The New Albany School Board honored the administrator and teachers of the year with awards at the February meeting Monday.
The administrator of the year is New Albany Middle School Principal Paul Henry.
Teachers of the year include Shanna Daniel, for both New Albany Elementary School and entire New Albany Municipal Separate School District; Lyndsey Dunn, New Albany Middle School; Shellie Dodson, New Albany High School; Kimberly Langley, Career and Technical School; and Tammy Almand, NASTUC.
During the formal part of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Lance Evans gave trustees an update on achievements this past year.
“Every year I try to talk about where we began and where we are now,” he said.
Evans referred to the strategic plan the district developed in 2018 and designed to cover five years. He told trustees that the plan will need to be reworked at the end of this year, because of its success.
“We have already met all the original goals one and a half years early,” he said.
“A huge part of what we do is to make everyone successful,” he continued. “Not just students, everyone in the organization.”
Each year’s plan is based on the strategic goals, he continued, but this past year has presented unique challenges.
“It’s been a long time since last spring break,” he said. “There’s been a lot of water under the bridge.”
It was at spring break that the pandemic really took full effect here, especially concerning schools.
Evans said it was interesting to see how teachers, students and parents have evolved since then. “We have totally revolutionized the classroom experience,” he said. The idea of a student being sick and still getting a full day’s education day was a foreign idea a year ago, he said, but that is what is being done. “It’s the same for teachers,” he added.
The advantage New Albany had over most other schools in the pandemic was the focus on technology.
Although not every student had good internet accessibility, all students and teachers already had iPads and Macbooks set up for virtual classroom learning.
Evans listed some other specific achievements.
One was the skilled pathways lab at the high school, a $250,000 facility available at no cost to students.
That, the Imagine Lab at the Middle School valued at $150,000 and the STEM lab at the elementary school work together to see that students are technologically prepared and can earn national certification in skills.
“Every child has an iPad and every teacher has an iPad and a Macbook Pro,” he said.
In connection with a House bill related to internet connectivity, the district has provided wireless on some buses and attached some to buildings for accessibility by students. A recent agreement with MaxxSouth is making internet available to about 200 families in the so-called added territory. That’s the part of the city district that extends past the Keownville area.
“We are creating a virtual reality workforce development program using Oculus and Go Pros,” he said. The project will catalog real career practices that students can experience through virtual reality. “It’s going to be a great career exploration experience,” he said.
Evans noted that this past year 24 students have been added to the ACT 30+ club (for high test scores) and six athletes have signed college scholarships so far.
Plans include increased presence on social media, although presence is already good. “Parents will get insight to the inner workings of the school,” he said.
Evans said that nationwide it will cost an estimated $150 billion to catch students up from missed work and students are an average of 12 weeks behind. “But we have been experiencing proficiency increases,” he said. “It is highest since in 2018.”
Despite the district’s success in virtual learning, the goal continues to be to return and remain in a traditional classroom setting as much as possible.
“The bottom line is you cannot replace that educator in the classroom,” he said.
Director of Accounting Services Suzanne Coffey continues to report good news in terms of revenue and expenses. Expenses have been helped because substitute teachers are not coming in every day, travel costs are down, and gas and electricity use are down.
The only item that has seen a radical increase is the nursing budget. In the past only $5,000 has been budgeted but cost this past year has been $110,000 due to supplies necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. The extra cost is not coming out of district maintenance funds, however.
In personnel, the board approved hiring Kenneth Hickey as bus driver.
The board also approved accepting a monetary donation of $500 to the high school from the Exxon Mobil Corp.
Before adjourning the board went in to extensive executive session to discuss a personnel matter with no action reported.
The next scheduled board meeting will be at 5:30 Monday, March 1, in the high school media center.
New Albany, New Albany School District, Northeast Mississippi, strategic plan, Teachers of the Year, Union County