At the center of the city my family has called home for almost five years is a beautiful marble statue named “Sylacauga Emerging.” It is a descriptive symbol of a place on the precipice of an economic resurgence. One that is ready to reach greater heights than even the days when textiles were king.
In December, SmartAsset named the Talladega-Sylacauga metro area the best place in the nation to work in manufacturing. Over 39 percent of the workforce is employed by industries, including Blue Bell, Nemak, Southern Alloy and American Foam Cast. Coosa Valley Medical Center is consistently named one of the best hospitals in the state and is the largest employer in the city. The retail market includes many long-standing businesses along with newcomers like Ollies, TJ Maxx and Dirt Cheap.
Each one of these workplaces must have employees who possess the skills necessary to be successful. The residents of Sylacauga have long recognized that the cornerstone of a thriving community is the quality of education provided to its children. Its residents pay 28.5 mils of property tax that support our schools. This commitment has afforded the school system the opportunity to invest over $32 million in capital improvements to academic, arts, athletic and support facilities since 2010. In addition, the City Council annually provides funding that enhances the learning experiences afforded to our students.
The mission of Sylacauga City Schools is to prepare students for college and career choices and to become contributing citizens in their community. Many of our students will live and work in Sylacauga after they graduate high school or college. Therefore, our school system must continue to provide pathways that prepare them to be employable in this emerging economy.
Our award-winning career and technical programs are the pathways that connect our schools to the workforce needs in our community and state. SHS students can earn college credit and credentials in manufacturing and health science that make them employable out of high school and ahead in college. Students can take part in an early childhood development program that, upon completion of the credential, will qualify them to work in any Pre-K program in Alabama.
SHS students can also earn a wide range of certifications in Alabama’s top performing business information and management program. They learn a multitude of skills such as public speaking, coding, financial literacy, multi-media and writing that set them apart from others in a competitive job market. They leave high school ready to add value to a thriving retail and business environment.
Sylacauga will continue to emerge as a place where people want to invest as long as the commitment to excellence in education is a shared goal. It seems fitting to borrow a phrase used by Benjamin Franklin when he spoke of the birth of the United States. His words are an appropriate description of the special place called The Marble City: “But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Dr. Todd Freeman is superintendent of Sylacauga City Schools. He recently accepted the position of superintendent at the Vestavia Hills school system.