Oneonta City Schools’ Douglas in the groove on new job

MID-YEAR UPDATE...

Last week, The Blount Countian sat down with still-new Oneonta City Schools superintendent Dr. Mike Douglas for a state of the school system chat after his first semester at the helm, following the departure of former superintendent Scott Coefield last spring. Here are Douglas’s thoughts on some of the subjects covered:

School finances

“We’re financially sound,” Douglas reported.“We just don’t have money for extras. We fund zero teacher units locally. We have just what the state allots, based on number of students we have. Bigger school systems may fund up to 20 additional teacher units, and so can have extensive programs in the arts that we don’t have, although we have one of the better band programs here. We couldn’t have done Chromebooks (computer notebooks for seventh-graders) without a grant from OFFER (Oneonta Foundation for Educational Resources).

“It’s important that we have good management of the money we do have and fortunately, people here are sound and frugal in that regard.”

Academic progress

“An important part of academics is teacher training, and we’ll have training going on at all levels this summer,” Douglas said. Following is a summary of the training he described:

• Oneonta was elected to receive a state College and Career Ready Grant for state-sponsored A+ training involving about 10 high school teachers.

• Chromebook training will be provided to about a dozen teachers in connection with expanding the use of Chromebooks to sixth and eighth grades after last year’s pilot program for seventh grade.

• AMSTI (Alabama Math/Science/Technology Initiative) training will be provided to about 20 elementary teachers, focused on math instruction and based on results from last year’s ACT Aspire test.

Facilities priorities

Three projects made Douglas’s to-do list for the summer:

• installing air conditioning in the gym.

• updating high school science labs.

• repainting/recarpeting the hallways.

“It’s been several years since the halls were updated. We just need to brighten them up and make them more appealing,” Douglas commented on the last item.

Impressions of superintendent’s job

Douglas has served as a principal, but this is his first job as a superintendent. The Blount Countian asked him to talk about the difference.

“Well, for one thing, I get to see my kids at work every day, and that’s a big plus. And I really enjoy the people I work with. One difference in the jobs is that my scope of responsibility is wider now. In practical terms, my daily routine is less fragmented. Another difference is that as a principal, my contact with students was greater. I want to stay connected to students. I’ll just have to work harder to do that now. Luckily, our extracurricular events provide a good way to do that.”

Other matters

Several other matters surfaced in the course of the discussion.

One was Douglas’s interest in encouraging collaboration among stakeholders in the welfare of the school system: students, teachers, parents, the community, and the city. A way of doing that will be to get input from some of those groups by way of a formal survey of their opinions. That information will be incorporated into a strategic plan for the system to be used in determining future directions for the system. Doug-las hopes to have the strategic plan completed by the end of this school term.

“My door is always open. I want to hear ideas and concerns from stakeholders any time they want to talk to me about them,” Douglas said.

A final subject dealt with courses in such subjects as music, arts, and drama that are the first to suffer and the last to be funded when money runs short.“My hope is that we can work our way to get funding to get those courses back in some cases, and to add others to what’s currently available,” Douglas said.

On a personal note, Douglas said he has gotten his family moved and settled at Limestone Springs. His only concern there, he said, is whether he’s going to be able to continue his hobby of gardening or not – at least to the extent of finding a place for a few tomato plants. Hey, if all else fails, there’s always containers!