Schools honored for state report card grades

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The Walker County Board of Education is celebrating many accomplishments on the recently released state Department of Education's report card.

Ten out of 16 Walker County schools scored an A or B on the state report card for 2018-19, and the school system, as a whole, now has an overall grade of 83, jumping five points from its score in 2017-18.

Cordova Elementary School also has the highest grade on the state report card of any school in the county, a 92.

"I definitely want to take this opportunity to brag on our schools, faculty and staffs and the improvements that they've made," Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood said at last Thursday's board meeting. "Real proud of our school system and the gains that we made in moving from a 78 to an 83, and part of our strategic plan is the implementation of professional development and certain programs to hopefully continue that growth."

A representative from each school that earned an A or B attended the school board meeting, and schools were recognized in each district. 

Schools in District 3 scored the highest on the state report card. 

"I think we can owe our A to the dedication of our teachers. We have a very dedicated staff. They love Cordova Elementary," teacher Anna Palmer said. "We have kids that are excited about learning."

Parrish Elementary Principal Dr. Thomas Kyzer concurred when speaking of Parrish's score of 88. 

"We've always had really good teachers at Parrish Elementary, and we decided we would push our students as hard as we could push them. We'll continue moving forward," Kyzer said.

Bankhead Middle School scored an 86 on the state report card, rising seven points from last year's score. The school isn't only excelling in academics, however. Many groups at the school have performed well in recent competitions, and Bankhead is preparing for a STEM accreditation visit next month. 

The school has also applied to participate in the A+ College Ready Middle School Training and Incentive Program, which will enhance classroom rigor to ultimately ensure college and career readiness.  

"We have great teachers. They are very dedicated," Bankhead Principal Amber Freeman said. "We have a lot of extra programs going on at Bankhead that motivate the students to do their very best."

Valley Jr. High School was also honored in District 3 for earning an 85 on the state report card. Hagood said the accomplishments at Valley and Parrish are especially notable, considering each school has some of the highest free and reduced lunch rates in the county.

The free and reduced lunch rate at Parrish is the highest, at 73 percent, followed by Carbon Hill Elementary at 71 percent and Valley at 70 percent.

"The free and reduced lunch rate, that really makes this much more impressive when you look at some of these free and reduced lunch rate numbers at some of our schools," Hagood said. "When you're scoring almost an A as Parrish Elementary is there with a 73 percent free and reduced lunch rate, that's just absolutely incredible."

Hagood displayed the rates in a PowerPoint presentation during the meeting, which Valley Principal Jody Harrison referenced.

"A lot of the things that we've tried to put in place to do is affected by that number that you have up there where you show that 70 percent are economically disadvantaged," Harrison said. "A lot of what we do is to push to try to help incorporate those kids into the school, encourage them to be there, and to do the best they can."

The elementary and middle schools in Curry were recognized in District 1 as well.

Curry Middle made a letter grade increase on the report card by scoring an 85 — a 12-point increase from the 2017-18 score of 73. The school was also recently named a Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School again, the highest honor bestowed from Blue Ribbon Schools. 

The recognition signifies that Curry Middle took suggestions from Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence to enhance the school's culture on everything from technology and extracurricular offerings to school appearance and small group studies.

Curry Middle is one of only 13 middle schools in Alabama that has achieved Blue Ribbon Schools' Lighthouse status. 

"It gives our students something to strive for," Principal Barry Wilson said.

Curry Elementary is also on a mission of its own to enhance the school's atmosphere, and students scored an 84 on the state report card — also rising a letter grade.  

"We have a really great faculty and staff that work really hard every day," Curry Elementary Principal Haley Moore said. "This year we are really working on fostering more positive relationships between everyone." 

In District 2, Carbon Hill Elementary received an 82 on the state report card — a six-point increase from 2017-18. Lupton Jr. High School made an 82, a five-point increase from the previous year.

Like Bankhead, Carbon Hill Elementary has also applied for the A+ College Ready Middle School Training and Incentive Program.

"Our students have been supporting each other, and it's just a great atmosphere," Carbon Hill Elementary Principal Dr. Jami Rainey said. "We're really excited about where we're headed, and we're looking forward to continuing a partnership with the high school and the growth that we've got going on."

Lupton Jr. High Principal Corey Shubert thanked the school board for their support in helping students at all schools reach their full potential.

"We appreciate the hard work that our students put forth this year, the support of our parents in improving some attendance rates, as well as a supportive board," he said.

Sumiton Elementary and Sumition Middle schools in District 4 also scored B's on the state report card, an 80 and 81, respectively. Sumiton Middle's score increased 11 points from 2017-18. 

"We're just thankful for the support that we have. We have a great staff. We made a lot of changes over the summer that we knew needed to happen, and I think we reaped the benefits of that," Sumiton Middle Principal Chris Stephenson said. "We're just going to keep working hard, loving the kids, and putting them first, and continue to improve on what we've already accomplished."

Sumiton Elementary has celebrated a letter grade increase on the report card, while also realizing the significant accomplishment of receiving a Trauma-Informed Schools grant. The grant will allow the school to greater address the mental health needs of students.

"We have dedicated staff. They are exceptional, and they care about our students," Sumiton Elementary counselor Laura Lee Barrett said. "We've had a challenging start to our year, and we can't thank our superintendent and our board enough for being there for us this year."

Each school leader that spoke at the board meeting credited teachers for their tireless dedication to students. 

District 3 board member Dr. Vonda Beaty expressed her gratitude to everyone for helping students reach a high level of academic achievement. 

"A school's success starts with its leaders, and these people right here don't just work from 7 o'clock to 4 o'clock. You know that," Beaty said. "I appreciate you all very much and the other leaders in this room. It takes everybody to have a successful school, and I'm just so proud of everyone."

Hagood said the school system is also proud of gains on the report card in college and career readiness and academic growth. The school system also saw less chronic absenteeism in 2018-19 than in years prior.