Galena School shifts to K-6

Change is coming to Galena School with the start of a new year. It will be a K-6 school rather than K-8.

Lela Hale, superintendent of education for the Marshall County School District, said 39 seventh and eighth graders (from Galena) will be making the move to either Byhalia Middle School or Potts Camp Middle School with the majority attending BMS.

“The school board’s decision did not come easy,” she said. “It’s based on budget cuts (from the state level).”

She told school board members in a July 20 meeting that the district’s leadership team recently held a parent/community meeting at Galena to explain the change. Rep. John Faulkner and Sen. Bill Stone also attended to explain the state budget projections and the cuts.

“We listened and an­swered questions,” she said. “The community has a lot of pride in Galena, and they want to initiate steps to ensure success for all students. I value the input from stakeholders about what we can do to make improvements and retain teachers.

“Community members throughout our district play an important role. Joining with the stakeholders can only make our district stronger.”

During the past two years, Galena has been under school improvement and has moved from an at-risk school to a priority school due to accountability ratings. As a priority school, Galena will receive additional federal funds and assistance; however, the district as a whole received budget cuts. Hale said the difference between the 2017 allocation to the 2018 allocation is $956,958 (almost $1 million). The overall cut, she said, if the Marshall County School Dis­trict was fully funded, would be $1.3 million.

In addition to budget cuts, other factors, such as having substitute teachers in science and reading for much of the year at Galena, were taken into consideration.

“The students wanted a teacher, but it was difficult to fill those positions with the state-mandated, highly-qualified content teachers,” Hale said.

The district received assistance from veteran retired teachers in the interim.

“All students deserve an equitable education, and this certainly includes the children of the Galena community,” she said.

Hale said by keeping the K-6 students at Galena, the school district can provide excellent elementary teachers whose certification is K-6, instead of being highly qualified for 7-12.

“By having the students move to the middle schools, they have opportunities to be involved in organizations, such as FFA, while continuing to be in BETA Club,” she said. “Eighth graders have an opportunity to begin earning high school credits in math, history and science. We know our students will benefit from the extracurricular activities, as well as being in classrooms with highly-qualified teachers.”

Shoanee Garrison came on board as principal at Galena in the fall of 2016.

One of the questions asked at the community meeting was would she return. Hale said she emphatically replied that she “wasn’t going anywhere.”

“I feel it is important for the parents and the community to know that she is in it for the long haul,” Hale said. “She is committed to the school and the community. I find her to not only be resourceful and hard-working, but she is also resilient when facing adversity.”

For the 2017-2018 school year, Derwin Cooper will serve as administrative assistant at Galena. To make the transition smoother for the seventh and eighth graders, he will continue serving the students in after-school programs as a track and assistant football coach at BMS.

“My belief is that every child needs a high quality, equitable education,” Hale said. “Parents send their best to our schools in the district and expect them to get an education. Our aim is for our students to be more competitive in the job markets and be able to have more college choices. We must embrace challenges and move forward for the sake of our students and for the future of Marshall County and our state.”

In other business at the July 20 board meeting, the superintendent of education announced staff development (August 2-4) and the first day of school Monday, Aug. 7.

She said all three high schools – Byhalia, H.W. Byers and Potts Camp – will go to block scheduling this fall.

Hale, in her report to board members, also said she will not accept a raise given to her in a June meeting of the board.

“I want to give my raise back,” she said. “Our budget is not strong. We’ve had to make tough decisions and cut teachers, resources and at-will contracts in an effort to ensure that all employees get a check each month. I feel giving back this raise is in the best interest of our students, all personnel, and the Marshall County School District.”

Terry Cook, president of the school board, said there’s a lot going on with the start of a new school year.

“And we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.

In changes at the district office, Katrina Wiley has joined the administrative team as special services coordinator and Tametria Daughtery has joined the district office staff as federal programs/accounts paya­ble/and bookkeeper.

“I couldn’t ask to work alongside a better district office staff,” Hale said.

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