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GMS sees success with two schools in one

Call them Team GMS.

Jai Hill and Alton Abrams combine youthful enthusiasm and technological savvy with the wisdom gained from working with generations of Butler County’s youth.

Hill serves as the principal of Greenville Middle School’s 350-plus 7th and 8th graders, while Abrams, formerly principal at R.L. Austin Elementary School in Georgiana, presides over the nearly 400 5th and 6th grade students.

The transition to two schools under one roof this year has gone “pretty smoothly,” said Hill.

“It helps a lot that I like who I am working with,” he said with a smile.

“I have known Mr. Abrams for about 10 years. We work well together.”

Abrams says dividing the student body into a lower and upper middle school has divided the paperwork and provided “another pair of eyes to watch over the children.”

“I know a lot of these kids’ moms and grandmothers; I know the families and their backgrounds. And I use that as a positive thing,” Abrams, a 37-year veteran of public education in the county, said.

While the situation at the middle school is now more “manageable” than in the past, Hill stresses the school was seeing improvements even before the transition to two administrations was made this year.

“We had already cut disciplinary referrals in half. We’ve been in the running for the Safe School awards. And we’ve made AYP two out of the last four years. Keep in mind, some middle schools never make it,” Hill said.

The high population of special needs students in the middle school and high school makes it much more of a challenge to achieve AYP, he said, and the fact GMS achieved it this year “made us all breathe a sigh of relief.”

“Making AYP gave our teachers that much more confidence they could achieve success any way we were structured. And now, to have Mr. Abrams come and work with us just makes it that much better for all of us,” Hill said. “I hope this is something that is going to last; it’s important for these children to get the attention they need.”

For Abrams, his transition to GMS “is like coming home.”

“I was assistant principal here back in 1992 under Gerald Benson . . . so it is good to be here again. You’ve got youth and his technical expertise and my experience all working for the best possible outcome educationally for our students,” Abrams said.