Escambia County's best kept secret

Published 12:00 pm Monday, October 23, 2006

By By Tray Smith
Normally, this page hosts my opinion on issues of national or statewide political importance. However, today I am going to use this space to voice my opinion on a local political issue that affects all of us more than anything going on in Washington, D.C. or Montgomery ever will. Taking a break from my ongoing series on the midterm elections, today I am going to inform you of a personal experience I have had over the last three months, and how that experience affects all of us in Atmore.
This past summer, my parents and I came to the conclusion that the remainder of my secondary education would be best provided by Escambia County High School. After spending the past 11 years at Escambia Academy, I was unaware if we had made the right decision. But I knew I would find out soon, as school was set to start within a matter of weeks.
We have just completed the first quarter of the 2006-2007 school year, and now not only am I sure that I made the right decision this summer, but I regret not making that decision a year earlier. From the moment I enrolled at ECHS, Principal Kyle Ferguson, Assistant Principal David McKinley, Counselor Minnie Stallworth, Librarian Sheryl West, and Assistant Superintendent Mary Bess Powell have done everything they can to ensure I experience a smooth transition. These teachers and administrators have literally bent over backwards in order to ensure that my every need has been met. The reason their contribution to my academic success is so important is because they do just as much work for every child, every day, as they have done for me, and there are over 600 students in the Escambia County High School student body.
The dedication of these highly qualified professionals has produced results. Last year, Escambia County High School met all of its academic goals. Its own Mrs. Jessica Oxendine was honored as the 2006 Escambia County Teacher of the Year. Mrs. West was one of 13 librarians in the state recently recognized for a significant contribution over a period of time to an Alabama Public School Library. Mrs. Jones' Business Marketing program was named as one of the top ten in the state. Escambia County High School also met all but one of its AYP goals for the 2005-2006 school year. Each one of these individual faculty members honored should take pride in their accomplishments, but Mr. Ferguson should also be recognized because such feats could not have been accomplished without positive leadership from the top down. Indeed, my personal experience is a mere testament to a greater phenomenon going on school wide.
When I share the experience of the past nine weeks of my life to fellow community members, they are often shocked. While I understand that our high school's reputation has been tarnished by past allegations of illicit behavior by both students and administrators on campus, today Escambia County High School is making notable progress down the road to academic excellence. Mr. Ferguson likes to say ECHS is the best kept secret in the county. But I am letting the secret out. Because the high school has proved itself to the community, now it is time that the community give its complete and unfettered support to the high school.
Being a Blue Devil means more than being an athlete or a fan. It means being part of an institution that is much bigger than any one person. It means participating in a rigorous academic program that challenges each and every student to do his or her best. It means being part of an athletic program, either by playing sports or cheering for your team, that has a better record today than it has had in years. It means going to a school where everyone – teachers, students and administrators – work together to ensure academic excellence.
That is the bottom line.
On a personal note, I would like to thank all of the teachers, administrators, and students who have been so helpful to me during the past three months. The faculty members listed above and those who teach me, assist me or just converse with me each and everyday have made an important contribution to my life. As well, I would like to thank all of the members of the student body who have been very welcoming to me as I began my school year at a new school.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS and former intern in the Riley administration. He can be reached for comment at

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox