The Talladega Board of Education cut the ribbon on their new transportation facility and the new WALI Sensory Bus Monday morning during a regular meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Lacey explained that the new facility, previously occupied by Bill Stanford Chevrolet and more recently by McSweeney Automotive, had been on the market for some time.
“We had been looking for something suitable, and we felt this would just be a great facility for us,” Lacey said. “So we called up the Realtor, Donna Haynes, and did an assessment of the building. We knew we would have to do some electrical work and address some other things, but we actually closed on the property in December. Right now, we’re still waiting on the final inspection from the state, but we are anticipating that in the next week or so.”
Lacey said, “this is the perfect location for us. It’s close to town, so we have easy access to parts, and of course, it is perfectly appropriate for our needs.”
The system's transportation and maintenance departments have been collaborating to get the property ready for use.
“And the showroom (where the board met Monday) is perfect for a meeting area," Lacey said. "We’ll have administrators meetings in here, and the transportation department can host area meetings here as well.”
During the same meeting, Lacey, special education coordinator Michelle Head and maintenance supervisor Jason Jacks unveiled WALI, the Whole child Approach to Learning with Innovation Sensory bus.
What was once a standard special needs bus got a new paint job with smiling children painted on the front and both sides and a wide array of equipment and learning tools for many different types of special needs students.
“We wanted it to look different, be a little more kid-friendly,” Head explained. “It will be shared among all the schools in the system. Right now, we’re working on a schedule where it (will) go to the different schools on a rotating basis.”
Jacks explained the original interior of the bus was gutted and reinstalled with many of the items that would be found in a sensory classroom. The schools in the system do not have these rooms, however, so the need for something like WALI is even more pressing.
“We have things for movement, touch, object manipulation, bright colors, everything,” Head said.
Jacks added, “All special needs kids are different.” WALI is soundproofed and contains things like peapod chairs and suspended seats. Jacks' own 4-year-old son has been diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, and that informed some of his decisions on the interior.
In addition to the peapod seats, he said the “crash pad” inside the bus consists of memory foam that has been cut “1,000 different ways. It gives a place to calm down, because unfortunately, their world doesn’t always fit around ours."
WALI is also fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and before too long, will also boast a bubble machine.
Also Monday, the board:
- Accepted the resignations of Tammy Bailey (teacher at Drew Middle School), Heather Bertram (Stemley Elementary School ARI reading specialist), Luciana Chandler (Drew Middle reading teacher), Normand Grondin (bus driver at Childersburg Middle), Misty Mitchell (science teacher at Childersburg High), Katherine Newton (third grade at Lincoln Elementary), Jessica Moses Sudsberry (first grade at Stemley Elementary) and Lennis Waites (special education at Watwood Elementary).
- Hired Megan Braxton (third grade at Munford Elementary), Cara Camp (second grade at Munford Elementary), Sherry Carpenter (fifth grade at Lincoln Elementary), Alexander Evans (physical education at Lincoln Elementary), Courtney Evans (math at Drew Middle), Rebecca Gaffin (special education at Munford Elementary), Stephanie Green (pre-K instructional assistant at Watwood), Amber Marche Harris (sixth grade at Stemley Road), Stephanie Hendrix (fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary), Rebekah Klinner (library media specialist at Lincoln High), Stephanie Lacy (special education teacher at Talladega County Central High School), Robert McGuyer (math at Winterboro), Daniela Payant (pre-K at Sycamore Elementary), Tucker Queen (social studies at Munford Middle), Kirbey Sherbet (physical education at Lincoln Elementary), Thomas Dosson Stubblefield (science at Childersburg High School) and Jaynus Wheeler (bus driver at Childersburg Middle).
- Approved a leave of absence for Margaret Lane Griffin, library media specialist at Drew.
- Transferred Samena Collins from third grade at Childersburg to ARI reading specialist at Stemley Road Elementary; Jamie Harbin from fifth grade at Comer Elementary to building based math coach at Watwood; Wendy Morrow from third grade at Munford to building based math coach; Brandy Nichols from counsellor at Childersburg Elementary and Fayetteville to Childersburg Elementary; Susan Ogle, from Watwood Elementary technology integration specialist to assistant principal at Lincoln Elementary; Crystal Powell, from fifth grade at Childersburg Middle to technology integration specialist at Munford Middle; Nicole Stewart, first grade at Watwood to technology integration specialist; and Dr. Scarlet Thomas, principal at Watwood to principal at Munford Elementary.
- Approved the bids for supplementary grocery products and milk products.
- Extended the contract for floor covering services.
- Heard Lacey congratulated Childersburg High School Principal Dr. Quninton Lee, who had just been hired as Talladega City Schools Superintendent. Lee’s replacement will be appointed at an upcoming meeting.