Craig Pouncey Named as President of Coastal Alabama Community College

Here is the news release from the Alabama Community College system announcing Pouncey’s appointment today:

MONTGOMERY – At the Alabama Community College System board of trustees meeting on Wednesday, Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker announced the selection of Dr. Craig Pouncey as president of Coastal Alabama Community College. Pouncey’s appointment was unanimously approved by the board of trustees.

A career educator and administrator, Pouncey has more than 38 years of classroom and leadership experience in Alabama at the state and local levels. Pouncey currently serves as the Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, a position he’s held since 2014. In this role, Pouncey is credited with the expansion of both dual enrollment and career technical programs in the area’s 13 high schools, ensuring that pathways for students lead to high-demand skills. Last year, Pouncey was named Superintendent of the Year by the School Superintendents of Alabama.

“I’m confident that the appointment of Dr. Pouncey as president of Coastal Alabama will be an important milestone in the history of Coastal Alabama Community College,” Baker said. “Craig’s nearly four decades of wide-ranging experience in both the classroom and in administration will be an incredible asset to the students, faculty, staff, and administration at the college. Whether you’re an Eagle, Sun Chief, or Warhawk, I’m confident the Coastal Alabama family will see a bright future ahead with President Pouncey at the helm.”

Prior to Pouncey’s service with Jefferson County Schools, he spent nearly 10 years with Alabama’s State Department of Education. At the State Department, Pouncey served as Chief of Staff, Deputy State Superintendent and Assistant State Superintendent of Administrative and Financial Services and Director of Administration and Finance. In his native Crenshaw County, Pouncey served as Superintendent of Crenshaw County Schools in addition to his service as a sixth grade teacher and later Assistant Principal at Highland Home School. Pouncey began his career as a fourth grade teacher at Harrison Elementary School in Montgomery.

“My life’s work has been dedicated to ensuring Alabama students have the education and training they need to be successful and this new role is simply an extension of that mission,” Pouncey said. “I’ve had the opportunity to lead many teams across the state throughout my career, but, I am most excited about working with the team at Coastal to meet the needs of our more than 10,000 students. I look forward to hitting the ground running and meeting with the students, faculty, staff and administration at each of our eight campuses to continue the important work of promoting economic growth and enhancing the quality of life in each of the communities we serve.”

Pouncey’s tenure at Coastal will begin on October 1.

Fruitdale Wins Third Straight Football Game

We recently wrote about tiny Fruitdale high school in Washington County and about how the school and the community are virtually one and the same–and is true in many rural locations.

We talked about the challenge facing brand new head football coach Johnny Carpenter as he took over a program that won only one game in the last two seasons.

So the fact that the Fruitdale Pirates are now 3-0 on the season comes as a surprise–a pleasant one for those who cheer for the 1A school.

The first win was a 53-0 blowout of A. L. Johnson, the second was a more competitive win of 35-31 versus Elberta. and last Friday night they beat McIntosh, another Washington County school, 30-6.  This Friday, Sept. 13, is homecoming and the opponent is Marengo County high, which has a record of 1-2.

Obviously, three games don’t make a season.  Still, you can’t help but be happy for the success so far of the Pirates and Coach Carpenter.  There are lots of smiles in Fruitdale these days, and for sure, I will be checking high school football scores each Friday night for the rest of the season.

Time To Apply For Rural Grants

One of the fun things I do is serve on the board of the national Rural Schools Collaborative.  Our mission is to work with rural schools across the country on different programs.  This group has been especially helpful in getting the Black Belt Teacher Corps at the University of  West Alabama off the ground.

We have a small grant program each year.  We have awarded 16 grants in Alabama for place-based projects, ranging from local history projects to archeological digs to school gardens.

It’s now time for educators to apply for a new grant cycle.

Dream a little. Empower your students. Build community, and inform the rural teaching profession.  This year RSC will select nine Grants in Place Fellows, who will work with their respective students on place-based, action research projects. Grants in Place is a cooperative venture with our Regional Hub partners, and one Fellow will be selected to represent each of our nine Hubs.

Rural classroom teachers are eligible to apply if they teach in a rural public school district.  Rural teachers from across the nation are eligible to apply for our National Signature Project Award, which is co-sponsored by the National Rural Education Association. If you have a question regarding your eligibility please email .

Applications for this year’s Grants in Place program must be received by Tuesday, October 15th. We plan on announcing the Fellows by early November. Applicants should propose a project that will be completed by the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Grants in Place Fellows will each receive a grant of up to $2,000 to support the place-based project, a professional development presentation, and an honorarium. Of this amount $1,000 will be earmarked for the actual place-based project. Learn more about this new program.

Here is the complete Grants in Place Fellows Program description.

The application deadline is October 15, 2019. Apply here!

A Voice From Finland

For the last two decades, the world  has beaten a path to Finland’s door to examine what many consider the world’s best system of public education.

William Doyle is a former Fulbright Scholar who was on the staff of the University of Eastern Finland a couple of years ago.  His seven-year- old son attended a Finnish public school.  Here are Doyle’s observations about what he observed and what his son experienced:

“What is Finland’s secret? A whole-child-centered, research-and-evidence based school system, run by highly professionalized teachers. These are global education best practices, not cultural quirks applicable only to Finland.

The striking lessons of Finland’s long-term success with education reform can help inspire and be adapted by any school system in the world. They involve concepts much admired by education reformers in the United States — standards, rigor, competition, choice, assessments and standardization — but defined correctly and applied at the correct points in the system.

Here are a few:

Maximize system-wide standards by putting professional educators in charge of education. They are the ultimate experts on childhood education, not bureaucrats, politicians or technology vendors.

