There was excitement on June 1 as Gulf Shores City Schools reconfigured traffic flows and made construction and cosmetic fixes to its newly acquired properties in a rush to try and have it all done by opening day in mid-August.
And the one thing Superintendent Matt Akin has found as the first half of the system’s first year has ended is that excitement remains.
“I was here a year before we started up and I knew the community was excited, but I guess it really feels nice knowing that excitement hasn’t died down,” Akin said. “The expectations are high and the level of community support [is too] whether it’s parents or city government or Dollar General giving $10,000 last week. That part has really been nice, that level of support and that level of excitement is still as high as it was in June.”
Part of that support has come from the Dolphin Foundation for Education and Arts, which provided nearly $100,000 for 34 teachers to achieve National Board Certification, a designation earned by only 4 percent of teachers nationwide.
“That’s a pretty big-ticket item to sponsor almost 40 teachers going through National Board Certification,” Akin said. “But they are also stepping up in smaller ways. For example, our band room needed a new A/V system with a projector and a screen. That’s not the same type you would see in a classroom because it’s such a big room. So, it’s a $5,000 or $6,000 purchase and Dolphin Foundation stepped up and paid for that. They’re not getting enough credit for what they are doing. They have really stepped up to support our teachers.”
There have been a few growing pains along the way, but Akin is pleased with the overall results of the first semester.
“We had some technology challenges more on the administrative end with our management system where grades and attendance are and all of our student demographics,” Akin said. “We had some unexpected challenges getting all that correct. There were so many things, for example, test scores from last year like ACT data the state had still stored under ‘Baldwin County.’ Some things like that we thought would be automatic but wasn’t.”
Breaking off has helped administratively, too, Akin said. If a teacher sees something that needs changing, his office is within walking distance.
“I think that’s one of the things that have opened people’s eyes, our teachers and our parents,” Akin said. “We can make changes pretty quickly if we see something that needs to be done.”
During the summer, while the sprucing up and traffic flows and parking were improved, Akin and staff were busy upgrading the academics for the new system.
“What we’re most excited about, we’ve made some curriculum changes and we’ve done some updates,” Akin said. “For example, we decided right after school started, we were looking at test scores, and we never have offered seventh grade algebra. We saw that we had about 25 kids that were ready. There have been several things like that where we’ve made some changes once the school year started.”
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