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October 24, 2014

It was great year for Jacksonville schools

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Posted: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 12:24 am

This was a historic year in the Jacksonville City School System. Our vision statement emphasizes striving for high standards, high expectations, in order to have high achievers. 

In order to raise the bar even higher for our students, we embarked on the journey of the One to World Initiative in the Fall of 2013.  This is a program where every child in grades four through twelve was provided an Apple iPad for the year. Grades Pre-K through three were given classroom sets of iPads.  Multiple classroom carts of MacBooks were also purchased so entire classes would have access to MacBook laptop computers when needed. This was a process that was planned for over two years. 

Two of the primary reasons we chose to issue an iPad to every child was so that all students had a device and all students had the same device.  This simplifies planning for lessons as well as makes technical support for these devices more manageable. Many hours of research and discussion went into this program that levels the playing field of learning for our students. Many people were involved in the process of research and planning for this initiative.  

Teachers, parents, students, administrators, and JSU staff members assisted us in the preparation for this multi-year program that we believe will ultimately transform teaching and learning for our students. We visited many school systems in Alabama and beyond in order to learn from them and find the best solutions for our school system. Our Technology Department has been incredible in the amount of preparation and planning for this initiative.  

Anthony Kingston and his staff have worked tirelessly to prepare and then to support the changes in the network infrastructure necessary to go from 400 devices on the network to over 1,500 devices in one year. There have been bumps in the road, but due to thorough planning, the problems were minimized and we were able to move forward.  

Much of the success of the wireless network was due to a one time allocation in the Spring of 2013 from the City of Jacksonville for $228,000. Our teachers were issued an iPad and a MacBook computer in the Fall of 2012 and were offered over 67 hours of professional development in the 2012-2013 school year. During the Summer of 2013, 67 of our teachers attended the first annual CORE Academy at JSU. This cutting edge professional learning opportunity was timely and invaluable for this initiative. We have worked closely with our colleagues at JSU through this process as they prepare to enter into a similar one to one initiative with incoming Freshmen students in 2015.  Our goal is to prepare our students and teachers to have a seamless transition for students going from Pre-K through their undergraduate preparation in college.

Another major decision that was made this past school year was to construct a new campus for Kitty Stone Elementary School. The Board of Education working with the Mayor and Jacksonville City Council came together to fund $12.6 million dollars toward the new construction.  There were many difficult decisions to make about the configuration and location of the school. 

Based on my recommendation, the Board of Education decided to locate the new school on land across from Jacksonville High School. The Board of Education Central Office will remain on the old Kitty Stone Campus. A committee will begin meeting soon to determine how the old campus will be repurposed. The design phase of the new school will begin the first week of June and is scheduled to last several months. We hope to be in the new school by August of 2016.

We enjoyed many successes this year in addition to the One to World Initiative and the plans for a new school.  The Kitty Stone Elementary School regained the Championship Trophy of the Elementary Science Olympiad. The Science Olympiad competition included schools from Alabama, particularly in counties north of Montgomery. There were hundreds of participants in this competition, but Kitty Stone Elementary was the Champion in 2014.

The Kitty Stone Elementary Child Nutrition Program was named a Gold Level Healthier U.S. School by the United States Department of Agriculture. 

This award is earned by schools that have created healthier school environments through the promotion of nutrition and physical activity. Of the 6,730 schools certified with this award, only 591 of them achieved the Gold Award. We are very proud of the Child Nutrition Department and the staff of Kitty Stone Elementary School for receiving this award.

Kitty Stone Elementary School received a $120,000 grant from the Office of School Readiness to expand our Voluntary Pre-K program.  This research based program that has been implemented in other parts of Alabama is considered one of the best Pre-K programs in the United States. It has been very successful and we were recently notified that Kitty Stone Elementary received an additional $82,800 in grant funding to continue the program next year.

Kitty Stone Elementary held its first Technology Fair that served as a qualifying event to attend the JSU Regional Technology Fair. This event was open to all students in the upper grades.  It was a very successful event. Our winning teams went on to win at the JSU Regional Technology Fair.  The winners from the JSU Regional Fair advanced to the State Technology Competition held at Auburn University, Montgomery.  We had six teams enter the competition. All six teams consisting of seventeen students won either first or second place in their respective categories. We are expanding this program even more next year due to grants from the Alabama Power Foundation and individual donations.

The beginning band program at Kitty Stone Elementary School had over 60 students this year. The band and Kitty Stone Singers both presented numerous public performances throughout the year. Forty three band students received superior ratings and medals at District Solo & Ensemble Competition this year.  Three beginning band students were accepted to the JSU Honor Band where they competed for seating against students as old as ninth grade. These students achieved at a very high level and we are proud of them all.

Jacksonville High School had another great year. Rick Carter joined us as the new principal last summer. Our athletic programs made great gains this year with the Volleyball Team winning another State Championship in one of the greatest comeback bids I have ever witnessed.

The JHS Football Team had one of the best seasons in recent history. The team made it to the second round of the state playoffs where they lost to eventual state champion, Oneonta. There was a memorable overtime win over  Alexandria. This was the first year that a playoff game has been played at Golden Eagle Stadium.  All previous playoff games were played away or at JSU. The Junior High Football team completed an undefeated season. We are excited about the future of our football program. 

The Girls Basketball Team had another good season and advanced to the Regional Championship Game at JSU. Boys basketball was in a transition year with a new coach. Our girls’ softball team made great improvements this year. Baseball advanced to the third round of the state playoffs. They eliminated Guntersville and Alexandria on the road. Track and Cross-Country had impressive seasons with numerous players qualifying and participating in State Meets. Boys Soccer had a successful season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.  Girls Soccer made it to the third round of the playoffs and eventually lost to Guntersville. Boys and girls teams in tennis and golf also had very competitive seasons.  We are very proud of all the offerings available for students at Jacksonville High School.

Our band and choral program had another phenomenal year. All ensembles performed throughout the year for the school and the public in their concerts.  The JHS Marching Band won or placed in virtually every category of all marching band competitions entered this year. The salute to Mardi Gras show was one of the most entertaining in recent history. The award winning Jazz Band performed at many local and civic events.  The concert program had another great year as well as the indoor percussion ensemble. Many of our band students continue their musical career at the collegiate level.

The JHS Drama Program had several great productions during the 2013-14 school year. These productions allowed our students who had an interest in the dramatic arts the opportunity to perform.The productions this year included Secret Garden and Much Ado Out West.

The JHS FFA continued its long tradition of producing winning programs as we had students compete and win at the District and State levels, and competed at the National level in public speaking. We are also pleased to have a JHS FFA member elected to be District Officer. Our FFA program is one of the top in the State of Alabama.

This has been a brief snapshot of some of the events and accomplishments of our school system this past school year. We have an annual report that includes much more detailed information about our school system and our strategic plan that is available on our system website (jacksonville .k12.al.us) and at offices throughout Jacksonville including the Board of Education and City Hall,

It’s an exciting time to be in Jacksonville. We are very proud of our school system. The Board of Education, JSU, and the City Leaders have a great relationship and are working together to provide for our students. I want to thank our teachers, administrators, and staff for their hard work and tireless dedication in helping our students be well prepared for college or the work place when they become graduates of the Jacksonville City Schools.

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