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Friday Update October 15

10/15/2021 Friday District Update

 It has been a wonderful week having our students, faculty, and staff back on school campuses from fall break. The range of activities is as varied as the weather, and I look forward to continued school visits to see all the exciting things going on.

Our team continues to review COVID cases in the district. To find the updated COVID numbers for this week, click here OR go to the district website, click on Departments and Health Services. The website provides the number of “close contacts” and positive cases.

October is National Principals’ Month, and I want to take a moment to honor all of our outstanding principals: Mr. Jamie Hill at Columbia Elementary, Dr. Georgina Nelson at Heritage Elementary, Mr. Rodney Richardson at Horizon Elementary, Mr. Jamie Golliver at Madison Elementary, Mrs. Savannah Demeester at Midtown Elementary, Mrs. Carmen Taylor-Tubb at Mill Creek Elementary, Mr. Karl Fernandez at Rainbow Elementary, Mrs. Kim Stewart at Discovery Middle, Mr. Shannon Brown at Liberty Middle, Mrs. Sylvia Lambert at Bob Jones High, Dr. Brian Clayton at James Clemens High, Dr. Kerry Donaldson Administrator at The Academy, and Mrs. Nichole Phillips Administrator at the First Class Pre-K.
Our district is blessed to have the most dedicated principals leading our schools, and I am honored to work with each one of them!

U.S. News and World Reports issued its annual best schools rankings. I am proud to share that all of our schools placed in the top percentile in the respective school levels. Heritage ranked #5 in Alabama out of 811 elementary schools and #1 in Madison City Schools. Liberty ranked #9 and Discovery ranked #13 out of 552 middle schools in the state. Bob Jones and James Clemens ranked in the top 4 percent nationally among nearly 24,000 ranked high schools. Among 374 ranked high schools in Alabama which includes magnet schools, BJHS placed 6th and JCHS 10th in Alabama. This is a record that I am proud to boast of because our teachers, staff, and administrators continue to do an outstanding job, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

I am excited to announce that we are kicking off the elementary After School Sustained Tutoring Program. The Program Directors will be emailing permission forms to parents of selected students the week of October 18. The program will host after school reading tutoring on Monday and Wednesday afternoons and math tutoring on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons beginning November 1, 2021. The participating students will receive teacher-developed lessons focused on review skills needed to assist students in becoming more successful when working towards grade level expectations. A task force, including multiple representatives from each elementary school, worked collectively during the 2021 spring semester to develop criteria and a structure for the program. As data points are re-evaluated throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, additional students may be selected to participate in the program.

As a reminder, we also have a Homework Hotline for students in grades 6th-12th. The hotline is available in the evenings for students who are struggling with homework or test preparation in math and English. Students are able to meet with a teacher via WebEx in the evenings to get help with their questions. More information about the Homework Hotline can be found on the district website. Both the Elementary After School Sustained Tutoring Program and the Secondary Homework Hotline are being made available through the ESSER funds that support COVID learning loss.

A few weeks ago, I shared that my team and I met with Ed Castile from AIDT to discuss the future of welding in Madison City Schools. I am happy to announce that we will be offering a dual enrollment welding program starting January 2022. Through this welding program, students will have the opportunity to pursue several industry welding certifications. Students who are interested in the program should see their high school guidance counselor. AIDT plans to partner with us by bringing in a mobile welding lab and providing a welding instructor. There will be an informational meeting on November 4. Click here for more information about the new welding program.

I am excited to share that the Community Foundation is partnering with Madison City, Madison County, and Huntsville City for dyslexia training for our teachers. This will be a game changer for students who struggle with dyslexia. Through this partnership, we will be able to train 30 elementary and special education teachers in the Orton-Gillingham reading approach. As a district, we have already trained 60 teachers in the Orton-Gillingham math approach, and this new partnership will help further our district goal to train every elementary and special education teacher in Orton-Gillingham reading and math. 

Partnerships such as these underscore the importance of community involvement in our schools. Today, I met with our Strategic Planning Committee to begin the process of developing a roadmap for the growth and direction of MCS. This group includes community members, teachers, and staff. This group will review data and make recommendations throughout a series of meetings.

I hope you and your families have a wonderful weekend.

Ed Nichols 


10/01/2021 Friday District Update

Dear MCS Parents,

I would like to begin by wishing you all a wonderful fall break. I hope everyone enjoys time with family and comes back refreshed and ready for the next nine weeks.

