District Blog

  • America's Best High Schools Report ranks Bob Jones, James Clemens, Near Best in Alabama & Nation

    Posted by John Peck on 5/13/2019

    Madison City Schools once again placed both high schools on the U.S. News & World Reports list of America's Best High Schools.
    Bob Jones and James Clemens were among 17,245 of 23,000 high schools nationwide in the 2019 rankings.
    Bob Jones placed 555 nationally and 5th in Alabama.
    James Clemens placed a close 7th in Alabama and 674th nationally out of the 23,000 high schools.

    The study gave BJHS a composite score of 96.78 out of 100 and JCHS a razor close 96.09 out of 100. Their performance puts BJHS in the top 2.4 percent and JCHS in the top 2.9 percent of all of America's High Schools.
    The rankings are a measure of college readiness, math & reading efficiency and performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth and graduation rate, and more. You can read the overall report here: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/national-rankings

    Access the school reports in the following links.

    Bob Jones
    https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/alabama/districts/madison-city/bob-jones-high-school-11
    Outside view of Bob Jones High School

    James Clemens
    https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/alabama/districts/madison-city/james-clemens-high-school-139188

    Outside view of James Clemens High School

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  • School Board Members Key to Success of Madison City Schools

    Posted by John Peck on 5/10/2019

     Madison City Schools Board members are front and center of all things Madison City Schools.
    You see them at board meetings, school plays and band performances. They are at the football stadium and in bleachers at swim and dive competitions.
    You might catch one reading to a class, speaking to a PTA meeting or advocating for schools at a City Council meeting.

    Group Photo of the 5 Board of Education Members and Superintendent Robby Parker

    They attend graduations, school carnivals, EL summer classes and greenpower events. They meet with legislators and city leaders to discuss school issues, undergo board training and attend conferences away from their family.
    They are our Board of Education members.
    We are most grateful for their leadership and selfless service - all without receiving even a dime of compensation.
    See this brief board appreciation video from all of our schools: https://youtu.be/VTFZt4if1ng.
    Board President Ranae Bartlett shared the following on how the Madison City BOE does its job:

    Madison City’s Board is unique in that its members are appointed by its City Council to represent the residents of Madison at-large.
    That means each individual school board member is charged to make decisions in the best interests of all Madison City students, not just those of a particularly geographic zone.
    Each board member is appointed to staggered five-year terms. One of five board members is up for appointment or reappointment each year, and the term of office begins on June 1.
    Each member of the Board of Education in Madison serves without compensation.[1] Since the formation of the school system in 1998, the Board of Education has elected not to receive compensation so that its work is done in the true nature of public service.
    The Board of Education appoints the Superintendent and Chief School Financial Officer and selects Board counsel. The Board also works with the superintendent in setting the strategic plan and vision for the school system, and establishes policies as part of its governance role.
    Our Board of Education is highly engaged in our school system, each member having had or currently has children attending school in Madison. Board members actively participate on numerous committees and are present at numerous school and district activities throughout the school year.

    Meet our Board:

     

    Photo of Ranae Bartlett, Board President Ranae Bartlett – President
    Ms. Bartlett is in her second five-year term and third as President of the Board. She has one son who attended Rainbow Elementary, Discovery Middle, and entering his senior year at Bob Jones High School. Upon graduating from law school, she clerked for Chief Judge Politz on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Prior to moving to Madison, she was employed as Assistant General Counsel of Wal-Mart Stores, and then became the career law clerk to U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith, Jr. in Huntsville. She retired from that position and began service on the School Board in 2011. When she is not at a school-related event, she is usually coaching chess and running chess tournaments in Madison and Huntsville.
    Board Vice President Tim Holtcamp
    Tim Holtcamp, Vice President
    Mr. Holtcamp is the Vice-President of the Board, Chair of the Policy Committee, Safety & Security Committee, and member of the Finance Committee. He is in his first term on the Board. Mr. Holtcamp has an engineering degree from Auburn University. He is employed as a Senior Engineer and Intelligence Analyst at Parsons Government Services. His daughter graduated in 2019 from James Clemens and his son is entering his sophomore year. His other son attends Columbia Elementary. When Mr. Holtcamp is not at a school function, you probably will see him running a swim meet in our community.

    Mr. Greg Hulsey being Sworn In By Judge
    Greg Hulsey
    Mr. Greg Hulsey was appointed to the BOE in 2019 and sworn in June 6. He previously served on the Madison City Schools Capital Planning Committee. He is a graduate of the Leadership Greater Huntsville Focus Program. Mr. Hulsey is Chief Executive Officer of Maynor & Mitchell Eye Center and the Eye Surgery Center of North Alabama in Huntsville. He earned his Bachelors in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama; and both a Master of Science in Health Administration and Master of Business Administration degree from UAB. He is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and recognized as a Certified Medical Practice Executive by the Medical Group Management Association.
    Mr. Hulsey and his wife, Tara, moved to Madison in 2016 along with their daughters Ainsley (James Clemens High School), and Haley (Liberty Middle). They attend Asbury Methodist Church in Madison.

