By RANDY TATANO
Six months into the school year, Escambia County Schools have a very different feel. With a new Superintendent, new School Board President and a new slogan “We Are One,” everyone is on the same page.
So many programs, systems, and educational strategies have improved, the slogan may as well be “We Are New.”
From a high-tech security system to an agriculture facility to innovative vocabulary teaching techniques, Escambia County students are finding every step is being taken to ensure their success. It has truly been a team effort, with teachers, principals, administrators and school personnel all working toward a singular goal: to graduate a well-educated child.
Of course it starts in the classroom. Elementary Curriculum Supervisor Nicole Spottswood supervised the rollout of the Literacy Initiative.
“The biggest improvement in the elementary curriculum area would be the adoption and purchase of several educational programs and platforms. Student engagement is headed to the next level.”
And employees are receiving specialized training on the new programs. “The administration, faculty, and staff are all receiving top notch professional development in each program being implemented.”
There are some things that aren’t visible on a student’s report card, but noteworthy as well. Transportation Supervisor Forrest Jones saw his school bus drivers receive a perfect score during a Transportation Security Administration Test of safety protocols. And after nearly a decade, the Teacher of the Year awards were reinstated at each school, with two teachers entered in the Alabama Teacher of the Year competition.
With competition for jobs after graduation, Director of Career Tech Shawn Butler oversees a system-wide program to improve student credentialing, giving each of the 260 seniors in the system a mentor. There are six “college and career readiness indicators” which show that students who are credentialed have a better chance at success. “We currently have a system-wide CCRI average of exactly 80 percent. Last year we finished the year at 70 percent. We moved from a C to a B as a system at this point. W.S. Neal High School leads the district and is already at 93 percent credentialing rate.”
Technology Coordinator Jamie Burkett has brought the school system up to date. Along with maintaining school websites, he was instrumental in the installation of the StreamVu television system in each school which allowed students to handle daily announcements on camera.
Burkett worked with Deputy of Operations Shaun Goolsby during the installation of the Centegix security system which gives all school employees instant contact in the event of an emergency. Escambia County Sheriff Heath Jackson worked with both men to coordinate the system with local law enforcement. Goolsby will have his hands full this summer, overseeing the construction of a new addition at Flomaton Elementary while replacing carpet (some dating back to the 1970s) with vinyl in many schools, creating a cleaner environment.
The most qualified new employees were hired and able to hit the ground running with the help of Human Resources Supervisor Cheryl Jones thanks to a new onboarding system.
“Superintendent McClung has assessed the needs of our school district, and she has mapped out a plan to bring in the well-versed personnel that we need to move our schools forward toward student academic achievement. She has placed the focus back on where it matters, the students.”
Other systems were streamlined. Attendance Supervisor Kike Pettaway initiated the FAFSA process (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for 100 percent of the seniors. Secondary Supervisor Jason Weeks revised the protocols for alternative school placements.
Finally, Superintendent Michele McClung will implement a special recognition event at the end of the year to honor everyone who has worked toward the common goal.
“Principals and executive staff are all working collaboratively to put together our first WE ARE ONE red carpet celebration to end the year with recognitions for all categories of the system,” she said.
Brewton resident Randy Tatano is a veteran TV news reporter and network producer, and is currently a novelist and freelance writer for the Escambia County School System.