February 26, 2016
Southern Torch (3661 articles)

Super Tuesday showdown: DeKalb Superintendent

Supslider2 copyThe race to watch this Tuesday: DeKalb County Schools Superintendent

By: Tyler Pruett and Joseph Morgan

DEKALB COUNTY, Ala.—Alabama’s Presidential Primary is this Tuesday, March 1. In addition to making a choice of presidential candidates, voters in DeKalb County will decide who will represent Republicans as the GOP nominee for DeKalb County Schools Superintendent in the General Election in November. Current Republican and sitting Superintendent Hugh Taylor is running for reelection and will face Dr. Jason Barnett in the GOP Primary on Tuesday.

Will DeKalb choose Hugh Taylor or Dr. Jason Barnett on Super Tuesday?

DeKalb County educator Bill Monroe is running as a Democrat and has no opposition in the primary this Tuesday. The winner of the GOP Primary—Taylor or Barnett—will face Monroe in the general election in November. Southern Torch has taken the opportunity to sit down with all three candidates. Since Monroe is running unopposed in the primary, the focus of this article is on Taylor and Barnett—the candidates that will face off on Tuesday. After a GOP nominee for superintendent is selected and the ballot for November is set, we will provide a comprehensive profile of Monroe and his GOP opponent prior to the general election.

Hugh Taylor, Republican incumbent for DeKalb County Schools superintendent

Superintendent Hugh Taylor, Republican incumbent

Hugh Taylor, Republican incumbent for DeKalb County Schools Superintendent

Hugh Taylor is the incumbent in the GOP Primary on Tuesday. He was elected superintendent in 2012. Four years ago, DeKalb Schools Superintendent Hugh Taylor ran a campaign pledging to put Dekalb County’s students first, get the school system’s finances in order, and to strengthen Dekalb’s career technical programs. Taylor said he genuinely believes his administration has made great strides towards these goals.

Taylor is a lifelong resident of Dekalb County. He attended Plainview High School where he excelled in sports, graduating in 1989. Afterwards he attended Athens State University, earning a degree in physical education with a minor in biology. In 2002, Taylor completed his masters degree in educational administration at Jacksonville State University. He spent the previous 19 years as a coach and an educator, with over nine years as a classroom teacher and seven as a principal.

When he first took office, Dekalb County Schools was facing a budget shortfall of $800,000 below the state required amount of one month’s operating expenses. Four years later, Taylor proudly stated, “We have a $1.5 million dollar surplus over the required amount.” Dekalb County schools has also cleanly passed two consecutive financial audits during Taylor’s tenure. This was all achieved through eliminating unnecessary staffing positions and other measures, such as paperless payroll.

Taylor said he has placed trade education high on his list of priorities. Taylor said that since taking office, enrollment at the Career Technical Center is the, highest in Dekalb County’s history. In his first term, the tech school has added additional staff, as well as two state funded career coaches to help students find employment after school. “To continue to grow the tech program, we must get past the stigmatisms associated with a trade based education,” Taylor said. “Many of these students graduate high school prepared to enter the workforce.” Two new programs, Criminal Justice and Media, have also been added to the curriculum at the Career Technical Center.

Taylor also notes improvements over the past four years to the facilities of DeKalb County schools. Ten new classrooms were added at Collinsville High School. Athletic facilities were also upgraded or renovated such as the stands in the football stadiums in Fyffe and Sylvania. Taylor said the improved budget situation at the top made these campus improvements possible.

“My first priority while in office has always been, doing what’s in the best interest for the kids,” Taylor said. Taylor said if re-elected his goals for the next term will reflect the same sentiment. Taylor would like to see a continued improvement of the Tech center and the addition of more staff. While paperless payroll was achieved during this term, Taylor would like to see purchasing go the paperless route as well to curb more costs.

Taylor said another goal is improving the Wifi at county schools and expanding access to learning devices, such as the “Kindle Fire” computer tablets being acquired by the school system to improve learning. Also school safety remains a top priority for the administration. Recent accomplishments include moving the bus garage to a more central location in Rainsville, as well as gaining access to training programs for students from Volkswagen and Toyota. While Superintendent Taylor oversees the education of Dekalb’s students, his focus remains on their future.

Dr. Jason Barnett, Republican challengerDr. Jason Barnett, Republican challenger for DeKalb County School Superintendent

Collinsville High School administrator Dr. Jason Barnett is also seeking the office of DeKalb County School Superintendent in 2016. Barnett, a Republican, will run in the GOP Primary scheduled for March 1 against incumbent sitting Superintendent Hugh Taylor.