    Luis Ferrer, board member, at desk
    Luis Ferrer
    Mr. Ferrer is serving in his third year on the Board. His son attended Pre-K at Rainbow, attended Columbia Elementary in grades K-2, and is now a 5th grader at Heritage Elementary. His daughter has attended Madison and Columbia Elementary, Discovery and Liberty Middle, and now is a junior at James Clemens High School. Mr. Ferrer is a former Triana Town Council member. He earned a Master’s in Business Administration, with a concentration in accounting, and graduated with honors from the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico and also earned a Bachelor’s in Science, with a concentration in Electronic Engineering. He is currently employed at the Missile Defense Agency on Redstone Arsenal. Mr. Ferrer serves on the Board’s Capital Planning, Finance, and Special Education Committees.

    Travis Cummings at desk
    Travis Cummings
    Mr. Cummings is in the second year of his term. He has one son who attended Horizon Elementary, Discovery Middle and now is a sophomore at Bob Jones High School. Mr. Cummings serves on the Capital Planning, Policy, and Special Education Committees. He has a Master's Degree in Community and Regional Planning from Alabama A&M University. He is employed as the Zoning Enforcement Coordinator for the City of Huntsville's Planning Department.

    Tim Holtcamp visiting a middle school with Ranae Bartlett  Board members and Superintendent Parker at a conference
    Connie Spears and Tim Holtcamp with student at an outdoor classroom at Liberty Middle

    Ranae Bartlett with chess students in a classroom
    Board members lined up on table in public hearing at Columbia Elementary

    Board member Luis Ferrer with principal visiting Discovery Middle classroom

    Board members and Superintendent Parker meeting with legislators in Montgomery

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  • Registration/Zoning/ Attendance The Front Lines of Any School System

    Posted by John Peck on 5/9/2019

    Long before students enter the door of a Madison City school, chances are, Dorinda White has had dealings with them.
     Probably not directly, but in ensuring that each is a resident of Madison or Triana and assigned to the correct school zone. 
    Mrs. White oversees Student Services. Her official position is Coordinator of Strategic Initiatives, Attendance and Community Relations.
    That catch-all title includes registration/re-enrollment, student attendance, school calendar development, and rallying the district-wide fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She also helps create school rezoning models when zone lines are proposed for realignment.
    Dorinda White reporting enrollment numbers at podium before Board of Education meeting
    Dorinda White  deals with registration & enrollment, calendar,
    school zone lines, St. Jude campaign, attendance.and discipline.


    Managing registration and re-enrollment is a huge task. It’s increasingly getting tougher with 11,000-plus students and more people attempting to falsify addresses to get in Madison schools. It’s the part of her job that parents expect the most accountability. As each school year comes to a close, she works with school registrars and the technology department on protocols to make the online process as easy as possible.
    Day in and day out mostly in the spring-summer months, Mrs. White and her staff work with registrars at the schools processing and verifying registrations and re-enrollments. Part-time help is enlisted to assist those having trouble and to also help verify proof-of-residency documents.
    Required lease, utility and property tax receipts are all verified for authenticity. Follow-ups are needed in many cases to prove residency. That would include instances like a house under construction or a temporary living arrangement with a legal resident.
    Accurate student rolls are important in determining how many teachers and other resources are needed at each school.  

    Dorinda White going through address records with school 2 employees
    Dorinda White reviewing school registrations with Horizon Elementary

    Principal Rodney Richardson & clerical aid Betty Anderson.

    Mrs. White’s job also oversees attendance with help from LaTwan Lynch, the school system's attendance officer. Alabama law is very specific for student attendance. They work with schools and parents to limit chronic absenteeism (missing about 2 days a month for any reason) and truancy (absent without an excused reason).
    Research shows:

    * Children chronically absent in kindergarten and 1st grade are much less likely to read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade.

    * By 6th grade, chronic absence is a proven early warning sign for students at risk for dropping out of school.

    * By 9th grade good attendance can predict graduation rates even better than 8thgrade test scores.

    Another responsibility is the drafting of a school calendar each year that sets school start and end dates, holidays, weather days and half-days.
    Utilizing the criteria set by the Alabama Department of Education and working with a local committee, a calendar draft is presented to the board and then the public for review.  

