James Floyd took the reins of the district after Ronnie Brogdon's retirement in May. He said, "I knew it was going to be tough going in behind Ronnie." Overall, other than a few minor changes, Floyd said the school year has got off to a great start. "We will be building on the strong foundation we have set before us," he said.
Floyd is a Violet Hill graduate and former agriculture teacher, principal and superintendent who has served in the education field in several Arkansas schools. He said one of the main changes he plans to make at the schools is to incorporate a total health system into the curriculum. He explained when children's physical and emotional burdens are lessened or eliminated, the learning process is much easier for them.
"We plan to look at the strengths of the staff and try to get them paired up with job assignments and things that fit together in a way that we can leverage more and quicker growth." Floyd emphasized that the Highland School District is extremely interested in working with the public. "I am a strong believer that the schools belong to the community. It is using community resources and we want to work with the community to see that we have a modern school that serves all the needs of the kids. We want to look at programs and procedures that will reach all of our students and help them grow as fast as they possibly can. We don't have any time to waste because the world is changing so fast. We have got to question every day the way we are doing business and adjust accordingly."
Although Floyd said there are no immediate plans to implement new classes, he said the district is planning to do a curriculum audit. This audit will examine what the school system offers and help determine if they are using the teacher resources in the best way possible to prepare the students for the future. "We will be focusing on technology a lot," Floyd says. Highland currently does not have an EAST (Environmental and Spacial Technologies) program. Floyd acknowledges it is a great program that utilizes a different type of teaching. "Instead of giving kids information it creates opportunities for kids to need to know information and then have the technology and resources available for them to solve day to day problems, which is a good practice for everyday life for kids. That is the kind of teaching we want to do to school wide," Floyd said.
Floyd was very pleased with a recent meeting with the State Department of Education. He said during the meeting the district was looking at funding opportunities for coordinating school health. He said they have examined the many community resources available and the things they do to help families and children. "We are looking at how we can help coordinate with them to make a healthy student body and staff through such things as changing habits such as nutrition and physical activity." Floyd believes if these issues are addressed on the outside, when students are in the classroom , they will be better able to focus on academics. Floyd mentioned the community involvement through outside resources such as the recent Backpack Extravaganza hosted by the ministerial alliance before school started and the Stuff the Bus school supply drive the student council hosted. "These things helped area families so much," he said. Floyd said it would be great if the school could help organize this type of activities and others and make certain no family is falling through the cracks.
He said the district has applied for four $10,000 grants and is hopeful about receiving at least one. "Through some potential grants the school has applied for, we are going to open up our facilities to the public. We have recently opened up a walking track and we would like to encourage the community and families to use it." The track ties all of the facilities together and runs from behind the central administration office to the high school. Floyd said it is currently graveled, but may be paved at some point. He also encouraged the community to use the activity center.
Other things the district is looking forward to are Floyd's interest in education outside the classroom walls. He said, "We are looking at recycling, alternate energy sources and natural lighting; of course all these things cost money. We will be real active in pursuing grants."
Many parents in the area have commented on the transition and said Floyd makes a lot of trips to the schools and spends as much of the day as he can at the three campuses. He said it isn't to spy on the teachers; it is to show how much he cares and supports the teachers and kids. He said the staff is friendly and have been very good to him. Although he admits he has a different philosophy, he said one thing is for certain, "We are going to be looking to what we can do to move to the future. I try to be a motivator and empowerer of people who want to do the right things for kids. We are not changing as fast as the world is and we are going to have to step up the pace." Floyd used the example of fast paced changes when he speaks to teachers and said he asked them to consider how much things have changed in the world since the recent graduates began school.
There were only a few minor problems with the beginning of the school year. One was revamped at the elementary school. Floyd said there is limited parking at the elementary school and the road between the schools is a one way. He said there were problems getting the traffic off the highway. In an attempt to solve this issue, Floyd said there is a bus that will bus children to the activity center where their parents may pick them up rather than having to wait for all the buses to leave before being allowed to go out to their parents vehicles. He said this has worked well because the bus with the students whose parents pick them up leaves the school first for the short trip. After all the buses leave, those who still opt to be picked up by their parents are allowed to leave the building with a teacher's assistance, six at a time to the awaiting cars. He said by putting a number in the windshield of their parents cars, teachers know which child's parent is next in line and takes them out. This is much safer than allowing all the children to exit with those riding the buses and intermingling buses and cars and has proven very successful and much safer. The other issue was with some air conditioning units that failed and caused some hot days in some classrooms. These minor problems have since been worked out and the school year seems to be off to a great start.
Some of the things Floyd has envisioned for the schools include trying to lead kids to one more step, using technology instructionally, rather than structurally. Other things are visual changes. He said the cafeteria has been extended at the high school and will take on a new look, one he said, is, "Less of an institutional look. There will be more round tables and the cafeteria will be a nice place to hang out. We want to try to make it a nice place to be, something the students can be proud of." He said the décor is a big thing visually that will change. "There will be a lot of paint. We want it to be a classy place for classy kids. It is a great school and a has good tradition. We are going to add to the base that is already there and try to take it to the next step. So that when they walk out of the school for the last time, they will have the skills they need to go anywhere they want or even stay here if they want and make a good living. That rebel pride will continue. This is a great job, and I am very proud to be back in this area. "