This school year comes to a close with a flurry of year-end activities in the Athens City Schools. State testing, spring music concerts, academic awards ceremonies, graduation practices, and many other special events add to the hustle and bustle of the normal school day and classroom instruction. It has been a great year with many student accomplishments, some which are noted in this newsletter. As we wrap up another school year and celebrate the many successes of our students, we are already busy preparing for 2017-2018 school year.
This month, U.S. News & World Report published their annual high school rankings, and I am pleased to report that Athens High School earned a silver medal, ranking both in the top 10% nationally and in the state of public high schools included in this study. Alabama schools earned two gold medals, 29 silver, and 96 bronze medals. U.S. News & World Report reviews data from more than 22,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. This year our ranking is 23 in the State of Alabama. We can be very proud of this designation, considering there are 499 public high schools in Alabama. It takes a community effort to create and sustain high performing schools, and this is what we have in Athens. Our dedicated teachers, staff and students receive tremendous support and encouragement from parents, town government officials and boards, and local foundations and councils. Working together, we are able to drive excellence throughout the district, making the recognition we have just received in the U.S. News & World Report rankings possible.
This year we set our sights on some challenging board goals in the areas of staff capacity building, student achievement and college and career readiness, resource management, and community engagement. In spite of challenges faced along the way, our teachers have focused on what matters most—ensuring our students are learning and they are cared for each day.
Our teachers have worked diligently to implement the Alabama College and Career Readiness Standards, enhancing performance on state assessments and increasing graduation rates. They have also completed significant work in enhancing our curriculum and instructional program to enrich student learning. Our schools have worked on college and career readiness, equity, and closing the achievement gap. They have expanded AVID to increase student achievement and college readiness and have implemented a number of other initiatives to better serve students needing additional support.
This year has been especially exciting as we have been watching our new high school take shape. Although construction is moving along very well, we are developing contingency plans for accommodating high school students at the beginning of the 2018 school year should the building not be ready to occupy when school begins. Whatever the outcome, our priority will remain focused on providing students with a safe secure learning environment so they can reach their full potential.
Fall of 2018 will also launch the beginning of our new academy model within our elementary schools. Plans are well underway for these transitions and will be a focus of our instructional planning during the summer and our next school year. Schools will soon begin forming school-wide committees that will involve teachers, parents, and community leaders. These teams will work to more clearly define the intricacies of each academy helping to more narrowly identify what that their theme will look like at an elementary school level.
This year we have adopted the theme of “One Athens” across our school system. Although in different buildings with different school leaders and staff, we recognize that we are one school system working together for the betterment of our students. We know that we are stronger together and that together we can provide every student the very best educational experience possible.
I wish the very best to those from among our staff that are retiring this year after serving with great distinction. Their contributions can be seen in the lives of the many students they have impacted throughout the years. Although our students are not with us this summer, rest assured that work is continuing to make Athens City Schools the excellent system that is expected and deserved by this community.
W. L. ‘Trey’ Holladay, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Athens City Schools