- Cullman, Alabama

August 15, 2011

Teamwork leads to great achievements

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — By Dr. Jan Harris

TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More. Cullman City Schools is honored to be the only school district in the nation to receive the TEAM AWARD 2011 by the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), Washington, DC, because of our students’ increased academic achievement due to teamwork. Our mission, in Cullman City Schools (CCS), is to work together as a team to inspire students for lifelong success through character, citizenship and scholarship. 

First, we strive to achieve our goal by providing an inspirational environment in which students can learn. Together, we work intentionally to ensure that each school campus is clean, attractive and well maintained. Because of this united effort, inspections by professionals reveal that we can improve, instead of demolish schools, saving our citizens millions of dollars. We are working methodically and conservatively to improve each school facility in CCS.  We are replacing roofs, windows and doors. We have refinished floors and remodeled bathrooms. We have improved electrical connectivity and lighting fixtures.  We keep our classrooms and buildings freshly painted. Our lawns are manicured and enhanced with beautiful landscaping to include shrubbery, trees and flowers, planted and maintained, in some cases, by teachers such as Mr. Lucas McCollum and Mr. David Benefield and their students.

We are proud to report that all of our schools and central office received a Beautification Award from the Chamber of Commerce during the last several years. This summer, all schools and central office received this award, with the exception of Cullman Middle School, due to construction. Additionally, Cullman City Primary School won the 1st Place PALS (People Against a Littered State) Award this year. Our goal is to have, through donations, beautiful bronze statues in front of each of our schools. At central office, the family of Boots Hill provided a precious bronze statue of children reading, while the children of Missy and Wilson Blaylock provided this gift at East Elementary.  Lecil and Sue Smith donated a statue for the Primary School in memory of Kristian Alexander Kraft, and a new statue is soon to be installed at West Elementary through award money.

We promise to provide well lit, comfortable classrooms that host the latest technology and tools. Our students are taught by dedicated, respectful teachers who model outstanding manners, grooming and work ethic for them on a daily basis. Our support team encourages student success with clean bathrooms and buildings, hot, delicious, nutritious food, and a highly-structured environment. 

Secondly, we offer opportunities for students to learn what it means to be a good citizen and a person of strong character. These opportunities come within and without the classroom. Expectations for decent and civilized behavior come from the school’s leader, the principal. Teachers and coaches echo these expectations on a daily basis through routines and simply, living life at school. We offer a Bible Literacy class at Cullman High School for students to learn lessons from the best-selling book of all time, the Bible.  Students are invited to join clubs that work to make our community better.  They are invited to participate in student government. They may choose to participate in an eclectic array of extracurricular activities. Approximately 70 percent of our students choose to become part of an athletic team, coached by outstanding role models while others elect to participate in the arts. We offer a stellar band and choral program as well as theatre, visual arts and even a strings program.

Because we value service to others and wish to communicate its importance to our students, in 2007, the Cullman City Board of Education approved a Community Service Seal for diplomas for students who volunteer a minimum of 100 hours during their high school years. I am proud to announce that 55 outstanding seniors earned the Community Service Seal on their diplomas in May. These young men and women could be seen cleaning up the debris from the tornado that struck on April 27th, working in nursing homes, volunteering at hospitals or Good Samaritan Clinic, working at the fair, or tutoring students at the Primary School, for example. Because of the Community Service Seal program, our community has realized over 13,100 hours of community service in the Cullman area since 2007.

Thirdly, students have the opportunity to earn a world-class education. We set high expectations and our students reach for the top. This year our students set a record by moving into the 80th percentile division scoring 81.17% on the Stanford Achievement Test. Our students rank third in Alabama on SAT10 test scores behind Mountain Brook and Vestavia, respectively.  Additionally, the high school improved the graduation rate from 89 to 93 percent! Students are afforded the opportunity to take advanced placement or dual enrollment classes, career tech classes and foreign languages as well as competition on the State Champion Math Team and Scholars Bowl. They learn about financial literacy and are equipped for college or career upon graduation. Their work is respected as evidenced by the Class of 2011 earning a total of six million, two hundred forty-nine thousand, one hundred five dollars in ($6,249,105) scholarships. 

Our parents share our lofty goals by sending us students who are ready to learn each day. Our students know that their parents value education and expect them to learn and produce positive outcomes. Students come to school rested, fed and ready to learn. Parents expect school leaders to perform at a high level, creating a positive atmosphere of accountability.

In conclusion, our team’s mission directs our path each day. Teachers and staff share meaningful, engaging work with our students. We work together as a team internally and externally with parents and members of the community. Together, we are working to inspire our students for lifelong success through character, citizenship and scholarship. We look forward to another banner year for the Bearcats!

* Dr. Jan Harris is superintendent of Cullman City Schools.