Oakman High School Principal Patrick Gann was joined by students and members of his staff in the school’s auditorium to meet, greet and inform Parrish High students who might become part of the Wildcat family next school year.
“We’re very glad to have you here at Oakman High School. We look forward to a bright future together as we make this school the best school in Walker County,” Gann said. “It’s already a good school, but we’re going to take the two cultures together and merge and make one for the betterment of all students.”
Armed with a powerpoint presentation, Gann spoke about the school’s academic success, touching on areas such as having the highest graduation rate in the county at 94 percent, US News top high schools for the 2013-2014 school year, Advanced Placement English, math and biology classes, dual enrollment at Bevill State Community College and more than $1 million in scholarships. He also mentioned the expectations and structure of OHS, including attendance and tardies, dress code, attitude and consequences.
Following Gann were testimonies from juniors and seniors of Oakman High. A few of those students were transfer students from Townley Jr. High, which shut down in 2011 along with Farmstead Jr. High.
“I would like to start off by saying how sorry I am for your situation. I know from experience how it feels to have your school closed,” said Staci Alexander, a junior at OHS. “... When I came to Oakman’s orientation, I felt a sense of welcome with open arms that made me feel at home.”
Junior Brady Dutton was also a former student at Townley who joined Oakman’s student body after his school closed. His class was the last eighth-grade class at Townley, and he spoke about the heartbreak he felt once he had to leave. But, after the first few days at Oakman, he made friends and eventually became a very involved student in the school’s beta club, student government association and was also a member of the varsity basketball team.
“I may have been a Townley Tiger at one point and I’ll always have the memories from my childhood, but now I’m glad to be an Oakman Wildcat,” Dutton said.
Gann finished out the night by showing the students’ progress over a span of four years in ACT scores, talking about the various clubs and activities held at OHS and introducing the school’s faculty and staff. Students and their families were then given an optional tour of the school and were asked to stay for refreshments and fellowship.
Two younger Parrish students who were visiting Tuesday night said they were pleased with the school’s presentation.
“I think that Oakman was very welcoming,” said 14-year-old Kylie Lott, who will be a freshman next year.
“I think it was good and welcoming, and I think I’m ready to make a decision,” added another future freshman, Kailea Jordan.
Mary Jo Sanford, a 17-year-old Parrish High junior, said she too felt welcomed at Oakman, but her heart is still at Parrish. Sanford said she plans to attend Cordova High School’s open house as well.
“I felt welcome. I don’t know. It’s still just hard though because I just don’t want to be anywhere else,” Sanford said, “but they all seemed really nice. I felt comfortable, too.”
Another concern she and others have is seeing whether they will be eligible to play sports at a new school. Parrish High School Assistant Principal Butch Sargent shared information regarding player eligibility at schools students will be looking into.
“First-time seventh graders are going to be deemed eligible no matter where they go, whether it be in the feeder pattern of Parrish High School or any other district. But wherever they start, that’s where their eligibility will start on the first day of their seventh-grade year,” Sargent said. “If they move from there, they’re going to be suffering the same consequences for a transferring student as established by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.”
Sargent also informed parents via Facebook that “Parrish students will be considered ‘in zone’ for the purpose of sports at either Oakman or Cordova, only. If the athlete (cheerleaders included) goes to any other school besides Oakman or Cordova, they will be deemed ineligible and must sit out a year or make a legitimate move into the district in which the receiving school is located.
“Here is the important part: Once a school is chosen, the student automatically becomes ineligible at the other school. If the student chooses a school and later decides he or she wants to attend the other school into which Parrish High feeds, he or she will be ineligible and must sit out a year or make a legitimate move into the district serviced by the receiving school. In other words, the student will have to move into the geographical area that was outlined prior to the consolidation.”
A number of students and their families attended the open house, but they are still uncertain about where their children will attend school next year. Parrish High School math teacher Charlotte Garner hopes her students will be happy at whichever school they choose to be a part of.
“I think we had a nice turnout with how many students showed up,” Garner said. “I hope that the parents will feel well-informed on both schools so that they’ll make a good decision.”