After graduating from Cullman High School in 1989, and serving as a coach and teacher here in the early 1990s, Dr. Jason Wright knew he wanted to eventually hold a leadership position in the system. Now, he might finally get his chance.
Wright is a finalist to become the next superintendent of the city system, and said he believes his deep ties to the community make him a great option for the job.
“What a wonderful experience to come home to the town where I grew up,” he said. “This has always been a personal goal of mine. I feel like my leadership abilities and skill set have started to evolve. I don’t have a strong desire to be a superintendent just anywhere, but I want to be at the right place — and this is certainly the right place.”
Wright is currently the principal at Auburn Junior High School, and said the Cullman and Auburn communities are extremely similar with high expectations for success.
“Much like here, education is a priority. The point I celebrate is being able to take a well-respected school, in a well-respected school system, and expand that success and reputation,” he said. “Much like you at the same time, we were able to implement a 1:1 laptop initiative and really changed the paradigm of our school system.”
Wright said he would make a concerted effort to not only be visible within the system, but also reach out to community groups and local government to provide a touchstone for the community.
“Serving as CEO or superintendent of Cullman City Schools, its imperative I represent Cullman City Schools in the community and participate in those events,” he said. “Where there are opportunities to be a part of service organizations, I’d certainly like to represent the school system in those sorts of things. That includes working closely with the city council, attending meetings, and working with the economic development board. Being able to create a relationship, or enhance a relationship.”
When asked what his approach would be toward money management, he said he would work to protect the system’s healthy financial situation and take a balanced approach to budget-making.
“Making sure that we’re being prudent with funds, frugal with funds, conservative and efficient — vs. effective,” he said. “Are we putting what we need to put into our students hands, and are we providing our teachers the most updated tools we can provide? Take on those fiscal responsibilities, but balance that with what matters for the students. You never want to lose sight that you’re serving those students.”
With a new high school under construction, and the out-of-district wait list to enter the system growing each year, Wright said he would study the enrollment data closely and ask tough questions to help determine how the system should grow in the future.
“Student enrollment is at 30 percent, with that [out-of-district] population a controlled group. Also look at program changes and capital improvements, or facility assessments,” he said. “When buildings get full, or almost full, that’s the point where you start having a dialog about potential expansion. Start asking questions, like how does this segment impact the system, how big does the system want to be, what is the current structure for out-of-district students? Start looking at those questions. It’s a good problem to have. Like the movie Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come. And you’ve built it, and they’re trying to come.”
One major aspect of the city system’s success has been a commitment to technological upgrades, and Wright said he would always strive to balance those efforts with proper training to ensure they are used effectively.
“Technology in and of itself is not nearly as important as how it is utilized,” he said. “In Auburn, we wanted to make sure teachers are fully trained and that students would have input, because its native to their generation... Our modern world, with technology, has figuratively flattened the world.”
* Trent Moore may be contacted at email@example.com.