    New family welcomed at front door to Central office
    Receptionist aid Nancy Jackson greeting a new family from
    Birmingham starting the  enrollment process

    Family submitting address records
    Marcia Layne accepting residency verification papers

    Registration official verifying address on computer with family standing by
    LaTwan Lynch, Registrar/Attendance Manager, assisting new 

    family with enrollment.

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  • Feeding Bodies & Minds; CNP Food Services Serves Up A Big Responsibility to Learning

    Posted by John Peck on 5/8/2019

    Each day even before many students awake, school cafeteria employees are at work preparing meals for them.
    Madison City Schools is the largest food service in town. MCS Cafeteria workers serve approximately 6,000 lunches and 1,000 breakfasts daily. That’s over 1
    million meals annually across 11 schools and the Pre-K Center.
    That’s a lot of bellies getting filled and minds being nourished.
    As Coordinator of the Child Nutrition Program, Marty Tatara has a plateful of responsibilities.
    Marty Tatara overlooking inventory sheet in PreK Kitchen
    CNP Coordinator Marty Tatara with PreK kitchen manager Shirl Hopgood

    She works with food distributors and a staff of nearly 70 school lunchroom
    workers to keep kitchens equipped, freezers running and pantries stocked - often
    with just-in-time deliveries.
    Kitchens must be staffed and trained not only in food preparation but handling,
    storage and cleaning as well. Menus have to be well planned for public posting
    and to meet nutritional and pricing guidelines.

    Kids around lunch table at the PreK Cener
    Students enjoying lunch at the Madison City 1st Class PreK Center

    Mrs. Tatara and her bookkeeper, Danielle Orlando, maintain thousands of student accounts from both pre-pay and pay-as-you-go transactions. Food must be bid and fit within budget.
    CNP workers are aware of the stereotype that school meals are bland. 
    But spend a day in these kitchens and you’ll find workers aren’t just throwing together pizza or chicken nuggets. Many attend workshops led by culinary chefs to learn seasoning and cooking techniques. They take pride in their work and learn students by name. Staffers often post fun food facts near serving lines and display holiday-themed decorations.

    Madison City Schools began an initiative in 2014 to acquire more locally grown
    produce. The district was already getting periodic shipments. A farm-to-schools
    collaborative expanded deliveries of sweet potatoes, melons, oranges, tomatoes, peaches and apples from local growers.
    The initiative improves freshness and nutrition while boosting the local economy. Community feedback on the farm-to-schools program has been overwhelmingly positive. Scott's Apple Orchard has visited school lunchrooms to show a fun video and answer questions about apple production.


    Cafeteri workers preparing food
    Madison City Schools CNP worker preparing food in culinary training

    The Madison City CNP is self-supporting, generating its own money and
    paying essentially the full cost of operating this massive program. Parents are
    welcomed anytime to join their kids for lunch and try one.
    Meals remain a bargain. Breakfasts are $1.75 for K-12 students.
    Lunches are $2.65 for PreK-5 students; $2.90 for grades 6-12; $3.60 for faculty, staff and volunteers; and $4.60 for visitors.
    Parents can set up an account through www.paypams.com and make deposits for
    their child to make purchases from. There is also free and reduced-price
    availability for students at or below the poverty line. Weekly menus and other CNP information can be accessed here: http://www.madisoncity.k12.al.us/?DivisionID=7840

    Kids in lunch line at cafeteria
    The lunch serving line at Heritage Elementary

    Students at cafeteria table at Liberty Middle
    The recently renovated and expanded cafeteria at Liberty Middle

    Food preparation work in cafeteria
    CNP workers prep ccookies, always a hit with students

    Food delivery from truck at loading dock
    Food delivery to Bob Jones High School.

    Stacks of food items in pantry
    Keeping food pantries stocked for menu demands is a big task

    Melons sliced for servig
    Horizon Elementary CNP worker preparing locally grown watermelon 

    tray of fresh oranges carried by lunchroom worker
    Samantha Ledington, Discovery Middle, with fresh oranges from Satsuma, Ala.

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  • School Resource Officers Vital to MCS Success

    Posted by John Peck on 5/6/2019

    A School Resource Officer holds a job with many roles but with the ultimate responsibility of protecting students.
    The various roles may encompass teaching a class about drugs, directing hall or parking lot traffic, helping quarreling students work through their dispute, building a rapport with students, and always keeping an eye out for threats.
    For thousands of students across Madison City Schools, the first adult they may see each day at school is not a principal or a teacher.
    It is an SRO.

