All Things Madison | Why are Madison City Schools So Good? Here are 3 Reasons.
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Why are Madison City Schools So Good? Here are 3 Reasons.

All Things Madison | Why are Madison City Schools So Good? Here are 3 Reasons.
This article is brought to you by the KEYFINDERS Group
Welcome to week #4 of the “Moving to Madison Mondays” series, where we dive into topics that are relevant and helpful to catching our newest residents up to speed.
These topics are also designed to be teaching resources for those who have lived here for decades but just simply didn’t know what they didn’t know. Today’s topic is all about our schools, and I’m hopeful that you’ll learn something new and feel more supportive of our system by the end of reading this article. 
Here’s a recap of previous articles from this series:
There’s no question about the direct correlation between Madison’s top-performing public school system and the continually high property values that our city’s homes seem to maintain.
Though the steady growth of our community cannot be attributed 100% to our top-performing school system, it does account for a large piece of the pie. There are a lot of desirable communities to choose from when moving to north Alabama, so there needs to be something that would make future buyers interested in choosing Madison over the alternatives.

For many, that sole reason is our schools. 

Why are Madison City Schools so good?

Why are Madison City Schools so good? Here are three reasons that revolve around socioeconic balance, employee retention, and appointed...
Madison City Schools central office
Did you know that recently listed Madison City Schools as the 2021 #1 Best School District in the state? To see the wide number of categories that contributed to this measurement, check out the article here. 
I recently became interested though in diving deeper into exactly how our schools continually rank top of the top years after year, and not just a few of our schools – all of them. Other top-performing systems in our state, such as Homewood City Schools and Mountain Brook City Schools in Birmingham, only have five or six schools. Madison City Schools has 11, and every. single. one of them is an A+ school.
For years I’ve heard that that the socioeconomic balance of all the schools within Madison City Schools is the main factor in maintaining the well-rated system, but I wanted to learn more.
Why are Madison City Schools so good? Here are three reasons that revolve around socioeconic balance, employee retention, and appointed...
I recently spoke with Mayor Paul Finley, City of Madison Communications Specialist Samantha Magnuson, and Madison City Schools spokesman John Peck about what they believe leads to the school system’s incredibly impressive reputation.

3 Reasons Madison City Schools are Top-Rated


1. The superintendent and school board members are all appointed, not elected. 

Neighboring school systems, such as Madison County and Huntsville City, have elections for their school board members, but Mayor Paul Finley is quick to say that Madison City’s system of appointing these positions is a leading contributor to the system’s success.

“It takes the politics out of it completely. Nobody is pushing for their district to do better than others,” he shared. “Everybody is on the same team working towards the betterment of our system as a whole.”

“Ultimately, the appointed system versus elected lends itself to board members who are more invested in working as a team with the city,” shared Magnuson. “It takes some of the politics out of the equation so everyone is focused on the main objective of keeping our schools top-notch.” 
All Things Madison | Why are Madison City Schools So Good? Here are 3 Reasons.
Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols
Additionally, Peck says the system’s appointed Board of Education has high expectations, and “governs with that in mind, never settling with where we are.”


2. The schools are all socioeconomically balanced. 

Magnuson shared that “Madison City Schools is dedicated to ensuring that every student has equal advantages.”

“We keep schools as equal as possible so that there are no haves and have-nots,” says Pecks. “Keeping schools socioeconomically balanced is best for everyone and better prepares students for the world they will encounter.”

Mayor Finley says that the percentage of students that receive free or reduced lunch is nearly equal across all of our schools. 

All Things Madison | Why are Madison City Schools So Good? Here are 3 Reasons.

In order to maintain equal schools, rezoning occasionally takes place. It’s not uncommon for students to be zoned for schools that are further away from their homes than others. In fact, my neighborhood is currently zoned for an elementary school that is further away than three other elementary schools. 

[Personal note: Would I love for the school my children attend to be the one that is right around the corner. 100% with a doubt. But do I also like that our home value has increased exponentially in the last few years? OH, YES. I would like my kids to go to the school around the corner and have sky-rocketing home values, but if I had to pick, I’d take the higher home values and drive the extra mile to my kids’ school. Just my opinion; I know others who feel differently.]

“As for proximity to schools, Madison is relatively densely packed with schools not that spread out,” shared Peck. “So if there is a neighborhood zoned to a school further than the closest one, it’s not likely to be much further as in a rural system or a sprawling metro area like Huntsville that has over 200  square miles.”

Families can expect a big rezoning shuffle in the next two years due to one small elementary school closing at the end of this school year (West Madison Elementary will turn into the new Pre-Kindergarten center in August 2021) and one brand new, large elementary school opening in August 2021 (Midtown). In August 2022, a brand new middle school is expected to open, bringing the total number of middle schools to three.

Though Mayor Finley acknowledges the occasional discomfort with being rezoned, he is adamant that this is a necessary step in maintaining our top-notch schools, quality of life, and equal opportunities for all. 

3. Employee retention is high.

Peck says that “everything starts with great teachers and principals, so there is great emphasis on hiring the best and then supporting them with ample resources and professional development.”

Magnuson, the child of an educator, shared that she believes teachers are happier knowing that any school they work at in the city limits will perform well.

“This ensures employee retention and also keeps one school from falling behind another.”

Property Values 

“Having a strong school system keeps Madison’s property values high. That’s a big draw to anyone looking to purchase a home here,” shared Magnuson. “Basically, it’s a wise investment!”
In September 2019, the city voted in favor of a property tax referendum to subtly increase property taxes so that the system could build a much-needed elementary school, middle school, and large additions on both high schools. 
“We had plenty of elderly residents with grown kids support the property tax referendum because they know that protecting the integrity of our schools also protects their investment of living in this area.”
She added to say that “it’s a win/win for the schools and for our the overreaching value of living in Madison.” 

On Appealing to Demographics Without School-aged Children

Mayor Finley shared an interesting perspective on appealing to demographics who do not have school-aged children. He says that it’s absolutely necessary that Madison provide desirable options for those who are nearing retirement as well as our elderly community. 

“We have a lot of young families moving here and picking Madison to plant their roots because of our schools. Then we have the grandparents who want to be near their grandchildren, so they decide to stay here or move here too,” says Finley. “And having family nearby means that multiple generations are likely to stick around and call Madison home.”

His overall message is that Madison is a community that he wants to be an ideal place to live for all demographics and that he truly believes our top-notch school system reaps benefits for all. 

To learn more about Madison City Schools, visit their website.

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All Things Madison | Why are Madison City Schools So Good? Here are 3 Reasons.

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