I do not like to begin my Friday messenger on a negative note, but one very serious matter I would like to discuss with you involves social media challenges. In recent weeks, we have seen social media challenges encouraging students to vandalize school restrooms. The challenges moved to tampering with the vehicles of teachers and staff members. The newest challenge is to strike a teacher or staff member. Our teachers and staff members pour their hearts into educating your children, and they should never have to fear their safety being compromised - by a social media challenge or for any reason. Please talk with your children about the severity of these actions that are encouraged through social media challenges and join me in ensuring that this type of behavior will not take place in Madison City Schools. Behaviors of this type are of a serious offense and are classified as a Class III violation in our Code of Student Conduct. 

At this time, Madison City Schools has decided that we will continue with the mask mandate upon returning from fall break. We will continue to monitor community and school-wide positivity rates. ADPH has just recently issued new updated school guidance for COVID-19 close contact exclusions. These new close contact exclusion requirements are as follows:

  • After fall break, our exclusion timeframe will be shortened for excluded students to 10 days if there is no ongoing exposure to COVID-19 in the household setting or other potential ongoing exposure. Ongoing exposure means being in contact with an infected person by sharing the same living space, sleeping with an infected person, eating with an infected person, or any other circumstances where persons are closely exposed to one another.  
  • 10 day home quarantine: 10 day home quarantine is allowed if there is no ongoing exposure (as outlined above), the quarantined person has not had symptoms during the quarantine, and the quarantined persons can symptom monitor, follow masking, and continue social distancing. 
  • 7 day home quarantine alternative: 7 day home quarantine is allowed as an alternative in schools if there is no ongoing exposure (as outlined above), the quarantined person has no symptoms during the quarantine, the quarantined person has a negative COVID-19 test (molecular or antigen) result which has to be collected NOT BEFORE day 5 of the quarantine period, and the quarantined person can symptom monitor, follow masking, and continue social distancing. Under this alternative, the student will be allowed to return on day 8.
  • Home Based-Tests: Home-based tests are not accepted for the 7-day home quarantine. If a person has a positive home-based test, they are considered to be a COVID-19 case and should follow Isolation and Exclusion for the full 10-day period.

Excluded students will still have the option not to be tested and return to school on day 11. Nothing has changed for COVID positive students; a positive student must still be out of school for 10 days from the first day of symptoms.

Today, I had the pleasure of having lunch with our National Merit Semifinalists from James Clemens. (The BJ merit luncheon was last week). What an honor it is to meet with these students and hear them talk about their aspirations, their post high school plans and their school experience here in Madison. As I look over the elementary and middle schools that they had attended, it is noteworthy that most came through MCS since starting school. That is a testament to all the dedicated teachers, staff and administrators here in MCS, along with a supportive community and boards of education that place such a high value on education. Our schools are frequently visited by outside educators to glean ideas from what we do. Just this week, I joined Dr. Clayton at JC to welcome the president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). As leader of NASSP.  Gregg Wieczorek is visiting one secondary school in every state and chose JC as his only high school stop in Alabama. He said in a media interview afterwards he was impressed with the hands-on learning opportunities he saw.

MCS was recently honored to have four seniors participate in the International Virtual Youth Leadership Summit for Peace. BJHS seniors Cameron Cummings and Leah Lessmann participated in one summit on September 21 while JCHS seniors Quincy Bowie and Sarah Bierbauer participated in a summit on September 30. These students had the opportunity to interact with leaders and students from across the globe. The organizer of this summit said the Madison City students “were by far our most impressive student leaders” and that they are “self-starters who take charge when the occasion merits.” Congratulations to these students, their parents, and MCS teachers and staff who have helped lay the foundation for all of our students to excel on a global scale.

Something we are always trying to do as a district is to bring in new opportunities for our students. I am so excited to share with you that we have partnered with Madison Hospital, Phoenix Industries, and the Department of Alabama Rehabilitation Services to develop a new work-based learning program for our students with exceptional learning needs. This program is geared toward students who have completed 12th grade, and it provides real-world work experiences through two 30 day rotations within Madison Hospital. Thank you to our faculty and staff members and community partners for continuing to develop great opportunities for our students.

I am also happy to share that my team and I met with Ed Castile from AIDT this week to discuss the future of welding in Madison City Schools. I am happy to announce that we are in the early stages of adding welding as an option for our high school students. AIDT plans to partner with us by bringing in a mobile welding lab and providing a welding instructor. More information will be released in the coming weeks.

