Dothan City Schools is entering its third week of school and embracing the change required to create a world-class education system in the heart of Southeast Alabama. Of all the changes that have taken place in our district, Dothan Preparatory Academy took on the most. During the planning process, the administrative staff at the school and I, along with Central Office staff, worked throughout the summer to make sure all plans aligned perfectly. A great deal of planning was put into the organization and the movement of students as well as the planning of crucial instructional time. Dothan Prep offers standard core classes and career technology, as well as many exploratory courses, which are excellent for students this age.

With this crucial planning, we took into account that Dothan Prep would be housing students who are maturing physically, mentally, and emotionally. While we wish to get them prepared for high school, we also know supervision is necessary. The classes have been laid out in the building so that each grade level is kept together, and the students do not need to travel far to get to their next class. On staff, we have five assistant principals and guidance counselors so that every hall has its own administrator and counselor. Teachers have been out in the halls before school and during any changing of the classes. We worked hard to create a school-within-a-school concept, keeping smaller units or houses inside of the larger school.

In previous meetings, parents voiced their concern with discipline and DCS strengthened the Code of Conduct in response. It was important for Dothan Prep to offer lots of options in academics and extracurricular offers. Very soon, the student clubs will begin, and our students will have the choice of going to a club that piques their interest. This avenue will provide another socialization opportunity for the students to network, meet, and collaborate with new people.

Dothan Prep’s cafeteria serves a much larger change for our students as they are offered a variety of food choices. Since we are just now entering the third week of school, students are still learning the format and lunch is getting smoother each day. Within this new format, we are offering two hot meals and one cold meal in six serving lines. This is much different than at the elementary level, where only one meal is served, and everyone eats the same thing. It is different than high school, where students have six choices of meals.

Throughout a seven-hour day, we have to meet mandated guidelines. There is much to do within the course of one school day. Many students will take physical education, drama, organized sport, or career technology classes, as well as JROTC. There is movement throughout the day.

At Dothan Prep, students are expected to learn from a variety of avenues as well as learn to interact appropriately with each other.

This year, our school is also planning to start a School Leadership Team or Council. This team will be made up of teachers and parents and, perhaps, students. If there are those who think that some form of recess must be given to this age group, this would be the perfect place to bring up these types of issues. Research can be conducted and changes made if the School Leadership Team thinks it is appropriate. This would be a better way to address school-based issue and solves problems with a consensus.

Dothan Prep has faced the largest change of the system. As we enter into a new school year, we ask for patience as we continue to provide an educational environment that creates successful leaders as well as provide the proper adjustment protocols that will enhance a student’s academic and social achievement.

Mr. Darius McKay is principal of Dothan Preparatory Academy.

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