Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks speaks at TSCC luncheon

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

PELHAM – Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks spoke at The Shelby County Chamber’s August ‘Community Luncheon’ held at the Pelham Civic Complex on the subject of the state of Shelby County’s schools on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

The luncheon, which was hosted by the chamber’s career readiness work group, featured comments and a review on the state of schools in Shelby County. Brooks, who was just recently named superintendent of the year for District 5, was followed by the heads of the Pelham, Hoover and Alabaster school systems.

Brooks, who was the first of the superintendents to speak, largely focused his attention on the opportunities of Shelby County Schools, and the county as a whole, has at its disposal to continue in its current trends and to build on the improvements that have already been accomplished.

“Every day is an opportunity for us to do something exceptional for our students, Brooks said. “So for us, I think what’s been an opportunity this year, and certainly it is for all of us, is (that) we’re having to address the Literacy Act to make sure that our kids are on reading grade level by third grade. Our teachers have worked extremely hard in the last year training, consistently, to make sure that we’re delivering the correct instruction in the classroom to make sure our kids can meet that goal.”

Brooks also detailed the sweeping efforts that have been made in his school district to ensure that the schools remain at the peak of modernization and are best adapted to serve the students currently enrolled.

In doing so, he made specific mention of upgrades to school campuses that have totaled roughly $41 million, which have been used to upgrade not just classrooms but gymnasiums, bathrooms and other necessary areas.

“We’ve invested a lot of resources in how our classrooms look,” Brooks said. “We certainly don’t want sterile environments. Kids today are quite different from the way we grew up. We want to make sure that the learning environment matches the level of engagement. We purchase furniture that just kind of updates what the classrooms look like. We’re excited about that. And we feel like it’s going to be positive for the types of learners that we deal with today.”

As part of his talk, Brooks also focused on where he felt there was still ground to be covered and where he would most like a continued focus made as Shelby County strives to achieve success in its schools.

To Brooks, the biggest challenge currently facing schools in Shelby County is that of meeting the medical needs of the students—needs that are often unique to each individual student.

Brooks described that one school in his district currently has 26 students who require tube feedings, and that requirements such as this must remain at the forefront of attention.

“Making sure that we have the people and the resources to meet those needs is important,” Brooks said. “And as we know, nurses are a commodity. We’re making sure we find the nurses to serve our kids. And working diligently to do so”

He was also adamant that it is not just the medical needs in the physical sense that must be focused upon, and that the mental health of students must also remain a chief concern and focus of educators.

“I think one of the greatest challenges that we face is mental health,” Brooks said. “We have a program called Shelby Cares in our district. And we work with parents, and we work with students to make sure we can meet those mental health needs. And I say that because, you know, I had the unfortunate opportunity to attend the funeral of a kid that I very much loved, a 14-year-old, who is no longer with us.”

Shelby Cares, as described on their website, is a program that is intended to provide proactive support and positive attention to the subject of the mental health needs of students in Shelby County Schools.

On a more general scale, Brooks noted the challenges his district, and the county as a whole, face due to adjusting bus routes and the rapid growth of Shelby County. Both of which will require attention and adjustment as the community continues to grow.

Brooks was also proud to detail the furtherment of a variety of different programs. This included developments in new high school level programs such as a health care program at Calera High School, an aviation technology program at Shelby County High School and an IT pathway program at Helena High School.

On the middle school front, Brooks also made mention of a number of new and continuing programs such as virtual reality lessons, Project Lead The Way, which is a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program in place at a number of the schools, and the We Build It Better program which teaches foundations in innovation in ways that are directed at finding real world solutions to industry challenges.

This focus on adaptation and modernization on a number of fronts and applications has led Shelby County Schools in the success it has found statistically and academically, and Brooks feels that the brightest days are yet ahead, for both his school district, and the county as a whole.

“Shelby County as it relates to child welfare, is ranked the number one county in the state of Alabama,” Brooks said. “Not only is that a testament to what’s going on in the school districts that you will hear from, but it has to do with the healthcare that we provide (and) the community dynamics that we have. There’s a lot for you all as business leaders and as parents to be happy about. There’s a lot of positive things that are happening in Shelby County.”