• March 11, 2021 

    The International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), whose mission is to encourage, inspire and support today’s educators, has named Tuscaloosa County School System a 2021 Innovative District for their relentless focus on student outcomes in an unprecedented year. Just seven districts nationwide received this designation. According to ICLE, TCSS recognized opportunities for growth, collectively established a vision, and systematically worked together to take action.

    TCSS will share its best practices at ICLE’s 29th Annual Model Schools Conference. The event provides a forum for thousands of passionate educators and leaders to share innovative and creative strategies for developing the minds of our future. A group of TCSS leaders will present a program titled “#RealTalk: Conversations About Race Relations.”

    “In a year full of turmoil that has included living through a pandemic, racial tension around the globe, economic shutdowns, and political disarray, it’s no longer an option to avoid the hard conversations,” the TCSS presentation team said in its description of #RealTalk.

    “The impact of those circumstances comes to our districts. That impact comes to our schools. How do we learn from this, so we can lead and move forward?”

    Over the 2020-2021 school year, the #RealTalk team has led a year-long focus among TCSS’s school counselors and social workers, on having positive, candid conversations about race relations. The focus has involved developing safe and trusting relationships, the ability to acknowledge and respect perspectives other than your own, and how to initiate healthy conversations about race in your areas of influence. The team has demonstrated how to address sensitive race relations topics with truth and grace. They have also focused on the importance of history in shaping perspectives of ourselves, others, and our communities. Read a story in Tuscaloosa News about the September #RealTalk session, focusing on events in local civil rights history.

    The #RealTalk team includes:

    Ty Blocker, TCSS Coordinator of Student Services

    Jackie Hudgins, TCSS Director of Accountability

    Greg Hurst, TCSS Director of Student Services

    Cheryl Wallace, TCSS Director of Assessment

    Suzette Wyatt, TCSS Attendance Officer

    “Innovative Districts are courageously leading the charge on a system-wide level,” ICLE Founder Dr. Bill Daggett said.

    “Each of the 2021 Innovative Districts have persevered in the most challenging of times through their leadership and conviction for rigor, relevance and relationships.”

    Selected annually based on a number of criteria, Innovative Districts have substantive evidence of growth year over year; strong culture that focuses on student needs; and dedication to continuous improvement no matter the circumstances.

    “Unlike any other year, we are beyond proud to be honoring the 2021 Innovative Districts for implementing strategies that prioritize a district-wide culture that is future-focused and fosters strong personal relationships,” says Dr. Daggett.

    “We look forward to learning from a diverse group of prestigious and exemplary leaders.”  

    The International Center for Leadership in Education, established in 1991 and located in Rexford, N.Y., is one of the most influential education consulting companies in America. It is best known for identifying and disseminating successful practices to assist all students in achieving higher standards. The leadership team and consultants at ICLE have assisted numerous state education agencies and hundreds of schools and districts in their improvement initiatives. 

    The International Center for Leadership in Education is a division of learning company Houghton Miffilin Harcourt.