By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Note: The following article is the second in a three-part series on the Escambia County Board of Education’s status on the improvement undergone at the system’s three Atmore-based schools, as well as plans to continue that improvement.
Escambia County education officials maintained during a special March 20 presentation that the three schools inside Atmore — Escambia County High, Escambia County Middle and Rachel Patterson Elementary — have shown steady improvement over the past two years.
Superintendent of Education John Knott provided statistical information that backed up those contentions during the informational get-together, which was designed to give city officials a better understanding of the actual state of the three schools, and the amount of resources allocated to them.
The session focused not only on school performance and improvement, but also featured details of career programs offered and the career-based educational partnerships that have already been forged between ECHS and four institutes of higher learning.
“Through virtual courses and access learning, we have the opportunity for students to take some courses at school, some online,” Knott said. “There are all kinds of opportunities out here now through these various programs and the dual enrollment programs with Coastal Alabama Community College, Reid State Technical College, Troy University and University of West Alabama.”
The superintendent pointed out that information disseminated at various public meetings — that county school officials have centered all the system’s career-prep programs in Brewton — are completely inaccurate.
“We have eight career tech programs in Atmore and three in Brewton,” said Knott, who pointed out that about 85 percent of ECHS students (568) are participating in one of those programs. “Five of those programs lead to business and industry certification.”
The list of career technical and dual enrollment programs offered at the local high school consists of Agriscience (59 students enrolled), Business Technology Applications (68), Career Preparedness (99), Co-op (65), Cosmetology (56), Culinary Arts (50), Health Science (70, including 22 dual enrollment) and Welding (99, including 11 dual enrollment).
Also noted was the fact that the ECHS Class of 2018 earned $5.7 million in scholarships, a school record and the most of any county high school, and that 76 percent of ECHS students are involved in one or more extracurricular activities.
The county school system’s top administrator pointed out that more than $6 million has been spent on upgrades, new construction or other capital projects at the Atmore schools over the past seven years.
“As far as building improvements and renovation, look at the new auditorium at County High (ECHS),” he said. “That project alone was $2.5 million, and we’ve made them at every school. At Rachel Patterson we put on a new roof and upgraded the electrical system. If we’re talking about capital outlay, big projects … you’re looking at $6,371,807 since 2013 just in projects that cost $50,000 or above.”
Also during the presentation, Principals Dennis Fuqua (ECHS), Debbie Bolden (ECMS) and John Brantley (RPES) each extolled the virtues of his or her respective school, accenting the recent progress that has been made.
RPES was selected as an Alabama Bicentennial School and the highly acclaimed Leader in Me program, which teaches life lessons and encourages students to lead by example was shifted to the school when A.C. Moore Elementary was merged two years ago with RPES and ECMS.
Highlights at ECMS include its new collaborative lab, which is one of the most advanced in lower Alabama, and the success of the Think Through Math program, in which local middle school students have performed better than their peers across the state.
“I think our schools are great,” Knott said. “If people would go visit the schools, get on board and be a part of this, there’s no telling where we could go. We’re still looking for more improvement.”
Next week’s article will include reactions from some of the leaders involved in the effort to separate the three Atmore-based schools from the county system.