Another partnership I am proud to announce is with the Community Foundation for dyslexia training for our teachers. This will be a game changer for students who struggle with dyslexia. It was an honor to join superintendents from Huntsville City and Madison County schools at the announcement ceremony today at Greengate School on the Randolph School campus. Through this partnership, we will be able to train 30 elementary and special education teachers in the Orton-Gillingham reading method. As a district, we have already trained 60 teachers in the Orton-Gillingham math method, and this new partnership will help further our district goal of training every elementary and special education teacher in the Orton-Gillingham reading and math methods.  

These partnerships underscore the importance of community involvement in our schools. Earlier this week, I met with our Strategic Planning Committee to develop a roadmap for the growth and direction of MCS. This group includes community members, teachers and staff. Over the next series of meetings, they will use results from last year’s Strategic Planning Survey to make recommendations on facilities, curriculum offerings, services and more.

As you can see, it has been a busy week for our students, teachers, and staff. I hope all of you thoroughly enjoy fall break and time with family.

 

Ed Nichols 

 

 

9/24/2021 Friday District Update

Dear MCS Parents,

 It's been an exciting and eventful week, starting with a luncheon honoring our National Merit Semifinalists at Bob Jones and concluding with James Clemens homecoming activities. Next week we will be honoring our National Merit Semifinalists at JCHS. All National Merit Semifinalists will be honored at upcoming football games.

 I congratulate these students for their hard work, but I also want to recognize the supportive parents, teachers and staff throughout their school experience, and school boards past and present who laid a strong foundation for their success. When I look at our list of 37 national merit scholars - 19 from BJ and 18 from JC - the vast majority attended Madison City schools throughout their school experience. Every single elementary and middle school had some of these merit scholars.

It is noteworthy that all Madison City schools are ranked in the top 10 in the 2022 NICHE rankings of schools in Alabama. Think about that. Our seven elementary schools ranked 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th of ALL elementary schools in Alabama. Discovery Middle ranked 1st and Liberty 6th of ALL middle schools in Alabama. James Clemens claimed the 4th place slot and Bob Jones 6th of ALL high schools in Alabama. We are also ranked as the #2 best district in the state and as the #8 best district to teach in. According to NICHE, we are #3 for districts with the best teachers. I realize I am biased, but as I visit schools every week, there is no doubt that we have the absolute best teachers in the state. I could not be more proud of our teachers, staff, students, and administrators who work so hard every day.

We have a lot of events coming up next week before the October 4-8 Fall Break. I would like to encourage everyone to attend the March on Madison band performance Tuesday, September 28, at Madison City Stadium showcasing the halftime and competition field shows of BJ, JC and other area high school bands. Madison City Stadium will be busy with excitement again on Thursday, September 30, when Discovery Middle plays crosstown Liberty Middle in football. Kickoff is 5 p.m. 

Next week is also the optional Flu Vaccine Clinic for students. Click here for more information on dates for each school and also for the parent consent form. Consent forms should be returned to the school nurse at least one day prior to the flu vaccine clinic. Flu vaccines are optional; only students with a completed and signed consent form will receive a flu vaccine. 

As a reminder, the first grading period for the 2021-2022 school year ends next Friday (October 1). The PowerSchool Parent Portal and the PowerSchool App are excellent ways to stay connected with your child’s daily progress and attendance in classes. Click here for more information about the parent portal and the app.

Our team continues to review COVID cases in the district. To find the updated COVID numbers for this week, click here OR go to the district website, click on Departments and Health Services. The website provides the number of “close contacts” and positive cases.   

I hope you all enjoy the beautiful fall weather and have a wonderful weekend!

Ed Nichols

 

  • Tuesday, September 21 Mask Update
     
    Dear MCS Family,

    I apologize for sending this out so late. Last Friday, I made the decision to move the district to a "Mask Preferred" status based on the low rate of positivity in the district. However, since that time after consultation with our legal counsel, I have been advised of a possible interpretation of the Board’s policy under which the Board should be asked to approve or disapprove the change I announced.

    For that reason I have decided to return to  Madison City Schools’ previous “Mask Required” status until this matter can be considered by the Board.

    I apologize that we are so quickly reversing course. However, I certainly want to make sure that our district is in compliance with Board Policy. I have always believed that if you need to correct an issue, you take action and do so.

    Therefore, I will work with our Board to review the appropriate masking procedure and how it may be addressed in the future. We will return to mask required for all staff and students beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021.

    Sincerely,

    Ed Nichols