Reflections -2021

When I was a teacher, the first day of inservice after Winter Break was one of my favorite days of the year.  The two weeks away from the classroom and lesson plans and students was just the right amount of time to recover before starting the second semester.  And while no flowers are blooming in early January, the first day of the second semester always had a feeling of Spring for me – starting over, beginning anew, a feeling of potential.

This year is a little different, however.  Instead of preparing for a second semester with students, I’m taking a little time to reflect on how many exciting things happened in Haywood County and in Haywood County Schools over the last several months.

When I took the job as Chief Communications Officer for HCS this past September, I was secretly concerned that there may not be enough people or programs or stories to tell about the district. I could not have been more mistaken.

The first thing I noticed as I began to assimilate to a new school district was that HCS is a school system and not just a system of schools.  Each grade band has its own campus starting with an excellent early childhood education program at Anderson Early Childhood Center.

At Haywood Elementary School, I was able to see The Leader in Me program at work building necessary skills for students at an early age.  At East Side Elementary, co-instruction and built- in intervention time helped to support students academically.  At Sunny Hill, students raised over one thousand dollars for Lebonheur Children’s Hospital, and students at Haywood Middle School were able to get a headstart at career exploration with the partnership with YouScience.  At Haywood High School, students were doing the important and necessary work of building community and trust through advisory groups.  The Student Options Academy continued to meet students where they were and provide a student centered learning environment.  And the Haywood County Virtual Academy allows students a a safe and effective academic choice as we try our best to navigate a pandemic  

As a district, HCS also put student centered programs in place to support student learning and behavior.  

To support student health, there is a nurse on each campus in the district.  To help support students from an emotional and behavioral aspect, a social worker is also placed on each campus.  From an academic perspective, HCS has partnered with Instruction Partners to implement co-instructional practices as well as The Reader/Writer Project to support early literacy in our elementary students.  Our math teachers across the district are able to collaborate with one another across grade bands through The Math Collaborative led by John Prince.  High school students are getting post-secondary guidance from the counseling department at Haywood High School as well as counselors from The Ayers Foundation.  There are both academic and behavioral support systems in place across the entire district.  

Not only have there been plenty of stories to tell about the school district and schools, two big announcements have the potential to change lives for the better in Haywood County.  In December, Tennessee State University announced that it would provide full scholarships for any Haywood High School senior who applies and has a 3.0 GPA.  Of course, the announcement that made national news was the news that Ford was investing billions of dollars in West Tennessee with the arrival of Blue Oval City.

After Governor Bill Lee made the official announcement about Ford’s arrival, he traveled to Haywood High School to see our students and observe our Career/Technical Education program at work.  Ford Motor Company also donated 20,000 dollars in scholarships to Haywood High School seniors that marked the beginning of what promises to be a long term, mutually beneficial partnership.  

As we look ahead to 2022, it is vital to pause and reflect on how many exciting things happened in Haywood County in 2021 and how many more opportunities await all of us.  Our school system and our county are poised for greatness in the near and distant future.  

Gabe Hart – Chief Communications Officer – HCS