By Erica Thomas

There is a new effort to bring certified teachers into classrooms across the state.

An innovation hub that will be based in Birmingham is being developed to live-stream certified teachers into classrooms that do not already have certified teachers.

The idea is that students would benefit from having two teachers in their classroom, one in person and one virtual. The teachers would work together to provide the best education possible, according to Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), who serves as the House Ways and Means Education Chair.

Alabama’s Innovation Commission and Advisory Council are looking into ways to make the initiative successful.

The Advisory Council includes Alabama Power Executive Vice President Zeke Smith and Dr. Condoleezza Rice, among other powerful names in the state. Rice has made it possible for the state to have access to Stanford University’s The Hoover Institution, a public policy think-tank. The National Math & Science Initiative is also assisting in the effort by working with Alabama stakeholders and the Alabama STEM Council.

Rice and Gov. Kay Ivey joined state leaders Tuesday to share the Commission's recommendations and to announce the Alabama Innovation Corporation's board of directors.

“I’m proud to be a daughter of Alabama, and believe that Alabama’s education, job training and workforce development can be second to none," said Rice. "This state is poised for an even greater future here and we are excited to be a part of that. The Hoover Institution will continue to partner with the state and the Alabama Innovation Corporation to support this initiative as Alabama continues to push for strengthening its economy so life can be good for all Alabamians.”

Recommendations were as follows:

  • Entrepreneurship and Access to Capital: Identifying and supporting opportunities to fuel entrepreneurial development at every stage of business growth.  

  • Talent Attraction and Retention: Recruiting and retaining a workforce with the skills, knowledge and credentials necessary to create innovation ecosystems throughout the state.  

  • Increasing Commercialization: Fostering an environment that increases commercialization activities, research and development efforts and supports the state’s economy as a whole.  

  • Bridging Digital and Economic Divides: Leveraging initiatives and resources that support growth throughout Alabama.  

  • Knowledge Economy: Developing a skilled workforce ready to meet the demands of the future.  

Innovation Commission (Innovate Alabama)was created in the summer of 2020. It is the state’s first commission focused on entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation. The Commission brings together private-sector experts and policymakers to develop forward-thinking policies that will create a more resilient, inclusive, and robust economy to remain competitive in a 21st-century world. The Commission includes a six-member Advisory Council of innovation leaders in Alabama and those outside the state who have strong ties to Alabama.

“The Alabama Innovation Commission has done incredible work, and I’m excited to see how we as a state can implement smart policies that will foster innovation and develop a talented workforce for the future,” Ivey said. "To working with the Alabama Legislature and the Alabama Innovation Corporation to help Alabama reach new heights.”

Board members of the Alabama Innovation Corporation, a public-private partnership established by the Legislature in 2021, which will be responsible for implementing the initiatives and policy recommendations, are:

  • Governor Kay Ivey (ex-officio)

  • Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (ex-officio)

  • Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed (ex-officio)

  • House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (ex-officio)

  • Senator Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (ex-officio)

  • Rich Bielen – President and CEO, Protective Life Corporation (at-large director)

  • Dr. Michael Chambers - Assistant Vice President for Research Innovation, University of South Alabama (at-large director)

  • Abe Harper – President, Harper Technologies (at-large director)

  • David King – President, Dynetics (at-large director)

  • Bill Poole – Director, Alabama Department of Finance (chairman)

  • Britney Summerville – Founder, Birmingham Bound (at-large director)

The innovation hub that will stream certified teachers into classrooms will help accomplish some of these goals, according to organizers. It will focus on delivering a quality education to grades six through 12. Garrett believes the hub will be used as a model nationwide.

“We’ve got a lot of areas in the state that don’t have certified teachers,” Garrett said. “Teacher recruitment is a problem nationwide. It’s exacerbated in Alabama because of our poor stats. How do you get someone to come here and teach?”

Certified Math and Science teachers can already earn more money by going to areas where certified teachers are needed. But the new education hub will mean a select few will not have to move to a rural area in order to teach students in areas of need. The teachers will not be a part of Alabama’s school system pay and will not be eligible for tenure. But Garrett said the state is looking for young, innovative, proficient, certified teachers that want to help students in need of a quality education, and he said the state will do what they can to make it worth their while.

Garrett said $3 million was allocated to the hub in the budget last year and this year, even more money is allocated because of COVID Cares Act funds. He foresees improvements in education because of those funds.

“The bottom line is, no we can’t continue doing what we’ve been doing,” Garrett added. “We can’t continue just to replicate the same models and follow the same strategies and spend the same dollars. It’s got to be something unique and different.”

Garrett said the commission will spend important time over the next year pulling these strategies together.