Approves superintendent contract
By SHERRY DIGMON
The only constant about COVID-19 is there is no constant.
Escambia County public schools started classes with no mask mandate in place, however, that changed at the board of education meeting Thursday, August 12.
Superintendent John Knott recommended to the board that a mandate be implemented due to the rising number of cases. The board voted unanimously to implement the mandate effective Friday, August 13, until Friday, September 24.
Knott said the board would reconvene at that time and decide whether to continue the mandate or not. The mandate applies to students, faculty and staff.
“Face masks give an added measure of protection that can help, along with hand washing, distancing, and sanitizing,” Knott said.
As of Thursday morning (August 12), Flomaton and Brewton public schools had a higher number of Covid cases than did Atmore.
“One thing people need to remember is that we’re only in the third day of school, ” Knott said. “Whatever we’re seeing in Covid cases didn’t come from within the schools. They were brought in from the outside. Positive cases are not attributable to the schools.”
Following is the agenda item as approved by the board:
The Escambia County School System will require that masks / face coverings be worn while inside school facilities during the school day. Masks will not be required for outside activities such as PE and athletics. All students, regardless of age or vaccination status, who utilize Escambia County School buses for transportation, are required to wear masks. This is a mandate issued by the Federal Department of Transportation. The mask requirement will remain in effect through September 24, 2021. District leaders will then reassess the current health trend as it relates to COVID-19 and the Delta Variant.
The board also authorized board president Cindy Jackson to sign and execute the superintendent contract with Michelle McClung approved by the board. The following press release introducing McClung was issued by the board August 13:
She’s been a teacher, a curriculum supervisor, an assistant principal, a principal, and a director of teaching, learning, and assessment for the largest school system in the state. And on September first, Michele McClung will bring all those different points of view with her when she assumes the role of School Superintendent.
She’s determined to simplify things, and as a former math teacher, use several common denominators to make Escambia County Schools among the top in the state. It starts with having the backs of teachers and spending time with them.
“It’s important that we know how to make teachers’ lives easier. And make teaching fun. If you want to make your system thrive, you need to get in the classrooms. You have to build relationships.”
She also doesn’t believe in “teaching to the test,” a concept which often leaves students without the skills they need.
“Teach them what they need to learn … better educated students will be the result.”
Another common denominator: discipline. McClung believes in a positive discipline approach noting the standards need to be the same from kindergarten through high school.
“Teach every child what is to be expected. They must act responsibly, be respectful, and be resourceful. That needs to be a common goal in every grade. The faculty and staff in each school need to remind students they are loved by us all. We are here for them.”
McClung, involved in several charitable organizations, also believes in showing kids the importance of giving back. The former math teacher has a simple equation when it comes to education. “Outstanding teachers plus strong leadership equal a well-educated child.”
During her time at the blackboard, McClung brought “math to life” in order to keep the interest of students.
“It’s important to convince kids concepts are relevant to them.”
She taught statistics and fractions by using different colored M&Ms, and ratios by showing students how they could use their arm length and height measurements to determine if they were in the middle of a growth spurt.
“When kids love what they’re learning, discipline problems disappear.”
She hopes to make things easier for parents as well, using the new “Power School platform” to send progress reports every Friday. This doesn’t create any additional work for teachers, as the system takes the grades entered by teachers and automatically sends them to parents in an email. Keeping parents in the loop is critical to the academic success of students.
“Please encourage your child, stay on top of things. Be involved.”
She believes there is no greater return on investment than the time parents spend with their children being actively involved in the school and community. McClung hopes every student has at least one adult in their school each can go to with problems.
She learned from personal experience how important it is for students to keep trying, even if they fail the first time. As a teacher, McClung was selected to go to NASA’s Space Academy and was chosen to be the commander of a flight. She crashed the shuttle on the first try, but begged for a second chance. The subsequent mission was a success. NASA later contacted her and she developed a solution for a crystal that was placed on a payload in space. She also had her students enter a writing contest about space and her students won a personal flight with the legendary pilot, Chuck Yeager.
She’s been the principal of the Alabama Teacher of the Year, and her school received the Alabama Performance Excellence Award and National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Lighthouse Award. Her school was home to many National Board Certified Teachers, several Presidential Award for Excellence Teachers of Math and Science, Dolly Parton’s Chasing Rainbows Award Teacher and the Chiquita Marbury Technology Award. As a leader, McClung believes it is her job to create a culture of excellence by putting students first.
McClung, the daughter of an airline executive, moved a lot as a child, living in Louisiana and Colorado before settling down in Mobile as a teenager. She’s worked in the Port City’s school system nearly thirty years.
She has a son and a daughter along with two grandchildren. When asked what she does for fun, she said, “Family is everything. I really enjoy slumber parties with my ten-year-old granddaughter. I love cheering my son on in golf tournaments. I enjoy my job working with children.”