As St. Clair County continues to grow, so does the county school system.
Two years ago, there were 8,467 students enrolled in the St. Clair County School System. That number grew to 8,604 last year, and Superintendent Jenny Seals anticipates about 8,750 students to be enrolled when school starts on Aug. 20.
“The largest growth we see is in the western part of the county, the Margaret/Argo area and Springville area,” Seals said. “We have 935 fulltime employees, 685 of which work in the instructional programs within the schools.”
Seals is in her sixth year as superintendent.
The mission of St. Clair County Board of Education is to ensure that high expectations are maintained for all students by providing quality instruction and involving parents and community so that all students graduate, become responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners
The St. Clair County School System believes that given a safe and supportive environment, all students can learn; effective teachers are the key to student achievement; support from stakeholders provides enhanced opportunities and impacts student success; and creating a culture that embraces change and promotes continuous improvement will result in success for all.
There are several instructional and academic changes this upcoming year, as new technology continues to filter into the school systems.
One change is the implementation and transition to the new Common Core State Standards for mathematics. Seals said this will be the greatest challenge academically the teachers, administrators and students have had to face, especially in the secondary grades.
“The implementation and transition of the new English Language Arts Common Core should be a fairly smooth process, because Alabama’s current curriculum has similarities to the new CCSS,” Seals said. “However, the new English Language Arts Common Core requires more rigor, focuses on reading comprehension, and includes a heavier emphasis on writing, grammar, informational text, thinking skills and literacy across the curriculum.”
Reasons why are listed below:
• The standards are the same wherever you go. Common standards mean our students will be learning the same thing as students across the country.
This means our students will be well prepared to compete nationally and internationally.
• Common Core places a strong emphasis on reading informational and technical texts to prepare students for the demands of college and the workplace.
• Common Core is designed to take away the problem of the past by fully preparing students for college and workplace.
• Learning resources and materials can be shared across states.
These standards will prepare students for career success in the rapidly changing world of work.
Moody Middle School and Springville High School will be the two schools that initiate the pilot program this fall.
“Our goal is to add more schools to this pilot program in the future,” Seals said. “We will be assessing those programs and taking the data to see results as far as the students using the technology.”
Another pilot program Seals is excited about is taking place at Moody High School this year as students and teachers experience moving to a modified block schedule. MHS principal Cheryl Kuyk presented the schedule to the BOE at a recent work session, and the BOE was impressed.
“Three days a week, students will have seven periods, and the other two days will be four blocks,” Seals said. “With that model, those teachers will be receiving some professional development every week.”
Seals said they are on board with the state superintendent of education Tommy Bice in getting students career ready.
“We are going to focus more on career readiness, and catching our students at an early age,” Seals said. “After the sixth grade, our counselors are going to be more focused on our students as far as their career paths.”
Seals said they also added more courses to Eden Career Tech Center in Ashville, and are looking at expanding the ROTC programs. There are two ROTC programs currently in the St. Clair School System – one at St. Clair County High School and the other at Eden Career Tech Center.
New Math textbooks, K-12, will be available for the 2012-13 school year that cost $600,000. Because of the new technology that is available, Seals said this might have been the very last of the textbooks needed.
There is also the possibility of adding more of the pre-schools in areas where pre-schools do not exist now.
“Jan Bailey will be writing those grants,” Seals said. “The areas we do not have pre-school include Margaret and Ashville.”
Financially, the St. Clair School System has been, and continues to be, in fine shape.
Chief Financial Officer Laura Nance said sales tax is up about 8 percent.
“We were up over about $600,000 for the year than what we projected,” Nance said, “We are up about $500,000 on local funds as well, so we are up about $1 million over what we did last year.”
Greg Cobb said the English/language/arts teachers would focus on English/Language/Arts Common Core, which is going to be implemented in 2013-14.
“This will be a trial year for these teachers to get accustomed to how the language is and the new curriculum for language/arts,” Cobb said. “We’re doing extensive professional development with our teachers this year, especially in the area of math and language/arts. This is to prepare them for the differences and rigor for the new curriculum that is coming down.”
Cobb said one thing that even the communities need to prepare for is that the new curriculum that is within the common core is more rigorous.
“Our students will be practicing and expected to perform on assessments at a deeper level,” Cobb said. “More critical thinking, specific vocabulary they will be learning will push them to a deeper level of thinking. Perhaps as report cards come out and grades come out, the grades may be a little bit lower. Perhaps it could be a good thing because the students are being challenged. The more they are challenged, the more they will be prepared for challenges in their future. So lower grades sometimes are not necessarily a bad thing as long as those lower grades are coming from challenges they are getting in the classroom to excel and to perform at a deeper level.”
The St. Clair County Board of Education is made up of a seven-member board. The terms are six years and elections are staggered. All five municipalities where high schools are located are represented and then there are two at-large members.
Board president is Scott Suttle, and he represents the Moody district. He was appointed in Nov. 2001 to fill the position vacated by Randy Gunter. He ran and won in 2002. He ran unopposed as an independent candidate in the November 2008 general election.
Board vice-president is Randy Thompson, and he serves the Ashville district. He is in his third year of his second term.
Marie Manning is in her second year as a board member and serves the Ragland district. She brings a wealth of knowledge to the BOE table as she served as superintendent from 1998 to 2002.
Terry Green is an at-large member of the board and has served longer than any other member. He is in his third term and has served since 1998.
Angie Cobb is the other at-large member and was elected in 2006. She was just recently chosen as the Republican nominee for the upcoming general election in November.
John DeGaris represents the Springville district and recently won a third term.
Allison Gray represents the Odenville district. She has been a board member for four years.
To contact Seals or any board member, call the Central Office in Ashville at 205-594-7131.