Apply rigor and competition at the front end of the system, where they have the strongest impact. Have your best, most passionate young people compete to become teachers. Train them rigorously at the highest levels of professionalism and give them maximum respect, authority and autonomy in the classroom. Build a culture of system-wide teacher and school collaboration.

Standardize funding for students based on their needs, and provide equitable access to educational resources.

Provide choice to parents by enabling them to choose between high-quality, well-resourced, safe, transparent and locally governed area public schools.

Don’t waste time and money on mass standardized testing of children. Instead, test students correctly on a daily basis, with assessments and observations designed by their own classroom teachers and used for diagnostic purposes to improve learning. Realize that much of what matters most in education – including “21st and 22nd Century skills” like a child’s curiosity, perseverance through trials and failure, kindness and compassion, critical and abstract thinking, sense of leadership and teamwork, expressiveness, social skills and creativity – should be evaluated by classroom teachers, and can never be measured by standardized data collection.

Get real about classroom technology. A recent major study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that most classroom technology has had little or no academic benefit. “In most countries, the current use of technology is already past the point of optimal use in schools,” said  OECD official Andreas Schleicher. “We’re at a point where computers are actually hurting learning.” Spend money on childhood classroom technology extremely carefully, and don’t automatically throw out tools that work for unproven ones. Remember that screens deliver only a simulation of individualized instruction. Highly qualified teachers deliver the real thing.

Give children what they need to learn best, including reasonable class sizes, individualized attention from highly qualified teachers, a rich curriculum, regular breaks and physical activity, proper sleep and nutrition, reasonable workloads and downtime, warmth and encouragement, a screen-free “digital oasis” when appropriate, and social support services when necessary.

Let children be children. Let the children play. That’s how they learn.

Some skeptics dismiss Finland’s schools as being the product of its demographics, but they ignore the fact that its population size and poverty rate are similar to over two-thirds of American states, and in the United States, education is largely run at the state level.

Finland’s schools are the product of a unique culture. But so are the public schools of Canada, Singapore, Shanghai, Denmark, South Korea, Australia and Japan, as are the private schools attended by the world’s political and business elites. To automatically dismiss critical insights from any nation or school is a mistake. We can all learn from each other.

I have a suggestion for anyone who wants to improve children’s education. Start by coming to Finland.

As Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg says, “If you come to Finland, you’ll see how great American schools could be.”

If you look closely and open your mind, you may see the school of tomorrow today.”

While all of his points are excellent, the one that really catches my attention is

Maximize system-wide standards  by putting professional educators in charge  of education.  They are the ultimate experts on childhood education, not bureaucrats, politicians or technology vendors.

Unfortunately, this is the one admonition we most consistently ignore in Alabama.  Instead, we have too many decisions being made by politicians who know no more about education than they do about open heart surgery.  And we have too many people who are supposed to “represent” education without the backbone to challenge them.

The result?  Just what we have today.



Teachers Travel The Extra Miles

As reported here by WBRC in Birmingham, before school opened this year, teachers at Fultondale elementary on the north side of  Birmingham in the Jefferson County school system loaded buses and rode through neighborhoods to let students know they were looking forward to the start of school.

This was the idea of assistant principal Staci Lewis.  Susan Remick is in her second year as principal of this school which has about 900 students.  An educator for more than 20 years, Remick loved the ride and the fact teachers got to know one another better.

Watch the video.  You will be glad you did.

And speaking of traveling, in Baldwin County assistant superintendent Hope Zeanah continued her tradition of visiting all elementary schools on the first day of school.  Considering that this county covers more than 2,000 sq. miles and is the 12th largest east of the Mississippi River, this is no easy task.  There are more than 20 elementary schools in this rapidly growing system and it is 60 miles from Perdido school in the north end of the county to Orange Beach.

“As you can imagine, these are quick stops,” says Zeanah, who was an elementary principal for 16 years.  “I give the principal an apple, wish then well and I’m out the door.”

I know both Remick and Zeanah.  They are top-notch educators and are testimony to the dedication we have in schools across Alabama–though such dedication seldom makes headlines.

They are also testimony to the fact that so much of what we get all worked up about (and things I write about) such as how school boards are selected, whether or not our College & Career Ready standards turn kids into robots, charter schools, what do NAPE scores really mean, etc. seldom get a second thought when it comes to classrooms, teachers and students.

Say What?

When the state Republican executive committee met Aug. 24 to debate whether or not to support the constitutional amendment to keep an elected state school board or to have one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate, there was confusion as to how the standards called for in Common Core played a role.

Some seemed to think that going to an appointed board would lock us into what are called Alabama College & Career Ready standards, while others argued just the opposite.

When you read the legislation calling for the amendment, it is easy to see why folks are confused.

The bill says an appointed board shall adopt:

“Course of study standards that ensure nationwide consistency and the seamless transfer of students from within and outside of the state, in lieu of common core.”

Talk about legislative double speak?  This should be exhibit A.

Go back and read this again.  This directive contradicts itself.  From the outset of talk about Common Core, it has been about having standards that are common for all states.  This is so a student moving to Alabama from another state doesn’t discover the fourth grade class he enrolls in here is not studying what he learned last year in the third grade.  Or visa versa.

We have common standards everywhere you look.  A football field in Alabama is 100 yards long, just like one in Texas.  A touchdown in Ohio counts as six points, same as one in Alabama.

But for reasons I have never understood, some have thought such a notion makes no sense.

So we end up with the legislative mumble jumble cited above, which is akin to saying a red football jersey with a script A on it should not be associated with the University of Alabama.

And once again we see why education policy set by legislators often causes more harm than good.