Editor’s note: Below is a press release sent out Jan. 29, 2018.
Longtime public school advocate Larry Lee has announced his candidacy for the District 2 seat on the Montgomery County school board. Incumbent Durden Dean is not seeking re-election.
“The public school situation in Montgomery is not good and has been well-documented,” says Lee. “But instead of making hard choices and facing harsh realities, we’re looking for ‘quick fixes’ and falling behind even more.”
Lee points out that this is an important year for Montgomery public schools as five of the seven elected school board seats are up. There are many, many challenges facing them.
In his view, Montgomery has three school systems. One is more than 40 private schools, one is 10 magnet schools that can compete with any in the country, the other is about 45 more “traditional” schools.
Poverty is a good indicator of school performance. In the magnet schools, only 20% of students are on free-reduced lunches, as compared to 62% in the traditional schools.
“This 40% gap is HUGE and tells us that if we only focus on academics in the traditional schools, we will scarcely move the needle,” says Lee. He points out that the state has just tabbed 11 Montgomery schools as “failing.” The average poverty rate for all schools in the system is 56.6 percent. Ten of the so-called failing schools exceed this rate, some by as much as 30 points.
Lee writes the state’s number one blog about education, Education Matters (www.larryeducation.com) which has more than 250,000 views a year. He believes in common sense approaches to solving education challenges—not the fads and silver bullets politicians often want.
He put together the nationally-acclaimed study, Lessons Learned From Rural Schools, that explored the successes of 10 Alabama rural elementary schools. He was recognized by the Council for Leaders of Alabama Schools (CLAS) with the James Street Award “in recognition of lifelong work to ensure quality education for the children of Alabama.”
He chaired the state advisory board for HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters.) He was a charter board member of the national Network for Public Education and today serves on the board of the National Rural Schools Collaborative.
He has presented to CLAS, the School Superintendents of Alabama, the Alabama Association of School Boards, the Alabama Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Alabama Education Retirees Association and Alabama Association for Career & Technical Education.
And he was a key part of creating the Black Belt Teacher Corps at the University of West Alabama.
“Education truly is everyone’s business,” says Lee. “This means the faith community, business community, civic clubs, non-profits and others. There was a time when ‘community’ and ‘schools’ were essentially one and the same. We need to again embrace that concept.”
Lee adds that it is extremely important that new board members be people who have a track record of working on behalf of public schools. “We need demonstrated commitment to do the job at hand.”
Larry is a product of Alabama public schools and a graduate of Auburn University. His son and daughter also went to public schools.
He retired after a career in journalism and community/economic development and spends most of his time dealing with education issues.