Best Practices

Mayor Steve Hettinger

VISION 2000 Advisory Panel

Mayor Steve Hettinger took office in 1998 with the theme "A Bold New Beginning" for his candidacy. One of the initiatives Mayor Hettinger put in place was the VISION 2000 Advisory Panel. This panel consisted of a diverse group of Huntsvillians whom Mayor Hettinger asked to evaluate community conditions. Throughout the report, the panel recognized the critical relationship of education to many community objectives. They recommended that an education summit be conducted to energize important elements of the community in pursuit of educational excellence.

The education summit focused on issues at the elementary and secondary levels; delegates included parents, teachers from every school in the Huntsville City School System, high school student leaders, school administrators, elected officials, and businesspersons. With more than 400 delegates participating, eight workshops were held, chaired by business leaders and administrators from the local school system. The workshop topics were pre-school preparation, parental involvement, student performance, at-risk students, teaching and learning environment, math and science education, school and business partnerships, and funding. As a result of these workshops, several recommendations were put in place, including the Ready to Learn Commission, a program for at-risk students with the City of Huntsville, and the Mayor's Education Day.

The Ready To Learn Commission was established to help students arrive at public schools ready to learn. The Commission was jointly established by the Mayor, City Council, and City of Huntsville School Board and consists of parents, teachers, students, doctors, volunteer agencies and pre-school program managers. The Commission was asked to define clear-cut standards for pre-school programs. Members also were asked to create a training and certification program for workers in pre-school programs, to be administered by community and technical colleges, and to establish standards for assessment of pre-school conditions and quality, ensuring that reliable information to judge the quality of pre-school day care is widely distributed to the public.

The City of Huntsville Youth Service Department was established to provide at-risk students with an extended day program based at a city recreation facility. The office coordinated efforts to provide additional training skills, offered drug prevention programs, organized human relations activities between young black males and the Huntsville Police Department, and sought new approaches to building self-esteem. The office worked closely with the Huntsville School System, area businesses, the Huntsville Housing Authority, and local agencies with programs geared toward at-risk youth.

The Vision 2000 Summary report showed that the school environment gives citizens the means to become literate, develop capacities for interpersonal communications, and learn about the social institutions of their culture and other cultures. Mayor Hettinger decided that the best way for him to make a difference in that environment, and to bring attention to school needs for citizen involvement as well, was to take a day out of his work schedule every year and devote it to living the life of a teacher in the Huntsville City School System. Mayor Hettinger has taught math, biology and civics at the local high schools, has taught math and environmental programs at the middle school level, and has taught physical education and regular classes at the elementary school level. He was actively involved in each class, preparing and implementing lesson plans, providing forums for class discussion, and challenging the students by applying abstract notions to concrete problems.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (205) 532-7304

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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