Looking back: Education

Published 6:31 pm Thursday, December 30, 2010

Troy Elementary School parents watch as students perform a Living Wax Museum at Troy Elementary School in Troy, Ala., Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

Pike County is serious about education.

And education is serious business for the local educational systems.

Although the year 2010 brought unique challenges due to the failing economic situation, both the Troy City and Pike County school systems have weathered the storm.

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“From a facilities standpoint, we have been able to complete and move into the new central office,” said Dr. Linda Felton-Smith, superintendent of Troy City Schools. “We moved into an addition at Charles Henderson High School for the multi-handicapped students. We also added coverings at Troy Elementary School and at the middle school. So, we feel very good about the facility improvements that we were able to make in 2010.”

Academically, Felton-Smith said the school system continued to meet and exceed its annual measurable objectives.

“We had two National Merit Finalists at the high school and we have completed our math and reading pacing guides at the elementary school and are working toward our pacing guides at the middle school. We have been able to add our building and construction class at the Center for Technology and our students’ ACT scores have improved.”

Felton-Smith said that even with 9.5 percent proration, the Troy City School System is financially sound.

“We still have been able to provide for the needs of our students in the classroom and we are pleased with the progress in getting our 21st century classroom installed at all of our schools,” she said. “Our board has been very supportive of increasing technology opportunities for our students and has agreed to approve the 21st century classroom.”

The hopes and plans for the New Year are to complete the installation of the 21st century classroom and to provide professional development training for teachers.

“We want to provide our teachers with tools for teaching and learning and to continue to work on pacing guides so as to not just cover the minimum standards but to take our students above and beyond normal expectations,” Felton-Smith said.

Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of the Pike County School System, said that he, too, is pleased with what the school system was able to accomplish during 2010 considering the economic situation.

“We have been able to weather the storm so it has been a good year,” Bazzell said. “The students have not been impacted in the classroom by the economic situation. Our students did well in the classroom and made improvements in the identified areas. We have focused on graduation rates, dropout prevention and our at-risk students. Overall, our academic year was a successful one.”

Bazzell said that he is optimistic that the Pike County School System is headed in the right direction.

“I am confident that we will be able to do things in the future such as capital projects that have been put on hold,” he said. “We have deferred capital projects in order to maintain our facilities.”

Bazzell cited work that needs to be done on the gymnasium at Goshen as a major project that needs attention.

“Actually, we need to do work at all campuses,” he said. “If the economy turns around we will be able to move faster on those projects. We are looking forward to a good year in all areas in 2011.”

Pike Liberal Arts School’s 2010 school year was also a very successful one with its enrollment holding steady and several teachers added to the faculty who have strengthened the school’s academic program.

“We are very proud of our high school science and math programs that we believe are tremendously strong,” said Ceil Sikes, headmaster. “Our academic program is strong throughout as shown by our Blue Ribbon Status over the past three years. We have applied again for Blue Ribbon Status and feel confident that we will receive it for the fourth year in a row.”

Sikes said the school’s athletic programs continue to be strong in all areas and the junior high football program has become a strong feeder program for varsity football.

“At Pike Liberal Arts, we try to keep our students involved in academics and extra curricular activities because it helps them to be well rounded and to make positive use of their time,” she said. “Many of our students are involved in off-campus activities in their churches and community.”

A graduation requirement for PLAS students is 75 hours of community service but Sikes said most of them far exceed that.

“It is interesting to see the many ways our students find to complete those hours, from volunteering at the hospital and senior center to helping their grandparents,” she said. “We want our students to understand that community is about more than just them. It’s a wide effort and we want them to support one another.”

In 2011, Sikes said the plans include expanding the school’s arts activities.

“We would like to have a music program that would include band and also take students to the AISA choral competition,” she said. “We realize the value of arts in reaching students with those interests and abilities and want to find ways to tap into and expand the arts.”