    Officer signs the arm cast of student in school library SRO Supervisor Sgt. Clayton Jordan signing an arm cast of a young student, who excitedly ran up to him with a marker

    School Resource Officers are as much a part of the school fabric as the teachers, principal, librarians, cafeteria servers and any other employee that students come in daily contact with.
    One of the main benefits of having a regular presence in an assigned school is relationship-building with students. The idea is to build a trust so that students/parents feel comfortable to share a personal or external concern.
    An SRO is a career law enforcement officer who is deployed in the community-oriented policing. They are assigned by the police department or agency to work in collaboration with the schools.
    SROs are sworn law enforcement officers who are selected and properly trained to the school environment.
    The SRO program utilizes the “Triad” approach to school–based policing.
    What is meant by Triad?
    If you could see an image of the SRO, Triad would look like a Triangle. One side would be that of counselor/mentor, another side would be a teacher and the final side would depict a law enforcement officer.

    SRO officer talking with students in school hallway SRO at Liberty Middle walking with students asking about their day and how classes are going. Relationship building is a key to SRO effectiveness in schools.

    The SRO program is much more multi-faceted than simply placing a law enforcement officer in school hoping that all programs related to school safety will be solved.
    An effective SRO program has officers who become a regular part of the school community and are viewed and treated like another faculty member. The SRO is involved in the school community in a variety of functions:
    * A visible active law enforcement figure on campus dealing with any law related issues.
    * A classroom resource for instruction in law enforcement and other areas of their expertise.
    * A member of the faculty and administrative team working hand-in-hand to solve problems in the school community.
    * Someone who builds relationships with students.
    * A resource to teachers, parents and students for law related concerns and questions.

    SRO Officer with kids in hallway
    SRO greeting kids arriving at Madison Elementary

    An SRO is not a disciplinarian of school sanctions. That is the responsibility of administration and should remain as such.
    Currently the Madison Police Department has full time SROs in the high schools and middle schools, as well as SRO coverage for all the elementary schools. Sgt. Clayton Jordan is supervisor over the unit.
    During the month of June, the unit sponsors a “Kids Camp” for 5th graders who have completed the “Too Good for Drugs” program. The camp give kids the opportunities to mingle with officers of the unit and meet other officers from the department.

    SRO officer leading a Too Good For Drugs Class
    Above and Below: Officers at a Too Good For Drugs graduation at Madison Elementary
    Group of officers with chief at a Too Good For Drugs graduation in an elementary school
    Police Chief David Jernigan, 2nd from left, joins officers at graduation ceremonies of a Too Good For Drugs class

    SRO officers enjoy working with students in all grade levels. It is their way of building that bridge to remind the students that all the officers of the department are here for them if they ever need their assistance.
    While not considered part of the SRO unit, school crossing guards are also under the supervision of the police department. SROs often step in to assist with school crossing duties when regular crossing guards are not available.
    All in all, Madison City Schools treasures its relationship with SROs and all units of the police department.

    SRO in circle of kids giving high fives
    Relationship-building with kids at Horizon Elementary

    Two SRO officers smiling in lobby of James Clemens High School
    Two SROs are assigned full time to each high school

    Two officers on high school stage being recognized by Alabama attorney general Steve Marshall.
    Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall honors SROs

    SRO with friendly girls in line at Discovery Middle
    SRO mingling with students at Liberty Middle School

    School crossing guard directing traffic
    Crosing guards are under supervision of Madison Police but not directly in the SRO program

    SRO car parked in front of Liberty Middle School

     

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  • A Driving Force In Any Good School District: The Transportation Department

    Posted by John Peck on 5/5/2019

    Ken Clark brakes his school bus to a halt by the cluster of young schoolchildren at a neighborhood bus stop.
    A parent tips her mug hello while patting her child toward the open door. "That warm coffee is appreciated on cool mornings," he responds.
    Clark greets each child by name as they pivot past him down the aisle of seats.
    "Good morning Briana."
    "What's up, Caleb?"
    "Where's my smile, Janell?"
    "James! Glad you're back with us today, buddy."

    Bus driver approaching bus stop full of kids
    Ken Clark's view as he approaches a bus stop.

    In the eight years Clark has been a bus driver for Madison City Schools, he's gotten to know most of "his kids" well.
    It's that family connection that sets Madison City Schools' transportation department apart from systems that  contract their bus service to private carriers.
    Recognizable by their iconic yellow paint, school buses serve a vital - and sometimes underappreciated - role in the mission of educating our youth.

    Kids waiting at bus stop with bus approaching
    Kids waiting curbside as a school bus approaches. Staggered school starts allow buses to run both elementary and secondary routes.

    Each day, throughout the school year in Madison City, more than 5,000 students are delivered to and from school. For some students, this is their only means of transportation. This number goes up if you include the 1,000-plus trips to athletic events, academic competitions, and various other extra-curricular activities. 

