SELMA, AL (WSFA) - Selma's new school superintendent has hit the ground running, taking time to go to each school in the district to interact one-on-one with administrators, teachers, and students as she lays the groundwork for improvements in the school system across the board.
Dr. Avis Williams visited Edgewood Elementary School on Friday and her interactions illustrated her hands-on leadership approach. She started two weeks ago and continues touring schools to learn more about the needs of each one. She's also getting to see firsthand all of the great things happening in the classrooms.
"I applied for this job two-and-a-half years ago when it was open and I was super excited about interviewing for it then and very passionate about leading in this community," Williams admitted. "That passion didn't go away so I came back again and was fortunate enough to be selected. I am looking forward to being a part of this community and helping to support and revive the great things that are already happening here, but just enhance it through the education of the children of Selma," she added.
Williams, an Army veteran, is originally from North Carolina but has been in Alabama for quite some time. In her long career as an educator, she has served as elementary, middle and high school principal, as well as an executive director for secondary curriculum and most recently as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Tuscaloosa City Schools.
She knows the school system has been through a bumpy chapter over the past several years, with a state intervention in 2014 and quick turnover of the last superintendent, and says creating stability in Selma City Schools is one of her top priorities.
"I want to be here as long as they'll have me. I'm looking forward to connecting not only with the students, teachers, and parents but also the community at large and doing some wonderful things for the whole city of Selma," she stated.
Williams recognizes that Selma's gang problem has crept into schools and she is working with police and the district attorney's office and students and parents to address it. The key, according to Williams, is getting to some of the root causes of that activity in Selma.
"We can't ignore it or pretend that it's not happening. We do have to address it and acknowledge and we absolutely intend to do that as we move forward. but it can't be done in isolation. it can't be done just through the school system. we must collaborate and work together as a team and a family within the entire community," she added.
She wants a positive spotlight to be put on the school system and she's focused on four areas to work through in terms of setting goals. The first is teaching and learning.
"What's happening in the classroom? What are our teachers teaching? How are they teaching it and what resources do they have?" Williams asked.
Then, there's culture, climate, and community.
"Looking at our school culture, and looking at all of the activities that are happening within in our schools, up to and including how we engage students to attend school. the community piece of that is engaging the entire community," she added.
She's also honing in on organizational leadership, management, and governance.
"I'm looking forward to working directly with school board members on that," she said.
And lastly, she'll assess the facilities and use of technology "how those areas can enhance teaching and learn."
She's forming a transition team that will work with her on setting goals to make it a collaborative effort.
"One of my other core values is joy. I believe this should be an absolutely joyful job and for me, it is. When I wake up every morning, I'm excited. I'm excited to be able to serve children. I'm excited about being a part of shaping their future," she added.
The new superintendent encourages parents to follow the school system on Twitter at @selmaschools for updates, events, and information.
Williams has also been meeting with parent-teacher organizations to engage with families and build strong connections.