Atmore-area school principals set goals, look forward to the spring semester

Published 9:44 am Tuesday, January 2, 2024

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Editor’s note: This story includes four Atmore-area school principals’ comments. We will update this story with additional comments from other principals.

As school starts back this week after the holiday break, Atmore-area school principals are looking forward to the spring 2024 semester.

Atmore Christian School Headmaster Justin Halteman said his school will have its annual achievement testing in April.

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“We also have our annual spiritual emphasis week coming up in February or March,” Halteman said. “Our basketball team is looking to have a fantastic season. And our softball and baseball players are also getting excited to compete.”

Halteman added that ACS will have its fish fry fundraiser on April 19, and the community is welcome to attend.

For Rachel Patterson Elementary School Principal Toya McMillian, it’s all about the team and the students.

“I can’t do anything alone,” McMillian said. “It is always a team effort for us. We are planning to focus on everything during the second semester because everything matters. However, to narrow it down, we will focus on student and staff attendance and small group instruction. What we do this school year will determine our school’s report card grade next year.”

McMillian added that schools with higher student attendance perform better on the state report card than schools with poor student attendance.

“Therefore, we want to focus on encouraging our students’ parents to send our students to school each day,” she added. “Once the students are at school, we will focus on providing them the best educational experience possible.”

She added that teacher/staff attendance will also be a focus for them in 2024.

McMillian said the last couple of years, RPES has been close to achieving a B on the state report card, but attendance has prevented the school from achieving said goal.

“January through May has always been my most favorite time of the year, even when I was a classroom teacher,” she said. “This time also passes by very quickly, so we do not have time to waste. We will be doing big things this season. Our work family will always focus on mental health and basic needs of our students first. Then, we will focus on our students’ academic needs.”

School improvement and focusing on gains are other facets principals are taking into the new semester.

Escambia County Middle School Principal Forrest Jones said they’re constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of educational services for the students and to move the school forward.

“While there are too many goals to share them all, the few listed we believe are central to continuing to move Escambia middle forward, and will be a focus between now and the end of the year,” Jones said.

Jones said the first goal is to add three new members to the current staff.

“It is also our goal to keep supporting this amazing group of educators and providing them the materials, supplies and training they need to move our students forward,” he said. “We believe that investing in our teachers is an absolute necessity for improving student performance. We also believe that positive student-teacher relationships and improving these relationships is very important to generating positive academic outcomes.”

Jones added that the staff participated in the Capturing Kids Hearts training on Jan. 2.

“This is excellent training and we are happy that Interim Superintendent Dr. Michele Collier has decided to continue with this program,” he said. “We believe that it has definitely made a difference at ECMS and intend to continue to grow in this area.”

Jones said other goals this semester include improving reading and math instruction and instructional technology usage in classrooms.

“Finally, our students have come to school and worked so hard over the past two years that we have set a goal to provide some rewards for their efforts and attendance,” he said. “Judge and County Commissioner Karean Reynolds recently provided some funding for academic and attendance incentives for our students. We also secured an RC&D Grant from the (Gulf Coast) RC&D Program, which can also be used to provide academic and attendance based incentive trips for deserving students. We can’t say enough how appreciative we are for what these individuals and organizations have stepped up and done for our school.”

Huxford Elementary School Principal Leah Fuqua said the school will be taking the ACAP Practice Test in the coming weeks.

“We will receive immediate feedback on this assessment and we will use those results to pinpoint deficits in student learning to address individual student needs,” Fuqua said. “A continued focus will be placed on student attendance also. Students cannot learn if they are missing school.”