    Kid boarding bus
    Bus drivers are the first, and last, school employee many kids see each day.

    Transporting our community’s most precious commodity is a huge responsibility that requires a great deal of behind the scenes planning, coordination, maintenance and training.
    Our transportation staff numbers just over 100, including 64 regular bus drivers, 13 mini-bus drivers and 13 mini-bus aids, 4 certified mechanics, a shop assistant, shop foreman, route specialist, office manager, 2 permanent subs (utility workers), a supervisor and a small pool of subs.
    It’s a job we take very seriously which is why the board of Madison City Schools chose not to contract out this service but instead hire its own drivers, bus-aides, and mechanics.
    As employees of Madison City Schools, these transportation professionals recognize and embrace their role in serving the students of our district.
    Their commitment to safe, reliable and courteous transportation is a testament as to why this was a good decision on the part of the BOE.

    Transportation Coordinator Roosevelt Carter at desk
    Madison City Transportation Specialist Roosevelt Carter.  

    At the heart of providing school bus service is route planning. It is an ongoing, ever-changing, task that demands routine attention.
    Route planning begins with an analysis of data collected from current and past year routes.  As families move in and out of neighborhoods, and new subdivisions pop up all over the city, existing routes are tweaked, new routes are added, and some old ones are removed.
    Bus stops that may have been in place for years are sometimes moved to accommodate more riders. Great efforts are made so that no student has to walk no further than the state recommended limit of two-tenths of a mile between home and bus stop.

    Bus drivers in big conference with safety leader leading training
    MCS Transportation employees at a child trafficking awareness training. 
     
    In addition to seeing that routes serve our entire community, we make sure we have the best, highly trained, and vetted drivers on our buses.
    To begin with, all drivers, aides, mechanics, and office personnel go through the same rigorous background screening that our teachers do. When you see your driver on the bus, you can be assured that he or she is CDL certified and has passed an FBI background check and a pre-employment drug screening.
    We routinely send our drivers to have random drug and alcohol screenings throughout the year. Our drivers and aides are also required to attend an annual bus driver recertification class that is taught by a state certified instructor.

    Bus mechanics work on bus in maintenance garage
    Mechanics work hard to keep the Madison City bus fleet in tip-top shape.

    And, last but certainly not least, great emphasis is placed on the safety and maintenance of our buses. Drivers are required to report every irregular sound, smell, or gauge reading on their bus to ensure there isn’t a serious underlying problem.
    Madison’s buses are subject to rigorous, thorough inspections by a state inspector. These annual probes are designed to identify potential maintenance issues before they become problems.
    We are proud to say that for the second year in a row, Madison City Schools received a perfect score on our state bus inspections. This is a rare and highly sought after achievement.
    It takes a committed team effort to keep the wheels on a bus rolling, safely and efficiently. That’s why we are proud of the service we provide, and will continue to do our very best for the students and families of Madison City.

    Police chief, superintendent and SRO meet in transportation garage
    SRO Sgt. Clayton Jordan, Police Chief David Jernigan, Supt. Robby Parker,
    Transportation Specialist Roosevelt Carter, Assistant Supt. Eric Terrell.
      Kids loading bus in neighborhood
    About 5,000 students ride buses daily in the Madison City Schools system.

    Driver greeting kid as he boards bus
    Driver Ken Clark greets a rider by name while offering a fist bump.

    Kids departing bus in lineup in the aisle
    Kids filing out of the bus to begin another day of school.

    Schoolbus with stoparm extended along a neighorhood street bus stop

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  • Making the Grade in Instruction

    Posted by John Peck on 5/4/2019

    Someone once said, "Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." That is the guiding principle of the Madison City Schools Instruction Department in setting the framework and support for academic programs for all students grades PreK-through 12. Educators must continuously embrace new learning concepts themselves to prepare students for this ever-changing global environment.

    Instruction team members  meet with Chief Academic Officer Dr. Heather Donaldson, 2nd from right
    Chief Academic Officer Dr. Heather Donaldson (2nd from right) leads instruction team in collaboration on strategic goals.

    Instruction encompasses academic programs, curriculum development, professional learning opportunities, instructional technology, federal programs, grants, assessments, Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, internships, Career and Technical Education and so many other areas in an effort to provide strong support for all students, teachers and administrators.

    The 2018-19 school year is a particularly exciting time for Instruction as it rolls out its instructional goals for the next 3-5 years.
    These instructional goals embody academic priorities to include increasing innovative curricular offerings, expanding World Languages, extending STEAM offerings into Pre-K and elementary, providing more collaborative opportunities for teachers, growing professional learning and leadership opportunities, and providing necessary supports to inspire all students to achieve their maximum potential.

