SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Sylacauga High School Principal Chad Murphy was new to the area. After not quite a year on the job, he is sure he made the right decision to move to Sylacauga.
“When I came, I was quickly introduced the concept of family,” said Murphy. “The school is family. That really resonates.”
The #WeAreFamily concept stands true at SHS. After an incident that impacted the high school in a negative way a few months ago, Murphy said students came together and did not back down from showing the nation what they stood for.
“We had some incidents happen [early this year]. We had media and social media exposure. After a week of being shell-shocked that it happened, our kids stepped up. The leaders in our school said ‘this isn’t us,’ and came up with a lot of ideas of how to bring community support in and give students the opportunities to talk about some of how they’re feeling. It’s hard to describe how it feels. It really is family,” said Murphy.
Murphy said when he met Sylacauga City Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Freeman, their beliefs aligned. Murphy was hired 11 months ago and has had an impact on the high school already.
“The vision of the district with college, career, and community fits in well with what I think students should be exposed to,” said Murphy. “We have continued with that. I guess there is always some tinkering when you change leadership, but nothing really major [has changed].”
Since Murphy started, he said a large emphasis has been placed on being “college ready.” Increased numbers in Advanced Placement classes and dual enrollment courses have been integral in making sure students are successful for college. He said test and qualifying scores have gone up. More students are participating in dual enrollment courses with CACC or early college programs at the University of Alabama. SHS also prides itself on having a heavily-involved Career Tech program allowing students to explore opportunities outside of the classroom in fields like health occupation.
Health Science teacher and RN Lisa McGrady said her students are very involved with learning all they can about in the health field. The HOSA Future Health Professionals organization at SHS allows students to get hands-on experience.
“We teach them life skills that are needed for employment,” said McGrady. “They learn the skills they need to go into a health profession through the classes. The organization really focuses on community service.”
Murphy said a big focus has been shifted towards the arts. “It’s really inspiring to have this type of arts support both in the community and with the board. It’s expanded opportunities for students to get involved. Their passion and positive outlook and their knowledge of what music and arts can do for students has really been amazing to watch.”
“I think the band has had a very memorable marching season, and I am beyond proud to be their director,” said band director Ryan Murrell. “They are an amazing group of students, and I can’t wait to see what they will do next.” Murrell, in his first year at SHS, added that parents help tremendously. “With the support of our administration, as well as support from the superintendent, the band program will continue to do great things for the system and community.”
“I’m super excited for the growth in the choir program,” said choir director Martez Tidwell. “We have some huge plans for this school year. This will be the first year of competition for the choir program. The kids have been working really hard to prepare their 2017 competition show. There is so much excitement within the choir program! The kids are truly finding a passion for singing and performing.”
First year theater teacher Lauren Taunton said the newly renovated SHS theater is ready to hold productions thanks to a new, state-of-the-art sound system with new microphones and speakers along with a Broadway-style lighting board. She teaches an array of classes from basic theater instruction to technical aspects of production. “We have acquired Macs and installing software to teach Theater 2 and Technical Theater students about sound design. They started out learning about parts of the theater and parts of the stage and then we went through some basic acting skills and learned and memorized dramatic and comedic monologues.” Taunton said she would not be able to be successful with her students if she did not have the strong backing of the administration and the school board. “They’re extremely supportive in everything I want to accomplish with my kids.”
In a school of 704 students, Murphy said there is something for everyone, from arts to athletics and everything in between.
“They set a tone for #WeAreFamily concept,” said Murphy about athletic director Matt Griffith. “Coaches are at each others’ events, supporting each other and other students.” Murphy said the renovations of Legion Field and the SHS gym have allowed students, parents, and teachers to see a new and exciting future for the future of SHS athletics. In the future, Murphy plans to renovate the baseball and softball stadiums.
“For a student to be well-rounded and given the opportunities that are here, they’re there for them, they just have to step out and join.”
Michael Brannon for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2016, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.