- Cullman, Alabama

June 30, 2013

City schools superintendent candidate: Dr. Donald Snow (Video)

By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Growing up in Arab and spending much of his professional career in Decatur, Dr. Donald Snow has worked around Cullman for a number of years. Now, he wants to call the city home, and believes that familiarity would make him the idea selection to lead the Cullman City Schools system.

“I’ve always had a good understanding and been familiar with Cullman City Schools and Cullman County schools,” he said. “You’ve had a great reputation then, but it’s gotten so much bigger over the past 10 years ... Being here is kind of like coming home, because it’s a lot like the town I grew up in.”

Snow is currently the principal at Austin High School in Decatur, and has also worked closely with at-risk and alternative school programs in that system.

When asked about the most challenging time in his career, Snow noted a handful of tragic student and faculty deaths as the most trying events of his career.

“We had a teacher who was pregnant, and grew ill at school and eventually died later that day,” he said. “It was graduation day, and there we were with the faculty at the hospital. Days like that are tough.”

When asked about communication Snow said he would be sure to utilize social media tools to keep the community apprised about new projects and initiatives. Outgoing superintendent Dr. Jan Harris has developed quite a following on Twitter, and that level of connection is one the board seems keen to maintain.

“Definitely use social media, Facebook and Twitter, and keep people informed and put out the positive things,” he said. “Because news media will put out things that might be less positive, so you have to let people know what’s going on all the time.”

“My job is to let you guys know about every single thing that is happening in the school system,” he said. “My biggest fear would be for you to bump into a parent who tells you something terrible had happened, and you haven’t heard it from me first, because it can often be distorted. My job is to have open communication and let you all know everything. The only way it can be successful is for the school board and superintendent to be a unified team.”

In regards to financial planning, Snow said he advocates a long-term planning approach that will guide the budget and help predict future expenditures.

“Have a long-term strategic plan, and let those things guide your budgeting plan,” he said. “You have to have a capital plans list, but also have enough leeway to handle when an air-conditioning unit goes down to be able to take care of things.”

On the topic of technology, Snow noted the city system is ahead of Decatur in many regards, but offered some examples for how he’s been able to innovate. Snow noted the real-world engineering projects his school has been able to launch in recent years, including a partnership with NASA that allows students to design equipment that could eventually be built and used in space.

“You want to talk about firing kids up, they’re working with NASA again and designing a power supply for the International Space Station,” he said.

When asked about his management style, Snow noted he is not a micromanager, and said he believes he has developed a good sense of how to delegate and manage a staff.

“I think sometimes we fail to realize how good our people can be,” he said. “I think one thing I’m good at is delegating responsibility ... Getting the right people in the right jobs is critical, and you sit down with your people, set goals, and give folks an opportunity to shine.”

The city school system has ranked among the best in the state in recent years, and Snow said he would work hard to maintain that level of success and build upon it in the future.

“I found out a long time ago that if it’s not broke don’t mess with it. You analyze your data and keep working, and of course you can always get better at anything,” he said. “A big part of your success is community support, and you have to make sure everyone is on board. You just have to make sure it’s all going in the right direction. Never be satisfied with where you are. No one needs to come into Cullman City Schools and start making wholesale changes.”