Eufaula City Schools – Providing Purposeful Exploration of College and Career

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.


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Oak Ridge and Warren County are the Tennessee Finalists!

Alabama may reign as the National Champion in football, but there is stiff competition coming from Tennessee for the overall grand prize winner of the Tri-State Best K-12 Practices contest.  In the presence of 75+ Tennessee Directors of Schools and Superintendents, the two Tennessee Finalists were revealed at the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) Legislative and Learning Conference.  [The two Alabama finalists were revealed at the Alabama Association of School Board‘s (AASB) Winter Conference in December.  Click here for information on contest winners Eufaula City Schools and Muscle Shoals City Schools.  Louisiana finalists will be revealed later this spring.]

The winning entries — “Strategic Plan 2020” from Oak Ridge Schools and “STEM Education Program” from Warren County Schools – were selected as the “BEST of the Best Practices” submitted from a diverse and competitive field of high quality Tennessee school system entries.

In the 2nd year of this contest in Tennessee — sponsored by TOSS and LEAN Frog — these two EXCEPTIONAL entries were publicly recognized, and each received a $1,000 cash prize.  Both entries will compete against the contest finalists from Alabama (co-sponsored with the Alabama Association of School Boards/AASB) and from Louisiana (co-sponsored with the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents/LASS) for the Grand Prize of $4,000.  The Grand Prize winner will be recognized at a school board meeting so the local community can share in the school system’s recognition for positively impacting student achievement and promoting the effective and efficient use of public resources.

The Oak Ridge Schools’ “Strategic Plan 2020” was initiated by Superintendent Bruce Borchers in 2016 in cooperation with educators, administrators, and community members.  This insightful plan is designed to achieve five strategic goals: academic excellence, educator excellence, learning environment excellence, operational excellence, and stakeholder excellence.  Each strategic goal has a designated owner.  Each goal is monitored and measured with specific quantitative measures.  ORS uses a scorecard system to track each goal and their associated Key Performance Indicators.  As goals are met they are celebrated throughout the school system. Each goal report is shared with the Oak Ridge Board of Education and the community and new/revised goals and strategies for the next year’s improvements are created based upon analysis and input.   This collaborative Best Practice has promoted stakeholder engagement, transparency, and accountability as ORS prepares students for college, career, and life success.

from L-R: Byron Headrick, Holly Cross (ORS Supervisor of Career Readiness and Communications), Bruce Lay (ORS Executive Director of School Leadership), Sherri Headrick

Warren County Schools partnered with business and industry to develop a comprehensive STEM program centered around Mechatronics-a blend of electronics, mechanics, and computer/processor control technologies critical in manufactured products and the manufacturing process.  Working with local industry and the Tennessee Department of Education, WCS created a Mechatronics Pathway curriculum.  Program enhancements now include robotic stimulators in all schools and the “STEM on Wheels” lab that transports robotic equipment and 3-D printing to the schools.  This successful Best Practice has helped students develop system critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and begins a career path in engineering and industrial manufacturing through the earning of the Level 1 Siemens Mechatronics Industry Certification.

From L to R: Byron Headrick, Bobby Cox (WCS Director of Schools), Sherri Headrick

This year’s Tennessee entries included a wide-range of Best Practices — from a mobile summer feeding program to blended educational opportunities in a suburban/rural area to identifying and helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in postsecondary education.  We thank all of those who took the time to enter the contest and we applaud all your efforts on behalf of the students in Tennessee public schools!

Stay tuned for detailed posts on each finalist from Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

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Teachers Deliver – Make the Choice to Show Your Appreciation

DKFGPlease enjoy our very own Dave Knowles’ great blog kicking off Teacher Appreciation Week!


One of the fundamental tenets of our country– fought for and established by Founding Fathers and generations hence — is the freedom of CHOICE.  This freedom, both then and now, attempts to balance personal and local needs and actions with national parameters of shared concern.  This powerful and recurring theme influences our daily personal lives and our political conversations.

Today, choice is a prominent issue in public education.  This local and national conversation covers a wide spectrum of topics from student funding to budget expenditures to equal facilities to core curriculum to school-prepared meals.  Since this discussion can be a bit overwhelming, I suggest that you make a personal choice to become active in your child’s education.  Make a choice to appreciate and support your child’s #1 influencer at school–his or her teacher!


This choice can be turned into action by supporting the National Parent Teacher Association and its local, district and school-based associations.  The National PTA– with a mission “to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children” — has been a choice for the parents of school-age children since 1897.  It is a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education.

This week, you can take personal action on this choice.  The National PTA has designated May 8-12, 2017, as Teacher Appreciation Week”.  This year’s theme is Teachers Deliver“.  And, YES, they do!  Teachers deliver so much to our students–learning, inspiration, motivation and, ultimately, keys to their futures.

For more information go to:

Please make a positive personal choice and join LEAN Frog (@ByronsLEAN on Twitter) in delivering thanks and gratitude to teachers by:

  1. Sharing photos and thoughts about appreciating our teachers #ThankATeacher on social media;
  2. Participating in a school or PTA-sponsored event;
  3. Acknowledging your interest in your student’s school work to their teacher and re-enforcing, to your child, the importance of their efforts;
  4. Personally expressing your appreciation–in any thoughtful way, large or small — to the teachers that work-with and care-about your child.

Make a good CHOICE!  Support teachers who change the lives of millions of children every day.  Their work and impact extends far beyond the boundaries of the classroom!


P.S.  LEAN Frog has made the choice to truly appreciate and support TEACHERS and Public Education!

The “Tri-State Best K-12 Practices” Contest — sponsored by LEAN Frog in association with the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB), the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS), and the Louisiana Association of School Executives/Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASE/LASS) — is a contest recognizing Best Practices and Innovations in K-12 public schools (think teachers performing innovative programs) that impact student achievement and promote effective and efficient use of public resources.  Initial contests will be held in Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana where two finalists will be selected from each state and each will each receive $1,000.  One overall tri-state winner will be selected from the state finalists and receive an additional $4,000 grand prize.

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