Three Mobile County Public Schools – Baker and Citronelle high schools and Mary B. Austin Elementary – have been named CLAS Schools of Distinction for 2017.
The award, presented by the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) since 2011, recognizes schools and programs that serve as outstanding educational models for other schools in Alabama.
Baker, Citronelle and Mary B. Austin are among 24 schools chosen from 107 nominees to receive the award. They will be presented with the honor on Feb. 26 at a luncheon in Prattville.
Baker was recognized for its AP Capstone program, which prepares students for college study by challenging them to consider and evaluate multiple points of view to develop their own perspectives on complex issues, giving them a framework to develop and hone their critical and creative thinking skills, and testing their analytic and inquiry skills through a research project.
“These students do amazing things in their Capstone classes,” said Baker Principal Clem Richardson. “Our students are able to learn critical thinking skills that are really preparing them to be highly successful in college and their career path.”
Baker, which offers 26 different AP classes, is one of only a handful of schools in the state to be awarded the AP Capstone designation.
“Now CLAS has recognized our students and our program and our school with this distinction,” Richardson said. “It’s just one step more that we feel like puts Baker up there with the top schools in the state of Alabama.”
Citronelle was recognized for an internship program that not only creates valuable work experience, but has led to students earning well-paying jobs. The program is operated in conjunction with Citronelle’s Signature Academy for Manufacturing, led by coordinator Amy Mills, and maintains partnerships with several businesses, industries and public entities that serve as major employers in the county, including Outokumpu Stainless. The academy trains students in industrial skills such as electrical work, welding, hydraulics, pneumatics and engineering, and the internships offer them an opportunity to put those skills to use.
“It separates us from a lot of other schools because it’s such a unique program,” said Citronelle Principal Randy Campbell. “Our goal is to train our kids so that when they get in front of the people who are doing the hiring, they walk away from there with a very clear advantage of being hired.
“These are not just temporary jobs; these are career jobs starting out a $15, $20 an hour and making $48,000 to $50,000 a year right out of high school,” he added. “Because we are able to get kids hired in the community and they’re staying in the community, it’s resulted in, as of this past year, $1.7 million back into our local economy in salaries, so that’s pretty awesome.”
Mary B. Austin was honored for its project-based learning and student-centered programs, Talents Unlimited, and its communication and emerging technologies labs. An example of project-based learning at the school was a unit on entrepreneurship that also won the school the distinction of America’s Entrepreneurial School by the National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education. Students created mock food trucks, marketed instruments from around the world, made commercials for national parks, and participated in a Fairy Tale Market Day.
“Thanks to partnerships with local entrepreneurs and innovators, our students are being exposed to 21st century life skills that prepare them to become outside-the-box thinkers ready to take on future careers that in many cases have yet to be invented,” said Mary B. Austin Principal Dr. Amanda Jones. “I am incredibly proud of my teachers and staff who work diligently day in and day out to provide innovative student-centered programs to our students. It is exciting to see the outstanding, real-world learning taking place here daily at Mary B. Austin. Our students are living up to their title, the “Austin Innovators,” through their many accomplishments.”