    Every summer, the instruction team devotes countless hours sending teachers to national professional learning opportunities, preparing for professional growth opportunities with administrators, structuring new teacher orientation, planning with mentors to support new teachers, and launching Institute Day welcoming back all new employees.

    Group photo of National Board Certified Teachers iin the Board of Education Auditorium
    2018 NBCT group honored by the Madison City Board of Education

    National Board Certification has become a recent focal point in the district’s attempt to support teachers’ professional growth. Madison City currently has 44 NBCTs with 19 candidates hoping to finish the NBCT process in May.
    Chart of high school course additions chart of middle school course additions

    Course offerings are continuously being re-evaluated to ensure curricular offerings that are interesting and challenging. 
    A new addition to elementary instruction is an accelerated math class being offered to fifth grade students that goes beyond the fifth grade standards. Mentoring Mathematical Minds (M3) allows students to participate in discussions surrounding conceptual mathematical concepts while requiring them to apply their mathematical knowledge with a deeper level of understanding. The accelerated math class is led by an Advanced Academic Resource Teacher (AART) specially trained in critical thinking strategies. The AART team collaborates regularly to make this new adventure in mathematics as successful as possible for the participating fifth grade students.

    Another elementary instruction addition is fourth grade Spanish classes. Now, every student K-4 has Spanish instruction at least once weekly for 30 minutes. The instruction intensifies from grade level to grade level. A Survey of World Languages courses introduced this year for all 6th graders and open to 7th graders is another step in enabling students to become proficient in a second language. 
    Elementary principals seated around a table with laptops
    MCS Elementary Principals with Elementary Instruction Coordinator Melissa Mims (center)

    Middle and high school course offerings are updated annually to ensure our students have the most innovative curricular offerings available to them. Over the last five years, MCS has added numerous high-interest course offerings both face-to-face and online..

    Discovery Middle principal Kim Stewart and other administrators visit a STEM lab with students doing experiments.
    Instruction team and BOE member visit the Discovery Middle School STEM
    lab to observe hands-on learning. DMS Principal Kim Stewart at left. 

    Partnerships play a key role in the opportunities for students. Business and industry partners we connect with ensure that academic programs adequately prepare students and give them a greater understanding of the opportunities that lie ahead through post-secondary and career pathways. Industry credentials have become one key focus in public education in recent years to ensure students graduate college and career ready. 
    MCS students have seen a significant increase in the number of industry-recognized credentials earned, going from 67 in the 2014-15 school year to 366 in 2016-17. Earning these credentials demonstrates the knowledge, ability level, and skills students have attained that prepare them for their future path.

    While MCS proudly offers over 200 high school course offerings, we recognize that students have interests that fall outside of the courses we offer or those we have the finances to provide.
    Therefore, MCS partners with Calhoun, Drake, and UAH to provide dual enrollment opportunities for students interested in earning college credit, pursuing academics such as mathematics beyond Calculus, and refining their skills in areas such as welding, advanced manufacturing, aerospace structures, cyber, CNC machining, and emergency medical services.

    Not only does the instruction team work with schools to add innovative course offerings, it also strives to support these programs financially whether that be professional development, providing furniture/supplies or other resources.
    Local and federal funds allocated for instruction are used to support these needs; however, our team also secures numerous grants each year to help support these programs.

    BOE and Superintendent Parker with Redstone Arsenal Leaders
    Superintendent Robby Parker and BOE members recognized by Army officials
    for strong support for military-dependent students and programs. 

    One of the largest groups supported by grants are military-connected students and their families. Based on the Madison City Schools' high percentage of military-connected households, our district is eligible to compete for the DoDEA funding resulting in $8,007,500 grant awards to support math, reading, and science instruction initiatives. This funding offers opportunities for the district to expand innovative work and provide additional training and support to increase student achievement.
    Instruction also includes Instructional Technology, headed by Coordinator Daniel Whitt.  

      

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  • Finance: The Buck $tarts (and $tops) Here In Keeping Madison City Schools Running

    Posted by John Peck on 5/3/2019

    All things money go on in the business office of Madison City Schools.

    As fiscal manager over one of the largest employers in the City of Madison, the Finance Department is busy every month processing payroll for the 1,145 employees in the school system, as well as processing numerous invoices.

    Both of those processes alone involve an average of $8 million per month.

    Keeping the entire budget in balance is a massive task. There are lots of moving parts and enormous pressure to get the job done right. It takes skill and focus, with an eye to always look for efficiencies. 


    Finance Director Jana Gray at podium presenting budget
    Chief Schools Finance Officer Jana Gray presenting the 2018-19
    MCS budget to the Madison City Board of Education


    Several years ago, the business office began the search for a rebate system to help earn a little revenue for all of the spending.