“I’m running for superintendent because I believe I can support DeKalb County Schools in becoming a model school system unlike any other schools in this area,” Barnett said. “This can be accomplished through bringing instructional leadership to our schools; engaging in real dialogue with the schools, communities, parents and students whom DeKalb County Schools serves; presenting, communicating and maintaining a clear vision for our schools; and by bringing innovation of technology and resources to DeKalb County Schools that our students and communities greatly need and desire in order to be competitive in both a local and global marketplace.”

Barnett, 36, was raised in DeKalb County, and received his Doctorate of Education in Instructional Leadership at The University of Alabama. He received his Bachelors of Education, Masters of Education, and Educational Specialist Degrees from Jacksonville State University.

Barnett has worked as a classroom teacher, school-based instructional coach, district-wide instructional coach and school administrator.

Barnett said that his work with administrators, teachers and students throughout the DeKalb County Schools system gives him a first-hand understanding of the commitment and work ethic educators place into the lives of students on a daily basis.

“I know that DeKalb County Schools can take our proper position as an exemplary school system under someone with the zeal, excitement and vision that I will bring to the position. We must communicate a vision of what our schools can be for our kids and grandkids, then harness the collective knowledge, abilities, energy, passion and commitment demonstrated by our faculty and staff to truly flourish.”

Barnett says he has a 5-point plan to ensure success for DeKalb County Schools if elected superintendent. His said his plan includes communication, innovation, vision, voice and instructional leadership.

“I see five areas that I can focus on in my administration as superintendent that will immediately impact and improve DeKalb County Schools,” Barnett said. “The first area is communication. The Superintendent’s office should be open for business. Parents, teachers, students, coaches, local media—all stakeholders would be welcome and community members should be welcomed, and their voices should be heard. A superintendent is a servant and should have an open door to the community. As superintendent, I will collaborate and communicate with the board, parents, teachers, students—everyone involved—so that I can best address the needs of our schools.”

Barnett says his second focus, innovation, is key for the growth and success of DeKalb County Schools. “I will work with the business community, local colleges and legislative delegates to ensure that our students have the resources needed to be competitive in a global-workforce,” Barnett said. “While other school districts have made advancements in technology to support student learning, we have lagged behind. Many school districts have implemented 1:1 digital initiatives that support students to construct and present knowledge rather that describe. We must provide the resources our students need.”

Barnett said he believes the superintendent’s office should have a common vision and clear mission for everything it does, and that if elected he will be the voice of those he serves. “As superintendent, I will ensure that the local schools and communities understand the vision, mission and practices we are using to develop a world-class school system,” Barnett said. “As Superintendent, I will listen to concerns, ideas and the recommendations of the people whom I have been elected to serve and do my best to address those concerns.”

Barnett also said he places strong emphasis on instructional leadership. “I think the two most important things an administrator can do to improve our schools is to hire the best people we can—not just teachers but support personnel and administrators—as well,” Barnett said. “The very best. And then we do everything we can to help them get even better, encourage them to pursue their own educations—whether it be a masters or some type of certification or just putting in the extra time to improve as educators in the classroom. As superintendent I will work to hire the best people possible and will always be there to encourage and support them better themselves and pursue their own personal growth. If we do that, everyone is better for it especially the kids.”

Barnett has been awarded the Jacksonville State University Educational Leadership Alumnus of the Year, Collinsville School Teacher of the Year, Times-Journal 40 Under 40 Recipient for young leaders recognized for professional excellence and community service, and was chosen to give the inaugural “First Lecture” awarded by The University of Alabama Graduate School for his dissertation research and publication.

“We are committed to DeKalb County Schools. My wife, Leah, and my mother, Karen, are both teachers in the DeKalb County School System. My oldest child, Leighton, will start kindergarten this fall, and my son Porter will soon follow behind. They will be products of this school system, and I believe that it is past time that we take ownership in building a world- class education system for our children in which we can all be proud.”

For more information about Dr. Jason Barnett, visit his website at drjasonbarnett.com. For more information about Hugh Taylor, visit his campaign website at: www.hughtaylor.org.

And remember, for the most up to date election night coverage in DeKalb County, make Southern Torch your Super Tuesday Election Night Headquarters. Be sure to tune in to Southern Torch on our website at: southerntorch.com and on Facebook and Twitter as we report live from the DeKalb County Courthouse as the votes from each precinct come in and are counted on Tuesday night.

Southern Torch

Southern Torch


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