Ardmore High School Principal Glenn Bryant has big plans for improving the Morgan County School system if elected as the next superintendent Nov. 6.
“The real reason I'm running is that I think the kids in Morgan County deserve a shot at a world-class education and they are not getting that under the current leadership," Bryant said.
In January, the Morgan County Democratic Party asked Bryant, a 21-year veteran of the Alabama public education system and former corrections officer, to run against longtime Morgan County Superintendent Bill Hopkins Jr.
Bryant accepted the invitation to run after discovering his home in Trinity had lost significant value over the years because it was zoned for Morgan County schools.
“That broke my heart because my kids graduated from that system, and I taught there for many years,” Bryant said.
Solidly pro-life and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, Bryant said he doesn't necessarily identify as a Democrat, however, he is a major proponent of government-based social programs.
“I am pro-kids,” he said. “The closer you get to home the larger the government needs to be for the people who need it.”
Bryant said he would like to see more funding for federal programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Department of Human Resources (DHR), food stamps, free and reduced-price lunches and the First Class Pre-K program.
“My entire life as an educator I have been in awe of how these federal programs help kids,” he said “When I was an administrator in Huntsville, I saw that if we didn't have free school lunches, close to 60 percent of our kids would have gone hungry.”
The closer Bryant looked at the Morgan County system, the more determined he became to secure the election, he said.
“They basically have the same demographics, teachers and tax base as Limestone County,” he said. “Yet the best schools in Morgan County scored three points lower on the most recent State Report Card than the worst schools in Limestone County.”
According to the Alabama State Department of Education, the 17 schools in Morgan County received an overall grade of “C” or 79 percent. Limestone County received an overall “B” rating or 83 percent.
“And there doesn't seem to be any real plan for improvement.” Bryant said. “Nobody seems to want to own it. The response I got was that they didn't trust the report card.”
Other Alabama school districts have also criticized the state report card, questioning its methodology.
Running a grassroots campaign, Bryant spends his weekends and evenings knocking on doors and making phone calls to try to connect with as many Morgan County voters as possible.
If elected, Bryant would push for curriculum and programs that prepare student for the next level. He's big on the A+ College readiness program, having witnessed the benefits Advanced Placement coursework has had on the students at Ardmore High Schools.
“I believe that currently the middle 80 percent of our students are not being challenged or even encouraged to take classes that will prepare them for the next step in life,” he said. “The 'default' or standard curriculum needs to be elevated to a level that really prepares our students for the struggles they will face whether they choose college or career.”
Bryant said only 20 percent of Morgan County graduates complete a college degree within four years.
He said he would also like to beef up the career technical program in Morgan County, basing many of his ideas on Limestone County's highly successful program. By partnering with nearby school systems, such as Limestone County and Decatur, Bryant's plan would expose more Morgan County students to options in technical education.
If elected, Bryant said he would draw on his law enforcement and military experience (22 years as a Navy Reservist) to develop a comprehensive, well-informed school safety plan that would provide an aggressive, proactive approach to school safety rather than the current leadership's more reactionary approach. Bryant would focus on providing training for administrators, teachers and parents to recognize warning signs often present prior to an attack at school.
Hopkins ran unopposed in 2014 and beat Republican opponent Tony Johnson this year in the GOP primary election. Johnson has since endorsed Bryant, campaigning alongside him.
“I have had a plethora of positive responses,” Bryant said of his campaigning efforts so far. “Their responses have led me to believe they are ready for a change. People want access to programs like AP coursework and career technical education.”
“I think if they believe there is a chance I can provide them with parity they will vote for me,” Bryant said.
If elected, Bryant would take over as leader of Morgan County Schools in January, leaving a vacancy at Ardmore High School.