Dr. Sandra Spivey might be a systemwide director of secondary education in Madison County now, with hopes to be the next Cullman City Schools superintendent soon — but if neither works out she might could try for a career in show business.
Spivey was principal of Hoover High School in the early-to-mid 2000s, when MTV was on campus filming a television show about the football team, the team played a handful of games on ESPN, and Hoover High graduate Taylor Hicks won the American Idol music contest. Not surprisingly, Spivey said those events brought intense media attention to the school.
“I remember having media in my office for Taylor Hicks winning, MTV filming on campus, and trying to give tests that week,” she said with a laugh. “Oh, and trying to run the school, as well. I laugh about it now, but it wasn’t so funny at the time ... It was a very challenging time, but also a rewarding time, and I learned a lot from that.”
Spivey said she learned a lot about prioritization and multitasking during that time, and noted it all goes back to developing an understanding of how to handle each aspect of the job.
She noted that when she started her career as a math teacher and cheerleading coach she received her CDL certification to be licensed to drive a school bus for events. Though she’s not in the classroom anymore, she’s kept up the certification as a way to keep in touch with just another facet of a school district.
“As a coach they asked us to get those, and I found out you can learn so much about the training and things for our transportation folks,” she said. “So, I’ve kept that up over the years.”
When asked how she would handle communication between the board and community, Spivey said she would bring the same approach when dealing with anyone from a parent to the local media.
“It’s about establishing a relationship based on trust, candor and respect,” she said. “That is critical no matter who you’re communicating with... I tend to deal with things pretty directly, and don’t like to let things fester and grow, but put everyones heads together to work and solve the problem.”
She noted the school system is deeply connected to the well-being and operation of the area, and said she would work to make sure the district remained extremely engaged in the community.
“You can’t separate education from any of those things, and how interwoven it is to the quality of life of a community,” she said. “Whether its the mayor, city council, legislative delegation, the Cullman County school system, or economic development. Just for me to take the experience I’ve had in the Huntsville and Madison County area, and though it might not translate in exactly the same way, but make sure the partnerships that already exist and nurtured and further growth is explored moving forward.”
When asked how she would handle the school system’s out-of-district waiting list, Spivey said she would continue to monitor enrollment data to determine what, if any, changes need to be made.
“Having a scenario like this creates a great opportunity, but challenges as well,” she said. “I’d continue to do what you’re already doing, which is monitor the data year-to-year and the impact it has on the school system, and collaborate and see if there are any changes that need to be made one way or the other so we can continue to meet the needs of all the students in our school system.”
The system has an expansive slate of extracurricular offerings, and Spivey said those initiatives should be fostered and considered a critical part of the educational approach.
“I like to think of it as co-curricular, and I think it all ties together into one comprehensive program,” she said. “I think the arts are critically important. That’s the way students develop a passion for learning, which translates over into other areas.”