Dothan City School Superintendent Phyllis Edwards urged unity in the community Tuesday with the restructured school system just a few weeks from opening.
“All of this you see happening is really driving towards our goal, which is to be the very best school system – not just in Alabama, but in the nation,” she said at a Dothan Tuesday Rotary Club meeting. "But, how will you know when you get there? Because, as we’re starting to do more and more, we’re going to be participating on a national level.”
In her speech, Edwards touted many of her administration’s “points of pride” she believes will help Dothan City Schools compete on a larger stage such as the physical consolidation of the schools, the addition of 15 Advanced Placement courses, enhanced career technical courses in mumber and quality, and many additional teaching and support positions, among others.
“We’re listening to people. We want to make life easier. We want to meet the needs of our parents and our teachers and, of course, meet the needs of our students,” Edwards said.
The school board has approved a number of changes on Edwards’ recommendations since the beginning of her tenure last year. They have passed a staggered bus schedule to make transportation more cost effective, allowing for the purchase of new buses while getting rid of outdated ones. They have also reinstated a stricter dress code for highschoolers, passed a Code of Conduct with more severe consequences for some Class III offenses, and made many other changes just this summer.
“We are executing what the board gave us in terms of direction,” Edwards said in her speech. “What I hope is, and what I know will happen is when students enter (the schools) on the 20th, it will be seamless and then we’ll get into the next layer because education is continual improvement.”
Teachers underwent many days of professional development over the summer, at a cost of $700,000.
New hires, new contracts, and shuffling of current personnel have enabled the school board to place more counselors, reading aides, assistant principals, foreign language teachers, exceptional teachers, and gifted teachers than ever before as well as two social workers – a position that has never been available to the schools before.
The social workers will be placed at Dothan Preparatory Academy and Dothan High School as part of a contractual agreement with SpectraCare.
Some Spanish teachers might have to rove between two elementary schools, but all schools in the system will have access to a foreign language class.
Dothan Prep and Dothan High will have five assistant principals each, as well as a counselor for each grade level. There will also be two reading aides for each elementary school to emphasize an early focus on reading.
The school lost foundation funding for seven teaching units this year based on the loss of student enrollment from the 2017 school year to the 2018 school year. They were allotted another .5 unit for an assistant principal and .5 unit for a counselor. So, several of these positions will be funded with local dollars.
The Dothan Technology Center, located at the new Dothan High campus, will welcome four new programs: logistics, computer science, and two dual enrollment classes in Aviation Maintenance Tech and Automotive Services. Southeast Health is partnering with DTC to provide an emphasized career focus for their Health Science program.
The new Dothan Early Education Center will provide classrooms for around 120 4-year-olds next year, but Edwards hopes to expand the program to include children ages 2 and 3 in the future.
Edwards said to do all this and more, the community has to be involved.
“What we’re trying to do is build a culture, build the understanding that we’re all in this together,” Edwards said. “And yes, I mean everybody to go out and do whatever it takes.”
She mentioned a “Mentor Me” Fair DCS will host on August 6 at the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. where members of the community are invited to choose a child to mentor during the school year.