Published 11:00 pm Monday, August 19, 2013

8-20 CHHS two_web

Students return to friends, learning after summer break

On Monday, it was a tale of two schools.

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Banks School welcomed 360 students in grades K-8 in rural Pike County.

Charles Henderson High School had greetings for about 1,000 students in grades seven through 12 in an urban setting.

But, on a scale of one to 10, the excitement of the first day of the 2013-2014 school year and school pride were 10s on all accounts.

“It was a wonderful first day of school at Banks School,” said Lee Scott, who was experiencing her first day as school principal. “Teachers were greeting their students by first name and many parents and teachers were on a first name basis. It is truly a family atmosphere at Banks School.”

Banks School has two campuses, with grades K-3 at the primary school on the Brundidge Highway and grades 4-8 at the middle school on U.S. Highway 29.

“I had anticipated a hectic day but everything went very smoothly,” Scott said. “Of course, I had a couple of extra pairs of hands and that made my day easier.”

Scott said Angela Smith, a newly retired Banks School teacher, came to assist as did Tina DeBruyne, a State Department of Education representative.

Dr. Tommy Bice, Alabama State Superintendent of Education, encouraged his staff to be engaged in first-day openings at schools throughout the state and DeBruyne answered the call.

“I live near Banks and I wanted to take this opportunity to be a part of the first day of school at a small school and I have been very impressed,” DeBruyne said. “It was obvious that the students and parents take great pride in their school.”

DeBruyne participated in several first-day activities including greeting students, putting up bulletin boards, monitoring the lunchroom and assisting Scott in entering data in her “binder” and compiling teacher materials.

The family atmosphere at Banks gave the school a sense of “homecoming.”

“I understand how the atmosphere here could have a positive benefit for the students and their families,” DeBruyne said.

Scott expressed appreciation to DeBruyne for choosing Banks School and to Bice for encouraging his staff to visit the schools and see, first hand, the professionalism of the teachers and administrators and the eagerness of the students to be back in school.

“I’m honored that our superintendent, Dr. Mark Bazzell, had enough confidence in me, a first year principal, to allow me to have a representative from the State Department of Education to visit Banks.”

On her first day of school, Scott allowed herself to dream “just a little.”

“I want to see our enrollment increase and for Banks School to continue putting teaching in the forefront,” she said. “There’s an indication that we might get a new building and that’s exciting. Banks School is a little gold mine. It’s a hidden jewel and I am honored to be a part of Banks School.”

Just across the county and up the hill, Carolyn Hampton was just as honored and excited to be a part of Charles Henderson High School as its vice principal.

“I have been so impressed with how smoothly everything has gone today,” Hampton said. “So much planning and organization has gone into getting school off to a great start and it has paid off.”

The former Charles Henderson Middle School building is being demolished to make way for a new school building and the seventh- and eighth-grades are being housed on the CHHS campus.

“It’s amazing how this is working,” Hampton said. “It’s almost like two campuses with the seventh and eighth grade on one campus and nine through 12 on another. It’s evident that a lot of thought and planning has gone into making sure that this arrangement works.”

Hampton said even the traffic flow at the school was orderly and moved at a good pace.

“The traffic followed the blue and orange markings and there were very few snags,” she said.

Hampton said some of the credit for a smooth first day of school should be given to parental involvement.

“Parental participation in the meet-and-tells was very good,” she said. “Parents were well informed and knew what to expect. Everything was in place today and it was powerful.”

New facilities are already a reality at CHHS. The new cafetorium opened last year and the new media center was showcased on opening day.

No one was more excited about the new media center than Librarian Sharon Rhodes.

“To have a media center like this is a tremendous asset,” Rhodes said. “It is conveniently located on campus and offers a wide selection of resource books and books for reading pleasure.”

The media center has adequate space to attractively display an extensive collection of reading materials, reading and work areas for the students and a separate room for lectures and programs.

Dr. Boyd English, CHHS principal, shared Hampton’s opinion that the first day of school at CHHS was successful and Rhodes’ excitement for the new media center.

“For the first day of school to be successful, two things are critical,” English said. “First, we have to made sure that the students arrive safely and are acclimated to the daily schedule and are dismissed safely. Everything went well and today was a success.”

English said patience will be required regarding traffic until parents and students are more accustomed to the additional traffic that is inherent with having the seventh and eighth grades on campus.

“The second thing that we must do is lay the groundwork for a successful year,” he said.

“Today, we gave the students the groundwork for success by knowing what to expect out of their classes and what they are expected to give in return.”

English said that he, too, takes pride in the new media center and his expectations are that the media center will be a focus area for the students throughout the year.

“We’ve moved to all textbooks being on iPads and we’ll have the advisor program that we will unveil after Labor Day,” English said. “At CHHS, we believe that the development of personal relationships is critical to being well-rounded, successful students. So, we are preparing for the unveiling new initiatives as well.”