Steed: Students deserve ‘high-octane education’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Features Editor

Linda Steed has a reputation for being straightforward. She’ll tell it like it is, and sometimes she’ll even get mad about it.

What makes Steed a good leader is that she gets mad about the right things. And, nothing makes her any madder than knowing that children are getting shortchanged on education.

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Passionate about education, Steed has spent many long hours and sleepless nights trying to make things better for the children of Pike County, the state of Alabama and the nation.

As the newly elected president of the Alabama Association of School Board (AASB), Steed said she has "a huge responsibility and an awesome opportunity" to set a vision for the school systems of Alabama.

"Education opens up avenues for success, and I feel that it is our responsibility to provide the best education possible for our students in Pike County and in Alabama" Steed said. "I have worked hard to do what I can to make that happen. Working for the children of Pike County for 17

years has given my life greater purpose. It has helped me set goals and strive to reach them. If I have made life better for one child, then all of my efforts have been worthwhile."

Steed’s vision for education in Alabama will remain the same as it has been – an education for Alabama’s students equal to that of any other state. The new position will just give her more leverage in raising the standards of education in Alabama and its rank among other states.

And, this vision will not become a reality without money in the schools’ coffers.

"Some people say money isn’t the answer, but I say it is," Steed said. "You can’t run a household without money, and you can’t run schools without money. Schools have bills just like households have bills. We need the revenue to pay the bills. We have poor school systems and we have rich school systems. You can compare tests scores, and you’ll see that money does make a difference."

Steed said when a school system can provide the "extras" for its students, test scores improve.

"It’s like buying an expensive car and putting low octane gas in it,"

she said. "You won’t get the same performance you’d get with a high octane gas. It’s the same with students. We need to provide them with a high octane education and they will be more productive citizens and they will find success in whatever they choose to do. We owe them that."

Steed said she will work tirelessly to make sure all children of Alabama – those in Sumter County and those in Mountain Brook – have the same educational opportunity.

To do so, the 1901 state constitution must be revised.

"That would benefit every aspect of the state government," she said. "There are bills that deal with education that should not be there. It’s very important that we change with the times and that’s the place to start. In Pike County, we must get local support for a permanent 1-cent sales tax for education. Our ad valorem tax is too low to provide the kind of education our students need and deserve. We must address that.

"And, this probably, is not a popular thing to say, but consolidation of the two school systems would be a good thing. We must start doing the good things for education."

Steed has moved up the ranks of the AASB, having served two terms each as the AASB’s first- and second-vice presidents and as a member of the AASB Board of Directors for five years.

She also has been active on the national level for years, and through it all, one of the highlights of her public service career was when she testified before a state legislative committee on

teacher tenure and salaries.

As others testified, Steed noticed all the committee members except one were reading newspapers or talking among themselves and not listening at all. When she took the stand and began to talk, she received the same treatment.

"I paused, thinking they would notice, but they didn’t," Steed said. "So, I said, ‘Excuse me. Could I have your attention?’ And, I got it. I thought if the issues were important enough for me to lose a day’s pay and talk about them, it was important for them to listen to what I had to say."