Enhancements to kickoff the new school year

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, August 9, 2023

As the 2023-2024 school year begins, schools across the county have been making upgrades and introducing new programs and faculty members. 

While some teachers and nurses have received raises, other schools have spent the summer making renovations and preparing for new projects and initiatives.

Chambers County School District

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According to Assistant Superintendent David Owen, the school year started off strong with six new air-conditioned school buses added to the fleet. The new school buses have taken on the longest bus routes. 

“We had a beautiful weather day to start the school day,” Owen said. “And it’s been great from the Valley side of the district to the LaFayette side of the district. It’s been very smooth. It’s been a great transition back into school.”

All the staffing vacancies within the county have been filled. Around 30 new teachers were hired by the end of the summer vacation. 

“We’re really blessed that we’ve been able to find our staff,” Owen said. “It’s a credit to the principals and everyone that’s worked hard to bring people on board to take care of our kids.”

Some new modifications have been made to the school handbook. This year the exemption policy has been changed so that students who meet grade requirements can be exempt from tests during the first semester.”

Also, Inspire Academy’s machinery program has gotten a new five-axis machine and a three-axis machine for milling metals. The machines are top-of-the-line industry equipment, according to Superintendent Dr. Casey Chambley. 

“I don’t know of any [high schools] in the state of Alabama that have them,” Chambley said. “So this is a really really big, big deal for us to have that machine for our kids to start learning on as they get out into the workforce and get out into industry.”

Chambley said the school district will also continue to work on improving reading proficiency and math scores this year.

“We saw really good improvements in our proficiency scores across the district, and we’re looking forward to continuing to improve that,” Chambley said.

Springwood School

Springwood Head of School Kim Baylis is also excited about new hires this year. 

Some of the new teachers who will be joining Springwood School this year are Paula Burch, fourth grade teacher and Jeannie Partridge, second grade teacher.

“They will contribute to an already very experienced and talented primary elementary faculty and so they’ll just jump right in and be able to join a lot of the really good things that have already begun,” Baylis said. “And that’s just great for our students to to have the expertise of a of a seasoned teacher.”

Lee Pino, high school science teacher and Sara Sands, high school English teacher, will also be joining the team. Seth and Hannah Harden will also be starting as International House Parents.

“We’re thrilled to have each of these four new teachers,” Baylis said. “I have high expectations for them to continue their dedication to teaching and working with our kids.”

Some staff members will also be transitioning into new roles this coming year, including Alison Vinson, Director of Academics (K4-12), Dr. Michael Plank, Director of Development and Campus Life, Joey Burch, Director of Athletics and Operations, and Merrielle Key, Admissions Coordinator and Junior High Teacher. 

Springwood School also received the AISA President’s Award for the 2022-2023 school year. The award is presented to one school from each division of the AISA for both student and faculty recognition. 

“It’s kind of a student and faculty achievement award,” Baylis said. “So we’re really proud of that. It just shows the strength of our faculty and the talent of our student body.”

The President’s Award recognizes affiliated schools “that achieve academic excellence during the school year, and it is awarded to only one school per academic classification, which is based on student enrollment.”

Beulah High School

Last year, Beulah High School’s motto was “Getting Better Every Day,” and the school’s ongoing improvements have brought that goal into focus. 

Beulah’s graduation rate has grown from 76% to 93% in the last year. The college and career readiness rate has increased from 76% to 89% in the last year. 

Under the CTE Director Clint Cobb, the program has grown in the last year. The program will offer public speaking, journalism, research and design in chemistry, chorus, sports officiating and forensics science courses this year.

Beulah Junior High will have a new STEAM initiative this year. Students will have new courses including forensics science, math intervention and creative writing.

“We’re excited to get year two started,” said Beulah Principal Adam Johnson. “… Last year was my first year as the principal and we’re just trying to put together a team that represents our community and serves our community like it’s supposed to.” 

Beulah will be welcoming 10 new teachers to the staff for the school year, four of which are Beulah graduates. Morgan Dunaway, Erin Stanford, Davis Lamb and Brana Snyder will be returning to teach and coach this year. 

“We’re excited for them to be coming home,” Johnson said. 

Rusty Arnett became the school’s full-time strength conditioning coach last year. Donald Hayes, a former Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots player, will be joining the team as a track coach. 

The gymnasium received a new air conditioning unit. A new PA system has also been installed for the football field. The student-athletes themselves also have been outfitted with all-new uniforms.

“Our kids work very hard,” Johnson said. “Our teachers and coaches work very hard. They deserve to be rewarded.”

Johnson is looking forward to a new track field with LED lights, concession stands, etc. The track and field project is estimated to be completed by 2025. Johnson has plans to expand the weight room as well.