    A purchasing rebate for all virtual pay spending, state classroom instructional supply money for the teachers and department credit cards were implemented, earning more than $50,000 per year.

    Other new initiatives have been implemented. A new teacher’s crowdfunding site was launched this year to maximize efforts to gain funds for a particular need or project. Rather than piecemeal approaches that can be cumbersome and largely inefficient, the new LeanStream tool returns far more money without the large administrative fees associated with other crowdfunding competitors.

    Cost-cutting measures have also been incorporated into district spending practices.
    In an effort to reduce costs and gain efficiency, the business office has begun utilizing paperless techniques in the payroll department including employee online services. These services include updating tax forms, deduction papers and bank account changes without having to make a personal visit to the office.
    This will be a continued effort in all areas of the business office until its paperless goal is obtained.

    4 Staff members at roundtable discussing budget
    CSFO Jana Gray, right, and some staff (L-R) bookkeeper Crystal Ward,
    accounting supervisor Eric Haynes, and bookkeeper Geanell Brenner

    Another vital part of the office includes financial compliance with all federal, state and local laws for every dollar received from federal and state allocations as well as local dollars at the school level. The business office must keep close tabs on bid laws and remain vigilant on economic variables that can threaten to put the budget out of balance.

    The hard work and dedication of the business office employees is what keeps everything flowing smoothly. It is comprised of 7 central office members with an average of 10 plus years’ experience as well as 14 bookkeepers at the schools.

    Two staff members going through payroll folder in front of a computer
    Payroll Manager Pam Runager (right) with assistant Sheryl Roberts

    Jana Gray is the Chief School Finance Officer. She and/or Accounting Supervisor Eric Haynes attends all Board of Education meetings to advise the superintendent and board members of system finances and any budget amendments.

    They perform the arduous task each year of forecasting revenue and assimilating spending demands so the superintendent can craft an accurate budget for Board consideration. Budget approval starts the recurring challenge of keeping it balanced as the law requires, leaving healthy enough reserves for emergencies and fluctuations in the economy.
    A guiding principle for why an accurate spending plan is important: "A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went."

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  • Technology: When IT Crashes, Everyone Is Wrecked

    Posted by John Peck on 5/3/2019

    If there was ever a stealth operation of Madison City Schools, Technology Infrastructure would be it.
    Like an iceberg, most of what they do is never seen by the public.
    The primary goal of the Technology Infrastructure Department is to make the latest 21st-century tools available to every student within the Madison City School System.
    While the students’ instruction and experience is the primary focus, the department supports the function of every other department within the school district. Everything from I-Now support to phone systems, security, the districtwide Messenger system, and much more.

    Tommy Paone with Robby Parker at BOE meeting
    Technology Infrastructure Coordinator Thomas Paone and Schools Superintendent Robby Parker.

    MCS has, in all probability, the largest and most complex computer network in Madison, and one of the largest in North Alabama.

    Aaron New speaking to new teachers at orientation
    One unique plus of MCS is giving teachers choice of device whether it be a MAC, PC, Chromebook or IPad, which can maximize their creativity in lesson planning.

    In December of 2014, the technology department proposed an ambitious network upgrade plan that included key requirements for every classroom and cafeteria, bandwidth upgrades, and “pie in the sky” desires such as completely re-cabling six schools and high-speed WiFi for the sports teams at Madison City Stadium.
    The key requirements of the plan were expected to cost almost $2 million and take at least two years to complete.
    Through the hard work and diligence of the technology infrastructure team, the key requirements of the project were completed under budget and in approximately 18 months.

    Aaron New with two technicians inspecting security camera data at a school
    The MCS tech team review plans for technology & security infrastructure upgrades at a school

    Some portions of the plan are still underway such as the re-cabling of the last three schools, and we are researching options for the stadium.

    Here are a few statistics of the network systems:

    • 9,000 devices online at any time during the school day.
    • 5Tb of data downloaded from the internet each day.
    • 51TB of onsite storage in use by 140 Servers.
    • Primary backups to 2 separate Disaster Recovery Sites.
    • Scores of telephone calls handled by our phone system each day.
    • 450 surveillance cameras recording to 5 DVR servers with 140TB of storage.
    • Students and faculty have the option to use Windows and Mac computers, Chromebooks, iPads, Virtual Desktops, and more.

    The key to the performance of the network systems rests with the quaility employees in the Technology Department.

