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Owen talks new position, CCSD future

VALLEY — On Monday of this week, David Owen completed his first day as the new assistant superintendent of Chambers County Schools by being the guest speaker at the Valley Lions Club. It was the club’s first meeting of 2021. The January and February meetings did not take place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I may be wearing green tonight, but I’m not green on experience,” he joked.

A good bit of that experience was just south of Chambers County in the Beulah community, on the county’s east side at Springwood and on the west side at Chambers Academy.

Owen said it was an honor for him to speak to a Lions Club.

“My dad was a Lion,” he said. “I can remember selling light bulbs as a fundraiser for our club in Brentwood, Massachusetts. That’s where I grew up. It’s a small one red-light town right next to the City of Foxboro. That’s well known for Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots play.”

“Those fundraisers we used to do for the Lions bring back fond memories for me,” Owen said. “I can remember my dad treating me to a Big Mac afterward.”

Owen later played sports at a prep school and had the choice of attending college at either the University of Massachusetts or the University of Alabama. The warm weather down south was a factor in looking south, but it all came down to cost.

“In 1981, it was much cheaper for me to attend the University of Alabama than it would have been to go to UMass.”

That move south would be a permanent one.

“I’ve never moved back,” he said. “I go back to visit my mom. She’s 97 and in an assisted living facility. We talk a lot on Zoom.”

Owen has been tenured five times as a public school educator. He served as an administrator for 14 years, the last nine of which were at Beulah High.

He retired there in 2015 and went on to spend the next three years as the seventh through twelfth grade principal at Springwood School. In 2019, he made the move to Chambers Academy to be the headmaster, a position he held until very recently.

“I am really excited to be with the Chambers County School District,” he told Lions Club members. “I will be working with stakeholders and local businesses to help bridge the gap in overcoming obstacles created by Covid. We are looking at after-school enrichment programs and summer school to help some students catch up with what they have missed out on due to Covid.”

Owen is pleased to be working again with Casey Chambley, the new superintendent.

“He is a dynamic and energetic leader,” he said. “We have worked together before. He was at Beulah High when I was there. I’m excited about the energy he brings to the job. I will do what I can to complement what he does. We all want to help the youth of Chambers County. We want them to get a good education, stay here and raise a family.”

Owen said he’d like for the school district to expand ways of working with the Valley campus of Southern Union State Community College.

“We would like for our teachers to be dual enrollment certified, so they can teach classes in dual enrollment,” he said. “Rather than sending them off for this, we’d like to have staff that’s qualified to do it on our campuses.”

Owen sees Inspire Academy as a huge asset for the school district. “It’s a great thing for career opportunities,” he said. “In some cases, technical school graduates with two-year degrees have higher starting salaries than those with four-year degrees. I love to see kids in career tech getting highly-qualified educations.”

“With Casey Chambley’s vision, I think we will see growth in our system over the next five years,” Owen said.

Chambers County will be going back to federal court in December to seek unitary status in the Lee v. Macon case.

“To come out from under it, we will have to prove we are being compliant,” Owen said. “Depending on the ruling, we will know what direction to take. We are looking forward to having it resolved.”

Owen said the school district is considering having after-school enrichment programs.

“We would like to have it in place by spring break,” he said. “We also want to have summer camp tutoring for kids in grades 1-5. It could run from June 7 to the week after July 4. It will be for at-risk students who are a grade level behind because of the pandemic. A lot of kids have missed lots of school, and we are playing catch up with them.”