “It’s a good way to engage children and keep discipline problems down. I do agree with you it definitely needs more stability. Any program does, and high turnover is one of the things we want to address in this system.”

At Greenville’s forum on Thursday, Douthitt said he hoped to get many phone calls and e-mails to help him in forming a plan for the district.

“I will engage you anywhere as long as it’s done with respect – at church, at home, at McDonald’s – and we will talk about the tough issues,” Douthitt said.

When asked about creating opportunities for parents to learn how to better assist their children with academics, the new superintendent said he planned to implement “Parent Academies” to roll out in August for each school to give parents the tools and knowledge needed to tackle 21st century learners’ needs.

Douthitt also said he would be interested in working with churches and community centers in getting involved in mentoring and tutoring students to prepare for challenges such as the Alabama High School Graduation Exam.

“I’m certain we have materials that can be shared with anyone who has computers and I want to sit down and collaborate on such a plan.”

When questioned by parents about shortages of textbooks in some classes that mean students cannot take the books home, Douthitt said he would investigate the situation, adding, “While there is a freeze on purchasing new textbook series, we should be able to replace books already in use. There should always be enough texts in our core classes.”

Douthitt gave out his cell phone number (437-1574) and encouraged anyone with additional questions or concerns to contact him.

“I believe in servant leadership and I am here to serve,” Douthitt said.