Photos by Jon Anderson
Lee Ogle and Tosney 2
The three 2017 applicants for the Hoover Board of Education are, from left, Shekinah Lee, Susan Ogle and Amy Tosney.
Hoover City Council members recently quizzed three school board applicants on a myriad of topics, including whether Hoover should build a third high school and what they think about the school rezoning plan.
Susan Ogle, a retired teacher from Simmons Middle School who is one of the applicants, told the council’s Education Committee that she would love to see a third high school built. With more than 2,900 students, Hoover High School students have fewer opportunities to shine than they would if they were in a smaller school, Ogle said.
“There is so much untapped talent there because only so many students can be in a drama presentation, on the basketball team cheering squad, etc,” Ogle wrote in her school board application. “If a third high school existed, so many more students could be involved/excel in any number of areas. It breaks my heart at the untapped talent at Hoover High.”
When school officials considered building a new high school in years past, they were met with opposition, Ogle said.
“Everybody wanted to be a Hoover Buc. They just couldn’t let go of that allegiance,” she said.
However, her family was one of the families rezoned to Spain Park High School, she said. One of her sons was thrilled to be one of the first to go to Spain Park, she said, noting they got to choose the school colors.
If a third high school were built in Hoover, “we’d find some diamonds in the rough that don’t have a lot of opportunities,” she said.
However, Ogle said she’s sure that, financially, the system couldn’t afford to build a third high school.
Amy Tosney, a former Jefferson County teacher who now is the vice president and office manager for the Magic City Door company and a candidate for the school board, said she’s among those who would favor expanding Hoover High School as long as there is space and land available. She would rather not build a third high school “til you just have to,” she said.
Shekinah Lee, a 2010 graduate of Hoover High who is the third candidate for the school board, said adding another high school likely would allow for more direct connections between students, teachers and counselors.
However, she realizes that finances would make it difficult to build and staff another school, she said.
Council members asked Ogle and Tosney what they thought about the proposed plan to redraw Hoover school attendance zones.
Photo by Jon Anderson
Susan Ogle interview 3-20-17
Retired Simmons Middle School science teacher Susan Ogle interviews for a spot on the Hoover school board with the Hoover City Council's Education Committee on Monday, March 20, 2017.
Ogle said she’s concerned about the rezoning plan because she believes it’s important to try to keep all Hoover schools equally balanced in terms of race and socio-economics.
The current rezoning plan would concentrate children from lower-income families and Latino children who are learning English as a second language in certain schools, she said.
Many of those children are struggling because of language barriers or because they’re moving from lower-performing school districts or because their parents are working multiple jobs and have limited time to help them or encourage them with their schoolwork, Ogle said.
Teachers, of course, want to help these students, she said. “We’re all Americans, and all these children need an education,” she said.
However, it’s much more difficult for teachers to teach when disadvantaged students are grouped together in larger numbers, she said.
“If you have a majority of lower socio-economic children in classrooms, where the majority are needier children, it changes the whole atmosphere of the classroom, and nobody really benefits,” Ogle said.
There need to be some leaders among the children to help pull the others along, she said. Teachers are scared because they don’t know how they’re going to handle the extra challenges, she said.
That being the case, Ogle said she realizes the federal court is seeking a rezoning plan that gets children zoned to schools closer to where they live. Most teachers she knows say they will teach whatever students they get, she said.
The first nine months might be rough, but “when you get to know your students personally, you love ‘em. It doesn’t matter,” she said.
Perhaps the school system can provide more aides in schools and classrooms that have more disadvantaged children, she said.
Tosney said she is very much in favor of the current rezoning plan.
“I don’t know if there could have been a better way to do it,” she said. “It made perfect sense to me.”
Hoover schools have to move students so they can fully use the classroom space they already have and make room for students in areas of growth, she said. They also need to meet the goals of the federal court order and get students back in schools closer to where they live, she said.
Photo by Jon Anderson
Amy Tosney interview 3-20-17
Amy Tosney, vice president and office manager for the Magic City Door overhead door company, interviews for a spot on the Hoover school board with the Hoover City Council's Education Committee on Monday, March 20, 2017.