    That workforce under Technology Coordinator Thomas Paone (formerly Aaron New) includes a technology resource manager, two network managers, two data managers, two network technicians, two 240-day school technicians, eight 190-day school technicians, and one high school student intern.
    These dedicated, passionate professionals truly love the work they do and strive to give the students, faculty, and staff the best possible technical experience and to do their part to help every student achieve their potential.
    The most difficult challenge for Technology Infrastructure is the continuous improvement required to keep Madison City Schools on the cutting edge of instruction and striving for the mission of "Empowering Students for Global Success."
    Even before the current projects are completed, the department has already started work on the next phase of network infrastructure.

    Here are some highlights of their accomplishments within the last year:

    • Closed over 5,330 helpdesk tickets.
    • Updated VoIP telephone systems and service to save the district $18,000 per year.
    • Currently re-cabling three schools.
    • Currently preparing to replace over 700 teacher devices.
    • Currently adding 125+ surveillance cameras across the district.
    • Rolled out hundreds of new devices.


      Teachers using laptops with students
      The primary goal of the Technology Infrastructure Department is making the latest tools available to every student throughout MCS in both elementary (above) and high school (below).
      Students using computers


      jumble of wires behind a computer storage closetnew rewiring of computer wires
      Before & after pics of a recabeling job during a technology upgrade
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  • School Nurses: Keeping Kids Healthy A Prescription For School Success

    Posted by John Peck on 5/2/2019

    School health services is much more than just taking care of boo boos and stomach aches.
    The school nurse’s tasks each day are as varied as the children and families they serve.
    Yes, the clinic nurses see students daily for bumps and bruises, stomach aches, headaches, lice checks and the general “I don’t feel good” complaints.
    But they do so much more.

    School nurse taking temperature with mouth thermometer
    Columbia Elementary nurse Laura Dickinson checking temperature.

    Each year brings an increase of students with serious and sometimes complex health issues in the schools – conditions such as diabetes, life-threatening allergies, asthma, seizures, catheters, feeding tubes, colostomies.
    School nurses administer daily and as-needed medication.
    They ensure that students on doctor-ordered meds have their daily and emergency medication when on field trips. School nurses also help coordinate the administration of flu vaccines each year. With currently 11,300 students and growing, the demands on the school nursing staff can add up quickly.
    School nurse giving student flu shot in the arm
    Flu shots are voluntary and given annually in all schools

    They continually educate students, staff, and family members on various health issues, making wise health choices such as nutritious eating, getting enough rest, drinking ample water, encouraging exercise and following a healthy diet.
    Madison City Schools is fortunate to have Registered Nurses (RN) in each school and a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in its PreK Center.
    Several of the schools have LPNs to provide care and perform procedures such as gastric tube feedings for students in our developmental delayed programs.
    The school district also has a unique position called the Nurse Health Educator.
    She is a registered nurse who teaches kindergarten students about germs and illness prevention, all 5th graders hygiene and maturation, and HIV/Aids education to middle and high school students.
    Group photo of Madison City Schools nurses
    School nursing staff of all Madison City Schools at a department meeting.

    The beginning of the school year is particularly hectic for clinic nurses. That’s when they must review immunization records and health assessments records, write health care plans for students with health conditions to ensure that teachers and staff “who have a need to know” are aware of the health conditions, and logging in medications to be kept and administered at school.
    Clinic nurses at each school also lead staff training in how to respond during a medical emergency and general medical conditions typically seen in the school setting.
    Health services are not limited to just the normal school hours. School nurse substitutes are used to provide care and monitoring for students who may require help with his/her diabetic or seizure needs. Additionally, for students who participate in sports, clubs, extended day programs, and bus rides to and from school. Basically any sponsored events that a student directly participates in who has specific health need may require a nurse if a parent cannot attend. School nurses even cover proms, dances, and field trips.

    School system nurse coordinator Bonnie Davis helps with flu shots
    Systemwide School Nurse Bonnie Davis assisting in flu administration at Horizon Elementary.

    Bonnie Davis is the lead nurse system-wide who provides guidance for the clinic nurses. The State Department of Education and the Alabama Board of Nursing have strict policies which public school systems like Madison City must follow in addition to Alabama State Law.
    She writes local policy and procedures in accordance with the state policies including the communicable disease, AED, Anaphylaxis (severe allergy), and emergency preparedness in regards to health issues.
    Nurse Bonnie provides CPR training and review of skills, medication and diabetic training to staff.
    She coordinates with the clinic nurses to provide nurses for the extra-curricular activities as needed.
    School nurses find their profession a rewarding one knowing that they impact so many lives.
    A student’s health is directly related to the quality of their learning. Children with unmet health needs often have a difficult time. The school nurse supports student success by providing health care through assessment, intervention and follow-up. All of these tasks make for a healthy prescription for success.
    Bonnie Davis leads medication training in classroom
    School System Lead Nurse Bonnie Davis leads medication training

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