Dothan City School Board Chairman Mike Schmitz

Dothan City School Board Chairman Mike Schmitz listens during a recent press conference at Girard Middle School.

Between the increase in school security and changes in administration, the Dothan City School system has seen many adjustments leading into the first month of school; however, perhaps the biggest change of all is yet to come.

DCS Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards is gearing up to propose three scenarios to the board of education at what is expected to be a two hour long school work session on Aug. 16. The scenarios will be in reference to how Dothan’s students, teachers, and staff may be affected after consolidating the number of educational facilities currently in operation, in order to help the student population grow.

Edwards was hired on by the city’s school system after effectively reconfiguring a series of schools in Decatur, Ga., that previously faced issues similar to what DCS is now struggling with including retention rates, test scores, and funding.

Although Edwards has not yet released any information about the scenarios she will propose to the board at the work session, the overall goal of changing the current system is to cut unnecessary expenditures in order to provide more diverse classes and additional staff such as a nurse at every school.

School board chairman Mike Schmitz said not only is Edwards the right person for the job because her heart is invested in the students of DCS, but he is confident in her abilities because her mindset is that of a CEO who “really gets it done”.

Schmitz is now asking the people of Dothan to have the same faith in Edwards that he does, to confront change as an opportunity for growth and improvement with an open-mind, and voice their opinions on the scenarios in the most productive way possible. He hopes the presented scenarios will present a holistic solution to fix the weaknesses within the current school system, and add to its strengths, he said.

Schmitz was the previous Mayor of Dothan, and said that during his eight years in the position he gained a new perspective on some of the key issues withholding the Dothan community from prospering – and they were all rooted in education.

His observations as Mayor about the ways in which education played a hand in almost every obstacle facing the city inspired him to work towards a solution for the problem from one of education’s most powerful positions.

Schmitz ran for Dothan City Schools Board of Education Chairman, and won with 95.78 percent of the 9,140 total votes.

In order to create a foundation for young individuals to be well-equipped to enter the workforce, go to a trade school, or enroll in a community college or university straight out of high school, Schmitz recognized the need for a change in Dothan City School’s approach to education.

“As Mayor I was able to see that we have all of these companies that need to hire folks and we’re not creating high school graduates with the skills to go to work,” Schmitz said. “What I hope to get is our business community, our medical community, our agricultural community and get everyone involved to see how we can be the best system to help kids get good jobs.”

The chairman mentioned that the Dothan education system has been losing students to private schools or other districts for about 10 years, and now educates roughly 9,000 children in city schools annually.

Yet, however rough the numbers may seem, Schmitz has hope for the community to come together to achieve a common goal, something he said the city has always shined at doing.

“What I learned as Mayor is that we can do anything, we can fix anything, we can make anything the best it can be if we all work together,” said Schmitz. “God’s greatest gift to us is our children. Of course families are concerned about what’s going to happen, but I have faith in Dr. Edwards and our board and I think that they’re doing their best to create an environment where all of our kids can succeed. Not just a few, but every single one.”

Schmitz encourages Dothan locals to attend the community presentation of the school restructuring plan Aug. 20 at 10 a.m. at the Wiregrass Museum of Art and at 5 p.m. at the Honeysuckle Middle School Auditorium, and the Aug. 21 session at 6 p.m. at the WMA. Additionally, the board is welcoming community input at the Dothan City School Board listening session on Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. and Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. at the Honeysuckle Middle School Auditorium.

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