Recently, I met with our school board. The intent of the meeting was to, along with educators responsible for all aspects of our school district’s operations, inform the board of the great things our staff members are accomplishing in our schools, and to share with them my vision of the future and what we should focus upon. I write today to share with you the message that I gave the board so that you, too, can know.
I affirmed to the board that it is my commitment to see Baldwin County provide the world’s best education, to let them know that that is, in fact, doable. Our classroom teachers are as good, or can be as good, as any in the world, and we are working to give them the tools they need. I told them that the world’s best school system would have indicators of that designation. The first is that we will achieve a 100% graduation rate. Unlike the National Governor’s Association, I do not believe that that has to occur in four years, as I consider any young person who graduates whether it is in five years or 3 years to be a success for them and for us.
Second, every graduate should leave us with a firm plan to immediately go into a career-technology work field where they will continue to learn, into the military for further growth and education, or to a post-secondary school to work toward a degree, two-year, four-year, graduate, and/or professional.
Third, every graduate should have a national certification or license, or multiple course sequence, in some career-technology field upon graduation. That will assure that even if college does not work out, they will be well prepared for a job.
Fourth, all students need to graduate as bi-lingual students. This is not so that they can leave Baldwin County, Alabama or the United States, but so that our county and state become a Mecca for foreign companies, a place where they can find employees who can speak their language. Imagine the opportunities a graduate would have if they were fluent in German (ThyssenKrupp & Mercedes), Korean (Hyundai), or Japanese (Toyota).
Finally, every student K-12 needs to be using technology every day in their pursuit of knowledge, the Digital Renaissance. I was in an elementary school today and watched children working on computers and iPads learning math and reading. Studies, and our own experience, indicate that there is a higher probability of student engagement and learning success when we give children the modern tools they will work with after graduation.
I told the board that we are able to do several things next year financially that we are not doing now. Those are: implementing the Digital Renaissance in all 7th and 8th grade classes, refreshing Baldwin County High student and staff computers, providing approximately 1,300 MacBooks to elementary teachers, increasing custodian staff by 52 so that all of our schools can become truly clean for our children and staff, and hiring 20 more teachers to lower class sizes and enhance electives at the high schools.
My recommendations did not include a raise for staff or for me, as I anticipate that the Alabama Legislature is like to provide that to all Alabama school employees.
And, I did not include a recommendation to build any new schools for we do not have the funds to do that, though the need is clearly apparent. The renewal of the one-cent tax was for “survival,” and does not provide surety to lending institutions that funding will be available after the five year extension expires and the tax comes up for review by the legislature.
I have been in three schools today, and I am consistently amazed by the quality of instruction I see in our schools. Though they are not perfect, we are working to see that become a reality.
Alan T. Lee, Ph.D. Superintendent Baldwin County Schools