Superintendents provide updates on schools

PELHAM – A panel of four superintendents from throughout Shelby County gathered at the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Schools luncheon on Wednesday, July 26, to discuss what’s going on in their respective school systems.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller, Alabaster City Schools Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers, Pelham City Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Coefield and Hoover City Schools Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Dr. Ron Dodson participated in the panel discussion.

A moderator asked each superintendent a question and they each had a limited amount of time to answer the question.

Here is a summary of what each superintendent shared about his school system.

Dr. Wayne Vickers

When asked about ways that Alabaster City Schools connects with the community, Vickers said the school system believes in open communication, which is why it will soon launch a new website to keep the community up-to-date about school system happenings.

“We also reinstated a homecoming parade that had been absent from the community for 50 years,” Vickers said. “It has really become a great way to get the community together.”

Vickers said the school system also hosts Books in the Park, which is an event held at Veterans Park that invites the community to relax at the park while reading a book. The event features Frios Gourmet Pops serving free popsicles to ACS students.

The school system also offers free breakfast and lunch to children up to age 18 during the summer.

“Our Summer Feeding Program has been a great way for us to interact with the community and feed the students.”

When it comes to making sure that students are prepared for the workforce, Vickers said the school system has increased internship and volunteer opportunities for students.

“Enrollment has increased in our career academies, especially in the health science and engineering fields,” he said.

He said career academies, internships and volunteering help students connect with and understand what their chosen career path is all about.

Dr. Ron Dodson

When it comes to soft skills development, Dodson said HCS has a new curriculum, called Career Preparedness, that helps students with selecting a career and teaches them how to be successful in their chosen career.

“The program helps develop character in a very practical way,” he said.

HCS has about 500 students enrolled in cooperative education each school year. Cooperative education gives students the opportunity to shadow professionals and gain real world work experience.

Dodson said the school system’s one-to-one technology initiative has also been successful. He said the school system has been able to maintain and grow it.

“The kids really love it and so much of what they will need to be successful will center around technology,” he said.

To remain up-to-date on the needs of the workforce, Dodson said HCS maintains an open line of communication.

“We talk to them,” he said. “They tell us if programs need to be updated and we listen to our business partners and invite them to a part of the process when we are developing programs.”

When asked what can businesses do to help school systems, Dodson urged business owners to be willing participants.
“When we reach out to you asking you to participate in an advisory board, please give it a try,” he said. “We also need businesses to allow internships.”

Dr. Scott Coefield

Upon graduation, Coefield said he wants Pelham students to be equipped with the basic skills needed to be successful.

“I need them to show up to work on time, take responsibility and work cooperatively with people,” Coefield said. “We’re working to build a culture of responsibility with students.”

But Coefield said both business owners and school systems have struggled with the concept of connecting businesses to schools. He said PCS works with GSCCC to create partnerships with local businesses, which is something that he said has been helpful.

“We’re always looking for businesses to partner with,” he said. “What businesses can do is reach out to the Chamber or contact the school directly and ask if there is anything you can do to help.”

Coefield praised the Chamber for its work with area school systems.

“This chamber does it better than I’ve ever seen it,” he said. “There’s a program to serve every grade level and they’re constantly asking questions and trying to improve.”

When it comes to the future of PCS, Coefield said the future looks bright.

“Student enrollment and academic achievements are up and everything is moving in a positive fashion,” he said. “There’s also a lot of new construction and growth within our schools right now.”

Pelham Park Middle School, which is under construction, is scheduled to open to students this fall and several other schools in the system have undergone renovations and upgrades.

Randy Fuller

When it comes to improving Shelby County Schools, Fuller said there is a leadership team at each school responsible for setting goals for the school year. At the end of each school year, each school’s accomplishments are evaluated.

The SCS central office staff also develops goals for each school year.

“We have seen our schools continue to improve as a result,” Fuller said.

Fuller said SCS has four components that direct the school system to continued success: continuous school improvement, strategic planning, leadership development and instruction.

“These system goals remain constant, but how we achieve those goals change from year to year,” he said.

Fuller said SCS is focused on developing the whole child. That means helping students develop confidence, soft skills and leadership skills. Before seniors graduate, they participate in a student-led conference. Students present a PowerPoint before a panel and share what high school has meant to them, what their plans are after high school and what they hope their future looks like.

“It’s the most moving experience,” Fuller said.

When asked what can businesses do to help school systems, Fuller urged business owners to be willing participants.

“We need more businesses to offer job shadowing and apprenticeships to show kids that there are opportunities out there for them,” he said. “We have to continue to be creative in our approaches to keep moving forward.”