An analysis of education in Butler County

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Butler County schools prepare students for the new workplace

Editor's Note: This is the sixth story in a 13-week series that focuses on education in Butler County.

With technology advancing at such a rapid speed, high school students are expected to have strong computer skills. Whether entering college or the working world, many companies depend on students to have strong computer skills.

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Butler County schools are preparing their students for the new workplace and new technology by using their resources and allowing students to receive &uot;hands-on&uot; experience with computers.

Several area schools are highly equipped with computers and equipment that is used to train students in various aspects of the new workplace.

Butler County School Board Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed said that Greenville schools are equipped in &uot;lots of ways&uot; to prepare students for the new workplace. &uot;Each classroom has computers and we have labs and vocational classes,&uot; Reed said. &uot;We also have programs that the students can use for research and there are innumerable ways to teach the kids (about the workplace). Even to be an auto mechanic these days, you need computer training,&uot; he noted.

Reed said the teachers are trained and retrained for teaching computer skills to the students. He also said that as long as technological advancements are made in the workplace, the schools would do their best to keep up and teach the students about new programs and technology.

&uot;The workplace is always moving ahead and we will never be on that level,&uot; Reed said. &uot;But we will train and retrain teachers and try our best to stay as close to the workplace level as possible.&uot; Reed also said that students are now beginning to use computers as early as kindergarten.

Reed added that all school technology funding is federal and that each teacher is allotted a fund he or she can use themselves or pool with other teachers to buy equipment.

According to Greenville High School Principal John Black, each of the Greenville High School classrooms is equipped with computers that are connected to the Internet. The school library also has 25 computers that are connected to the Internet and to the Alabama Virtual Library, and the school also has three computer labs.

The vocational program at the school prepares students for various workplace experiences by offering classes regarding different types of technology.

Black said technology &uot;prepares students to strike out on their own&uot; and enter different workplace situations. He said that the school also prepares students for college, and school labs can be used for students to study and prepare for the Alabama High School Graduation Exam.

Black further said that the school receives Title I funding and that everybody is now linked to the Internet.

Greenville High School Librarian Jennifer Shell said that all schools are now equipped with computers and high-speed internet access, and that there is new software and new programs which help teach students and prepare them for the workplace.

&uot;We are connected to the Alabama Virtual Library now and we have software and programs such as Compass Learning which students can use to study for the Stanford Achievement Test and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam,&uot; Shell said. &uot;There are also programs for advanced math such as calculus, geometry and trigonometry.&uot;

GHS also now has Navigator, a program students can use for studying and teachers use for gradebook purposes. &uot;The Navigator program automatically calculates grades and averages for the teachers,&uot; Shell said.

Georgiana High School Principal Roland Pettie said his school is adequately equipped for preparing students for the new workplace; however, there is a need for more technological advancements in the school.

&uot;We have a remediation lab with a teacher and our librarian, Wanda Wasden, who also works with the students,&uot; Pettie said. &uot;Technology changes so rapidly; it is now up to the individual (to keep up).&uot;

Pettie said the school does not receive any special funding for technology, but Title I funds are used to keep the school equipped with computers and Internet access. &uot;As far as having a special account set aside for technology and computers, we don’t,&uot; Pettie said, &uot;but we use our available resources the best we can.&uot;

Pettie said he hopes that schools will begin focusing more on math, science and other basic subjects and give students more of the &uot;hands-on&uot; training they will need for the workplace. &uot;Technology has become so streamlined, students have so much pressure on them now,&uot; Pettie said. &uot;The workplace is becoming more and more technological, and I hope things will soon even out.&uot;

Fort Dale Academy Headmaster David Brantley said Fort Dale has a 22-station computer lab and uses &uot;state-of-the-art&uot; technology to prepare students for the new workplace. Brantley also said that teachers such as Pat Skipper, who was named Alabama Teacher of the Year a few years ago, help the students prepare for the new workplace by using the technology the school is equipped with.

Brantley said that all students are required to take a basic computer skills course and that advanced courses also are offered to the students.

But it’s not just high school students that are being prepared for the technology in the new workplace. In fact, W.O. Parmer Elementary School Principal Carole Teague said W.O. Parmer is very &uot;technologically savvy&uot; and that there are several ways for teachers to prepare the students for the new technology being used in the workplace.

Teague said she saw an interview with a New York principal discussing the new technology in the classroom, and arranged a meeting with the principal. After the meeting, Teague realized how helpful the technology could be and brought it to W.O. Parmer. &uot;I knew I could ask the computer guys how the program worked,&uot; said Teague, &uot;but I wanted to know how it could help the students.&uot;

W.O. Parmer is now equipped with two computer labs and a computer workstation in each classroom. Teachers also have Internet access through their televisions in each classroom so they may use the Internet for lessons and visual aids.

W.O. Parmer Elementary also uses programs to help students with their reading skills and the Accelerated Reading program. The Scientific Learning program is used to teach special needs students such skills as language and reading. The special needs classes complete one program each nine weeks and a graduation ceremony is held at the end of the year for the students and parents.

The increase of technology is having a significant impact in the workplace which is making teachers and school personnel work harder to prepare students for life outside of the classroom. And unlike some school systems throughout Alabama, Butler County students are being prepared for life in the 21st century.