Principal: Merger all about students

Published 12:05 am Thursday, October 23, 2014

Andalusia High School Principal Dr. Daniel Shakespeare said the upcoming transition seventh and eighth graders to a brand new wing at the high school is about the students.

Shakespeare spoke to the Andalusia Lions Club about the merger.

“In 1970-1971, I was an eighth grader at Andalusia High School,” he said. “At the end of the year, they moved the eighth graders to the middle school. Now here we are 40-something years later.”

Shakespeare told the Lions this isn’t his first experience being the principal at a 7-12 school. He served as principal at Aliceville before taking the helm at AHS.

“I could keep the kids separated during the day,” he said. “It is somewhat difficult to keep them separated before or after school. My experience told me, ‘Mr. Watson, this isn’t a good idea.’ I was not in favor of the move. If we take a poll, we’ll have pros and cons.”

Still, Shakespeare said his job is to educate children.

“The minute I saw the first block go up, I had to change my mindset because I am the leader,” he said. “These marbles here, when you look at this you see, there are 528 students at Andalusia High School, 278 students in seventh and eighth grade and 58 adults involved in the merger.”

Shakespeare said he carries around three containers of marbles symbolizing the high school, middle school and teachers, to remind teachers that students are most important.

“I had to get the visual so that they understand the most important thing is to make this thing successful for all students,” he said. “I can’t walk around saying this is the wrong move. The building is up. We have to change our mindset to make sure that what we are doing for grades seven through 12 is the best thing for Andalusia High School.”

Shakespeare said for the first time math teachers get to sit down and talk about why students aren’t succeeding.

“Thereby creating a better school environment and academic environment,” he said. “It’s important for all our teachers to talk about what we can do to provide the best possible education for all of our children.”

Shakespeare said, though he wasn’t a promoter of the merger, after he was named principal of the middle school, he soon learned the necessity of the new building.

“We need that building. That middle school is in bad shape,” he said. “Our kids need this. Our teachers need this. Our community needs this. We talk about moving furniture. We talk about moving books, tables – that’s easy. We can load them in a truck, but our problem is going to be coming together as one.

“One team. One goal,” he said. “You’ve got to understand, if I’ve been over here for 40 years by myself and this group has been over there for 40 years, we are going to have folks who want to fight for their own territory.”

Shakespeare said his battle is just beginning.

“We are going to have to talk about how can we make this merger as smooth as possible without interfering with the education that goes on each and every day,” he said. “You don’t want parents to get anxiety about the move or teachers to. We don’t want to cause interruptions in the school day.”

Shakespeare said special tour dates have been set up in the coming weeks, including:

• Nov. 3: Board members and teachers will take a tour;

• Nov. 4: Seventh and eighth graders will be bused to the new junior high wing for a tour.

• Nov. 4: Parent tour at 6 p.m.

• Dec. 1: Open house for the community.

• Dec. 10: Seventh and eighth graders will do a walkthrough of their schedules to learn where their classrooms are located.

“Those are some of the things we have planned to make this transition as smooth as possible,” Shakespeare said.

Additionally, Shakespeare said officials must work together to make one student handbook, discipline plan, dress code and teacher handbook.

Athletic practice schedules and PE schedules must also be determined.