By Rebekah Martin
OCS superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors updated the public on the latest happenings of Opelika City Schools last week at the State of the Schools luncheon. The second annual event was held on the campus of Southern Union State Community College and sponsored by Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home and S & S Termite and Pest Control.
The Opelika High School Theatre Society opened the luncheon with a song from its current musical ‘Bye Bye Birdie.’
Neighbors addressed the school system’s finances and accreditation, what it offers its students and the importance of a strong community support system. “I’m very pleased, very proud and very fortunate to be superintendent in Opelika. It’s very child-centered,” Neighbors said. “We have a good school system because we have good people. Our focus is to educate every child everyday … If you look at a child’s kindergarten to twelfth grade education, there’s a little more than 2,200 days. So when you really start thinking about that, everyday does matter.”
According to Neighbors, Opelika City Schools fulfills its mission in a number of ways. Neighbors praised the Opelika City Council for its generosity, stating many districts around the state are unable to offer their students what Opelika does because of lack of funding. “We have a very special thing … that a lot of people do not have. And that is a community that is focused on improving itself, first and foremost through its children. That doesn’t just happen, it takes everyone working together,” Neighbors said. “A great board that sets vision, policy and tone, that gives us the autonomy to execute those plans, but also a community that supports us financially.”
Neighbors spoke on the year-long accreditation process OCS undergoes, AdvancED, a group which sets the standard for more than 32,000 school systems around the world. Neighbors said Opelika City Schools consistently exceeds accreditation standards.
Advanced Placement courses, dual enrollment and career technology courses, including horticulture, health services, culinary arts and more are all offered at Opelika High School and, according to Neighbors, would not be a reality without local revenue and support. Neighbors said every program OCS offers must have rigor and relevance.
Utilizing an 18-acre tract of land and state-of-the-art kitchen, Neighbors said students can participate in a horticulture program that teaches self-sufficiency and will one day produce food for the OHS cafeteria. Future plans include building a well and an irrigation system, fruit and vegetable production, walking paths and an arboretum. “We’re really excited about this, and the kids are too,” Neighbors said.
Neighbors said he believes the success of Opelika City Schools is due to good people and a future focused community that works together.