THE YEAR AHEAD: School board officials place students’ safety first

Published 7:50 pm Friday, January 11, 2013

Leaders of the Chilton County School System are placing students’ safety and academic achievement at the top of their list of priorities this year.

Superintendent Dave Hayden and Board of Education President Lori Patterson will join board members in seeing that both goals are accomplished.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012 prompted a reevaluation of the board’s safety plan for every school in the county.

“We are working diligently with city and county law enforcement officials to have police presence more prevalent on all of Chilton County’s school campuses,” Patterson said. “Our school board has a very detailed safety plan. The plan is being reevaluated to make sure that every detail is addressed.”

Patterson and Hayden said aspects of the plan have already been reinforced at schools, such as keeping all exterior and interior doors locked, requiring all visitors who enter the school to sign in at the office and requiring all visitors and teachers to wear an identification badge at all times.

Hayden said he has talked with state Sen. Cam Ward and state Rep. Kurt Wallace about the school system possibly receiving more funding to increase the number of school resource officers in the county.

“I want 100 percent safety 100 percent of the time for all of the students,” Hayden said, commending Chilton County’s police departments, sheriff’s department and Alabama State Troopers for their continuous efforts to keep the schools safe.

“We all have to work together to make progress,” he said. “We’ve got to have the public’s support and ask they continue to work with us and support us.”

The board will continue to discuss ways to increase student achievement, specifically which daily scheduling option is best for the students to succeed academically.

All schools in the county are currently on the block schedule consisting of five, 80-85 minute blocks, or class periods, every day.

The board will discuss staying on the block schedule or reverting back to the traditional schedule of seven periods a day for the 2013-2014 school year.

“I want to hear input on what (people) think about scheduling options,” Hayden said. “Neither system’s perfect. My question is what system is the best? That’s something I continue to explore.”

Hayden said graduation rates at local high schools have increased slightly, and he hopes they continue to rise.

“The numbers have eased up,” he said of the county’s graduating seniors. “Until it’s 100 percent, there’s always room for improvement.”