By Anna-Claire Terry
School system employees and public officials packed out the Southern Room at Southern Union State Community College on Thursday for a luncheon and Opelika City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbor’s State of the Schools address.
Neighbors began with speaking about the importance of having proper culture and treating everyone with respect and dignity.
In regards to expectations he wants schools to have, Neighbors said he wants all teachers to care for their students but also push them. “I expect you to care about those kids, but you better have expectations,” Neighbors said. “If you have low expectations, and you don’t do the very best you can to educate that child, you have done that child a disservice.” He also said he thinks it is important for teachers to value the opinions of their peers more than his or their principal’s opinions.
When it comes to athletics and extracurricular activities, Neighbors said it is important these remain prominent in Opelika schools because even if a child is not good at academics, there is always another area where they are prosperous. “It’s important for kids to be attached somewhere,” he said.
Neighbors said the schools are equipped with plenty of technology, but he does not throw money around in this area. “I expect to know why we are buying this, what’s it going to be used for and durability,” he said.
He added that OHS will be adding new classes, including driver’s ed for the summer.
Curriculum in each school is carefully thought out. According to Neighbors, the principals meet with every teacher to discuss every single student. “It’s important to know where they are and what each child needs,” he said.
From a financial standpoint, Neighbors stressed the importance of local revenue to replace money not received from the state. The school system receives 58 percent of funds from the state and 41 percent form local revenue. He added that all of the extra classes and programs that schools are able to offer would not be possible without local support. Neighbors also said 80 percent of the school system’s funding goes directly into instructional services.
According to Neighbors, one of the biggest challenges the school system faces is poverty in some areas of Opelika. This problem is being addressed by giving lunches, backpacks and essential school supplies to students in need and by a summer feeding program. The program will be open to any one under 18 years old.