The current rezoning plan is expected to affect only about 2,500 of Hoover’s 14,000 public school students, which is not as bad as it could be, Tosney said.
This won’t be the last time that Hoover schools redraw attendance zones, Tosney said. As the city continues to grow, more rezoning will have to take place in the future, she said. School system leaders need to work to keep class sizes low, she said.
It will be important for the school system to get released from federal court supervision in regard to the decades-old Jefferson County desegregation case, Tosney said.
“We don’t want anybody in Washington to have to make decisions for us,” she said.
The three applicants also were asked what they thought about vocational education.
Lee said she thinks it’s important to provide opportunities for students who may not be headed to a four-year college or university.
Tosney agreed and said a lot of the men who work for her and her husband didn’t finish high school, but someone taught them how to weld or to be an electrician or some other trade. She’s a strong advocate for having a high school academy geared for that type of training, she said.
Ogle said the federal No Child Left Behind program was unrealistic because it tried to prepare everyone for college. There are students who won’t go to college, but they still need to be prepared for the workforce, she said. Some people with training in skilled trades make more money than people who go to college, she said.
“We really need to look at this population and educate them to where they’re not going to join gangs and they’re not going to go on food stamps, but they’re going to walk right into a good job,” Ogle said. “I like what Hoover and Spain Park are doing, but I think we can do more to help with career readiness.”
Lee and Tosney both were asked what they thought about the Hoover school board’s decision not to authorize charter schools, and both said they thought it was a good decision.
Lee said Hoover schools have enough financial challenges and charter schools would only take money away from existing public schools.
Councilman Derrick Murphy asked Lee what she thought about the idea of non-traditional schools, such as a fine arts or vocational school. Lee said having options is always more beneficial. However, she thinks it would be wise to start by expanding programs within existing schools before creating a brand new specialty school.
Applicants also were asked if they would be able to handle the scrutiny that comes with being a school board member.
Lee, who formerly served as manager of the Plato’s Closet used clothing store in Hoover, said she has had experience dealing with people who were unhappy with decisions she made not to accept their clothing to sell in the store and she could handle criticism on the school board.
Tosney said she loves people and loves dealing with people and thinks she is level-headed enough not to get too emotional when dealing with difficult issues.
Only 3 applicants
Councilman John Lyda said he was somewhat surprised there weren’t more than three applicants for the school board this year. However, “it’s not the quantity but the quality of the applicants that matters,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the applicants we have in the pool.”
Murphy, chairman of the Education Committee, said that even though there were a small number of applicants, it’s a pretty diverse pool. Two (Ogle and Tosney) have experience in education, and one of them (Tosney) is familiar with the day-to-day aspects of running a business. The third (Lee) offers the viewpoint of a former Hoover student.
Lee said she would like to be a voice for students on the school board and to help the board see things from a student’s perspective. She wants to help current and future students have the same favorable experience she had, or better, she said.
Ogle said she knows a former Hoover counselor served on the school board in years past, but she doesn’t think there has ever been a teacher on the board. She believes she could help the board understand issues from a teacher’s perspective and how“it’s real in that classroom and it’s hard in that classroom,” she said.
Tosney said she feels like she is the “total package.” She knows what it’s like to be in the classroom and to be a mom, but she also knows how to read a budget and the importance of operating in the black and in an efficient manner, she said.
Photo by Jon Anderson
HV council education committee 3-20-17
The Hoover City Council's Education Committee interviews the three women who applied for the 2017 appointment to the Hoover Board of Education on Monday, March 20, 2017. From left are Mike Shaw, John Lyda, Derrick Murphy, John Greene and Curt Posey.
The City Council’s Education Committee plans to meet to discuss the school board appointment on Monday, April 3, just after the council’s 5 p.m. work session and prior to the council’s 6 p.m. action meeting. The Education Committee will meet in the council conference room behind the council chambers. The meeting is open to the public.
Murphy said he expects the full City Council to vote on the school board appointment at the council’s April 17 meeting.
See the full video interviews with the applicants on the city of Hoover's You Tube channel. The interviews range from 22 to 32 minutes each.