Opelika High School boasts highest graduation rates in Lee County
By Anna-Claire Terry
As the 2015-2016 school year comes to a close, Opelika High School continues to show excellence in education. According to Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors, OHS’s success is because of great teachers who are focused on their students, community support, and a culture that is focused on teachers and students.
“We have high expectations, but we don’t have to go around talking about them all the time. Kids perform at different levels,” Neighbors said. “It is important to us that each student succeeds at their own level and maximizes their potential.”
According to OHS principal Dr. Ferrell Seymore, the graduation rate for 2015 was 93 percent, and those rates have climbed over the years. Ninety-three percent exceeds the state average and is the highest on record in the area. Rates for 2016 will be released later this year. The graduating class of 2016 was awarded nearly three million dollars in scholarships. “It is certainly a testament to our students’ hard work and our teachers who do such a wonderful job preparing students for the next level,” Seymore said. Like Neighbors, Seymore credits a large part of the students’ success to quality teachers. “We are very blessed to have an outstanding faculty. I would put our high school faculty and staff against any high school in the state, and I mean that,” he said. “They are committed from early in the morning to late at night making sure students are served in the most appropriate ways.” Seymore said teachers do this by giving of themselves and establishing relationships with students and families. “When you have the wonderful support we have in Opelika from the school board, the superintendent’s office, the city… and couple that with how the schools work together with the parents to benefit the child, great things happen,” he continued. Seymore also said building relationships with students and families allows faculty to identify students who are more at risk and intervene before students might consider dropping out or finding another pathway that is noneducational. Opelika High School offers several classes designed to prepare students for their futures. One particular successful class has been the Academic Opportunity class, referred to by students and teachers as A.O. class. A.O. is a class in which all faculty members, including administration and counselors, are assigned a group of about 12 students ranging from ninth to 12 grade. The faculty members will keep the same group of students all they way through their high school experience. The goal is to develop relationships over time, provide a mentor to students, and hold them accountable in areas of attendance and grades. This increased student accountability has seen a decrease in the number of disciplinary infractions and the number of students who have failed courses. Other future-building classes include ACT prep courses. Seymore noted that OHS is also offering more AP (advanced placement) and pre-AP classes than ever before. “Our numbers have tripled in the number of students who take the AP placement exam and pass those courses. We put a high emphasis on classes for students who want to pursue the college level rigor,” he said.
However, the Opelika school system realizes that college is not for everyone and has taken steps to ensure those students a bright future as well. “We want every student to be college or career ready,” Seymore said. Technical classes offered include health sciences, information technology, engineering, horticulture and culinary arts. “Some students may not choose college, but we will provide them with a career-readiness credential to show that they are capable at performing well in the industry they choose.” The high school hosts several of these industry-recognized exams, and it is partnered with Southern Union State Community college in a number of these areas. This school year, OHS was named a Class Banner School, an award given to schools recognized as a strong program by principals statewide, and was also named an Attorney General Safe School.
“It’s been a great year here at Opelika High School. A renewed sence of community and culture has made this a very successful year,” Seymore said. “As we close 2016 and wish these graduates the best as they leave this place, we welcome the incoming freshman class, and we know that their experience will be just as beneficial and prepare them for what is ahead.”