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Decatur schools prepare to open

By Bayne Hughes · 340-2432

The opening of Decatur City Schools on Thursday doesn’t have the historic significance of a year ago.

The school system isn’t opening new schools or reopening renovated schools. The desegregation plan and the International Baccalaureate’s Diploma Program are entering their second year.

The most significant changes students and staff will encounter are those in school administration because of retirements. Leon Sheffield Elementary has a new principal, Rachel Poovey, who replaced Barbara Sittason.

Bobbi Burmester is the head of the Decatur High School Developmental Program. She replaced Tom Maynor, who retired.

Stefanie Underwood is the supervisor of Special Education, following the retirement of Bill Gilchrist.


The secondary schools and two magnet elementary schools have been implementing the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years (grades 6-10) and Primary Years (elementary) programs for the past two years.

IB will send inspectors this fall to look at the seven schools for acceptance into the programs.

Superintendent Sam Houston said officials are excited about the progress of the IB Diploma Program. Decatur High began the program with only nine students last year and Austin had only three, but registration numbers give officials optimism.

Decatur High had 26 upcoming juniors register for the honors program; Austin has 17.

School officials would like to offer the program to out-of-district students, but they’re still awaiting federal court approval since the school system is under a desegregation order.

Mobile Math Initiative

Director of Curriculum Jeanne Payne said the school system is expanding the Mobile Math Initiative to Frances Nungester and Eastwood elementaries this year. This is the fourth year of this math initiative that’s taught at Austinville, Banks-Caddell, Chestnut Grove, Leon Sheffield, Walter Jackson and Woodmeade elementary schools.

Payne said a team of middle school teachers attended Alabama Reading Initiative training this summer.

All of the elementary schools are expanding the use of the “Open Court” reading program to second grade. This reading instruction program is taught in kindergarten and first grade.

Payne said another group of teachers attended a professional development meeting that provided instruction adjusted to teaching to students’ different styles of learning.

Austin’s science and social studies building is the system’s only major ongoing construction project. The $5 million project is on track to finish this fall. Students taking science and social studies classes will start the school year in 14 portable classrooms. They will move into the new building at the start of second semester.

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