State superintendent kicks off Alabaster’s school year

Alabama Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice speaks to Alabaster teachers during the Alabaster City Schools institute day on Aug. 12 at Thompson High School. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Alabama Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice speaks to Alabaster teachers during the Alabaster City Schools institute day on Aug. 12 at Thompson High School. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabama Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice has logged a lengthy career in the state’s educational system over the past few decades, but he was admittedly in uncharted waters during an Aug. 12 visit to Alabaster.

“When I was asked to come today, it didn’t take me but a minute to say yes,” Bice told hundreds of Alabaster teachers gathered in the Thompson High School auditorium. “I’ve never gotten the chance to be a part of a school system being birthed. It’s a great day to be a Warrior.”

Aug. 12 marked the first institute day for the newly formed Alabaster City School System, kicking off a week of teacher preparations before students return to class on Aug. 19.

The importance of a successful start to the school year wasn’t lost on 2013-2014 Alabama Teacher of the Year Dr. Alison Grizzle, one of the day’s speakers.

“Y’all have the greatest opportunity – an opportunity teachers rarely get,” Grizzle told the teachers and administrators, most of who were decked out in red and black attire. “You are a brand new school system, and with that comes so much power.

“The future is in your hands,” Grizzle added. “What you do this year will set the tone for generations to come.”

Beginning this year, Alabama public schools will begin to transition from the Adequate Yearly Progress model – which focused heavily on the Alabama high school graduation exam – to the college and career readiness program, Bice said.

“We were spending a tremendous amount of time, energy and emotion to prepare students for a test instead of what comes next,” Bice said. “Passing the Alabama high school graduation exam and being prepared for the future are two completely different things.”

By 2020, Alabama is looking to have a 90 percent high school graduation rate, which would be up from the current rate of 72 percent, Bice said.

Alabaster School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers said his door will be open to all teachers and students, and said he has high goals for the city’s schools.

“We can not and we will not accept anything less than our students’ best efforts, and we will not give them anything less in return,” Vickers said. “We will be the best school district in this state, I promise.”