Billboard: Sign of times in Atmore

Published 7:56 am Thursday, August 17, 2006

By By Adam Prestridge
The success of Escambia County's school system is not going unnoticed.
At least in the City of Atmore it isn't.
Even if you tried to ignore it, the giant billboard high in the sky next to Escambia County Middle School on Hwy. 21 reminds you each time you pass it.
Atmore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Emilie Mims said she was surprised when she looked up on her way home following on a recent road trip and saw the massive billboard.
The billboard entitled "Celebrating Excellence in Education" was a brainchild of Mims following the announcement that Huxford Elementary School had once again been designated a Torchbearer School by the Alabama Department of Education for the third consecutive year (2003-2005). Also announced was that the Escambia County School System was named one of the Top 10 Great Rural Education Environments in 2006 by "Southern Business &Development" magazine. To top it off, Escambia Academy was also named, for the sixth year in a row, a Blue Ribbon School by the Alabama Independent School Association.
"Last spring, following two of these announcements, a local realtor, Debbie Rowell, was talking about the importance of schools in selling our community to newcomers," Mims said. "A few days later, Chuck Riley, with Bill Salter Outdoor Advertising, was in my office and I asked if he would consider giving the community a free billboard to publicize these awards. He was very positive about the idea, and undoubtedly, so was Mr. Salter, as the billboard appeared a couple of weeks ago."
Mims was also pleased with the location of the billboard since Escambia County Middle School was just recently announced as being in the "clear".
"The placement near the middle school and timing could not have been more perfect," Mims said. "I only wish we could now add another success, the Escambia County Middle School being in academic clear. The Chamber would like to publicly thank Bill Salter Advertising for this generous donation to Atmore."
Mims said the sign hasn't gone unnoticed by local educators either.
"Betty Warren (Huxford Elementary School principal) called and said that all of her teachers were proud to see that they were being recognized on a billboard for being a Torchbearer," Mims said.
Mims stressed the importance of the sign and the message it is intended to send to local residents.
"It is so important that our entire community celebrate the success of our schools because that is how we're going to build back pride in the schools. That's the most important thing. With pride comes a sense of ownership. It's important that our community knows that these are their schools."

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