This is the first post in a six-part series recognizing the state finalists  and overall grand prize winner of the Tri-State Best Practices Contest. May these great examples of best practices in Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee public education inspire you as they did us.


What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is a question that we start asking children at an early age.  Eufaula City Schools’ leaders–one of the Alabama finalist in the “Tri-State Best K-12 Practices” Contest—have not only asked their students this question, but they have developed a best practice that helps student systematically and purposefully explore college and career opportunities.

Origins of “Crayons to Careers”

When Superintendent Dr. Elisabeth Davis arrived at Eufaula City, she realized that many things were happening – fast! Department planning and activities were not always coordinated; in some cases they were siloed.  Consequently, she worked with all levels of leadership to align activities system-wide to support the school system’s vision, mission, and values.  This became the birth of the “Crayons to Careers” plan.  A system-wide calendar was developed detailing all activities that fall under the title “Crayons to Career.” Most activities and events were not new. However, putting all of the events and activities together created a systematic approach for knowing what to do, when to do it, how to do it, who should do it and how the event or activity can be improved in the future.

The “Crayons to Careers” plan focuses on spiraling programs from PreK to 12th grade to introduce children early to career options.  For example, students in lower grade levels work in raised beds (provided by an AlProHealth grant through the Barbour County Extension Office), while older students receive training in horticulture at the new greenhouse at Eufaula High School (EHS).  Students are given time during school hours and encouraged to take part in activities that are part of the spiraling of programs system wide. School schedules were changed for lower grade levels to have students participate in running school stores and have clubs such as chess on certain days.  This means students are now introduced to activities/concepts such as chess, coding, and handling money at a much younger age then they were before this plan. Additionally, upper grade level students participate in activities and teach/coach lower grade level students.

“Crayons to Careers” Community Engagement

Eufaula City Schools’ students and teachers learn about careers and participate in community service activities.

A key aspect of Eufaula City’s plan is community engagement.  Students participate in grade-level community service projects based on career interests or themes such as the Senior Citizen Prom, a joint community service project of the EHS Academies. The plan also has ECS staff shadow local business leaders and public servants to understand “A Day in the Life” of these community members so teachers can better prepare their students for those careers.  Having a detailed plan helps staff at Eufaula City Schools and community members pay close attention to ways to build upon partnerships. Using the premise that parent, family, and community involvement in education correlates with higher academic performance and school improvement, Eufaula City builds on these relationships.   When schools, parents, families, and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer, and enroll in higher level programs.

Why we Like this Entry:

There are numerous reasons to love the “Crayons to Careers” Best Practice.

The impact and focus on all grade levels throughout the system guarantees all students will have equal opportunities to participate.  By providing this plan, all teachers are then accountable for providing appropriate opportunities to all students and those opportunities a sequential across the grade spans.

“A Day in the Life of” demonstrates the importance of a high level understanding the Suppliers, Inputs, Outputs, and Customers (SIPOC) of a process, in this ensuring that students are College and Career Ready.     Elementary and Secondary administrators shadow each other, Career Tech teachers shadow relevant businesses, and Central Office members shadow students.  This provides staff with the opportunity to understand the needs of both Suppliers and Customers in the career development process.

Their consistent planning, implementation, and review of activities and events is reminiscent of the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle that promotes a commitment too continuous improvement.

Helping Students Dream Big

Eufaula City Schools’ award winning practice is consistent with their system motto “Dream Big . . . Innovate Often.” As Superintendent Davis remarked, “We believe we must teach our students how to dream in the elementary grades, and we must equip them with the knowledge and skills to make those dreams a reality as they journey through middle and high school!  Our commitment to a purposeful PreK – 12 exploration of colleges and careers through a variety of avenues provides both students and adults with a wide array of innovative experiences to accomplish their big dreams!”

-from left to right: Sherri Headrick (LEAN Frog), Mitzi Clayton, Sally Howell (AASB), Otis Hill (ECS), Byron Headrick (LEAN Frog) and Louise Conner (ECS)

Congratulations Eufaula City Schools for your award winning entry.  We applaud you for your commitment to purposeful preparation of students and to consistent review of your efforts.