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September 19, 2000

Newsmaker Interview

The following interview with the superintendent of the Mobile County Public School System, Dr. Harold Dodge, was conducted in early September via email.

Where is the local funding?Harbinger: We found several fliers last week around Barton Academy with a picture of a decrepit portable classroom and the statement, "It has been 381 days since Mobile County Public School funding was defeated. Where is the local funding?" It seems that the number of days on the fliers is updated every day. Are you trying to shame the political, business, and civic leaders into finding a local funding solution for the schools?

Dodge: No, it is a simple statement of fact.

Harbinger: Do you sometimes feel you are fighting history in your job, where there has been a long record of poor community relations, a school board and central administration with a bad reputation, and so forth?

Dodge: Some days - yes. But, I take the high road and try to work on a positive note.

Harbinger: How would you describe your relation with the Alabama Education Association (AEA) and the local Mobile County Education Association? Are there frequent consultations with those two bodies in setting school policies? Or should there be?

Dodge: Positive -- they helped us extensively in the bond issue. They have the right to give us input on any policy.

Harbinger: What are your own views about standardized tests in school accountability? Do you believe the state-mandated testing program is actually helping to improve the schools?

Dodge: The state-mandated testing program is helping to improve schools, but I wish we could limit the number of days lost to testing.

Harbinger: If you had your way, what kinds of accountability programs should be used to assess students, teachers, and schools?

Dodge: Testing, college entrance, vocational school entrance, community/business surveys.

Harbinger: What is your advice to beginning teachers to get started on their job?

Dodge: Take children where they are and build from there. Be human, be kind, and be interested in each child.

Harbinger: What is your advice to parents to help their students become successful?

Dodge: Monitor their progress daily. Read with them (young) constantly.

Harbinger: What is your advice to students in MCPSS?

Dodge: This is work -- hard work -- and should be taken as such.

Harbinger: If you could push a button and get ONE school reform into place (e.g., better funding, more or less standardized testing, etc.) what would it be?

Dodge: Funding.

Harbinger: How do you view the presidential candidates', Al Gore's and George Bush's, education platforms?

Dodge: I have for seventeen years stayed away from this one!


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