McKenzie School achieves ‘A’ grade

Published 2:34 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2022

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McKenzie School recently became the first school in the Butler County School System to achieve an “A” rating from the Alabama State Department of Education.

Each year, the state issues report cards for every school with a score calculated based on the success or failure of a school.

McKenzie Principal Miles Brown said he believes the value his students place on education comes from home.

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“The parents care about their education,” Brown said. “We’re blessed with some of the best parents you could ask for.”

The community is always willing to do whatever it takes to help the students improve, Brown added.

Though McKenzie may be a small, rural school with 450 total students, the school radiates a family-like atmosphere.

“The people in our community believe in hard work,” Brown said.

And this belief is something they pass down to their children and grandchildren.

Bridget Cook, who has been the Instructional Coach for the last two years, commended Brown’s efforts.

“Mr. Brown has such a good rapport with the parents, that if he called them, they would leave work to come,” Bridget said.

Wanda Buckelew, who teaches English to eighth-12th-grade students, has seen many changes in her 12 years at McKenzie School.

“Sometimes you have to show them their potential,” Buckelew said. “You have to challenge them in the classroom. When things are hard, you can’t let them give up. You have to keep pushing them.”

Patti Cook, who teaches the entire sixth-grade class, said all faculty members are involved in the collective efforts to help children achieve success..

“It’s a love of helping a child be all they can be and the child buying into that,” Patti said.

Brown said even coaches have gotten on board to help the students.

“Just having that love and that passion for children, wanting to see a child grow, wanting to see a child do better and seeing the potential in a child, even when they don’t see it themselves, is the secret sauce,” Brown said. “It’s what our teachers do here.”

And that seems to be the key to McKenzie’s success. 

The teachers make a point of telling the students that they can do it, and the children take ownership of their education and their grades.

The school tests the students every month to make sure the child is where they need to be as far as progress – a tactic that has been especially important during the pandemic.

Brown said his school’s data went up during the shutdown with COVID-19, while everyone else’s went down.

“When your student data becomes physical and emotional, it becomes real,” Brown stressed.

Teachers working together with administration seems to be working for them, too.

“Everyone has to be on board for this kind of plan,” Brown said.

But the plan is not as simple as it seems.

Every other day or so, Bridget looks at the data, and if it needs improvement, she coaches the teachers, and they come up with a plan to ensure that the students are getting what they need.

“I think the recipe is teacher commitment, parental commitment, and the student commitment,” Bridget said.

All three aspects working in tandem is what makes a school a success.

“The school was great before we got here, and it’ll be great when we’re gone,” Brown said.