TCSS News & Notes - 2.24.21

News for Tuscaloosa County School System Faculty & Staff

TCHS Senior Plays Role in Historic Space Exploration Event

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On February 18, as the world watched the landing of the largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world, students and teachers at Tuscaloosa County High School also watched closely, with a special connection to the event. Attached to the Perseverance rover is the Ingenuity Mars helicoper, which will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. The name “Ingenuity” was chosen by TCHS senior Vaneeza Rupani, who was one of 28,000 students who entered a NASA contest to name the rover and helicopter.

"The ingenuity and brilliance of people working hard to overcome the challenges of interplanetary travel are what allow us all to experience the wonders of space exploration," Rupani wrote in her contest essay submission. "Ingenuity is what allows people to accomplish amazing things, and it allows us to expand our horizons to the edges of the universe."

In celebration of the landing, NASA sent stickers and posters to TCHS. The Tuscaloosa Krispy Kreme location also delivered some of their Mars donuts, in commemoration of the Mars landing.

According to NASA, this mission is a pivotal moment for space exploration and will help prepare for human exploration of Mars.

Thanks to WVUA 23 and Mike Royer for featuring Vaneeza and her accomplishment in a Spirit of Alabama report. See the story by playing the video below.

Congratulations to Vaneeza on being part of this historic moment and for representing our schools and community so well!

Mars Landing Spirit

Board Approves Temporary Pay Increase for Substitute Teachers and LPN Substitutes

At the February 22 Board of Education meeting, the Board approved a temporary increase in substitute teacher pay and LPN substitute pay. The pay increase is effective March 1, 2021, through the end of this school year. The table below shows current pay rates and the pay rates under the temporary increase. (The LPN rate shown is an hourly rate, not a daily rate.)

How will the temporary pay increase be funded?

CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding will be used to fund the temporary pay increase. CARES Act funding has also been used this year to provide schools with long-term substitutes that are available each day. This funding has been vital in helping our schools to cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, specifications dictate how CARES Act funding can be spent, and it is not a permanent source of funding. Therefore, it is used to fund a temporary pay increase. Also, CARES funding cannot be used for our Child Nutrition Program.

Who pays for our substitutes during non-COVID times?

The State reimburses TCSS for two days of sick leave per employee and two days of personal leave per employee ($60 per certified teacher). Anything more than that comes from local funds. This costs TCSS more than $1 million each year.

Our schools are always in need of substitutes to fill a variety of roles, and that need has been even greater during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are thankful for their service to our schools. Visit this page to learn more about substitute opportunities in the Tuscaloosa County School System. Please share this information with anyone you know who might be a good fit for serving as a substitute for TCSS.

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Mrs. Glendora Stephens to Retire, Mrs. Michelle Townsend to Serve as Interim CSFO

Congratulations to TCSS Chief School Financial Officer Mrs. Glendora Stephens on her upcoming retirement! Mrs. Stephens retires at the end of this month.

While the search for the next CSFO of the Tuscaloosa County School System is underway, Mrs. Michelle Townsend has agreed to serve as Interim CSFO. The Board approved Mrs. Townsend to begin in this role on Monday, March 1.

Planning for Opening of Northport Intermediate & Reconfiguration of TCHS Feeder Pattern Schools

At the February 22 Board of Education meeting, the Board approved two steps toward the August opening of Northport Intermediate School and the upcoming grade reconfiguration of schools in the TCHS feeder pattern.

Mr. Michael Tilford Named Northport Intermediate Principal

The board approved Myrtlewood Elementary principal Mr. Michael Tilford (pictured above) as principal of Northport Intermediate School. In her recommendation to the Board, Superintendent Dr. Keri Johnson said Mr. Tilford's professional experience makes him a good fit for the new 5th and 6th grade school. She also noted that the transition will be bittersweet, with Mr. Tilford moving on from Myrtlewood Elementary. Mr. Tilford's effective date at Northport Intermediate Principal is still to be determined. The search will also begin for a new leader for Myrtlewood Elementary.

One-Year Delay in NES & HPES Reconfiguration

The board also approved a one-year delay in the reconfiguration of Northport Elementary and Huntington Place Elementary to K through 4th grade schools. There are a number of reasons that prompted this decision. The current environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has not been conducive to the detailed work that comes with completely reconfiguring two elementary schools. Also, with COVID-related remediation and the implementation of the Alabama Literacy Act, all available elementary teachers will be needed this summer in conjunction with those efforts. This is time that would have been used in the reconfiguration of the schools. It is also important to preserve some much-needed break time for teachers. Finally, the one-year delay will also create time to examine new Census data and growth and development information, to create the most appropriate zoning for the two schools.

2021-2022 Grade Configuration for TCHS Feeder Pattern Schools

The approved grade configuration for TCHS feeder pattern schools for 2021-2022 is below. The reconfiguration does not involve zoning changes.

K through Grade 4:

Crestmont Elementary

Flatwoods Elementary

Faucett-Vestavia Elementary

Matthews Elementary

Pre-K through Grade 2:

Northport Elementary

Grades 3 and 4:

Huntington Place Elementary

Grades 5 and 6:

Collins-Riverside – Will serve students from Crestmont, Faucett-Vestavia, and Matthews Elementary Schools.

Northport Intermediate – Will serve students from Flatwoods and Huntington Place Elementary Schools.

Grades 7 and 8:

Echols Middle School – All students in the TCHS feeder pattern (rising from Collins-Riverside and Northport Intermediate) will attend Echols Middle.

Read more on the TCSS web site.

Commission Recognizes TCSS Career Technical Education Programs & CTE Month

In conjunction with Career Technical Education Month, the Tuscaloosa County Commission recognized the hard work of the educators and students involved in our Career Technical Education programs. TCSS is proud of the growth within our CTE offerings. These opportunities are very beneficial in preparing our students for their futures, as well as in creating a strong and prepared workforce of the future.

Read an article from Tuscaloosa Patch about the Commission's proclamation and progress within our CTE programs.

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Architects and Construction Managers Approved for Various Construction Projects

At its February 22 meeting, the Board of Education approved items related to construction projects across the Tuscaloosa County School System. These projects are being funded by approximately $22 million in Alabama Public School and College Authority (APSCA) bond issue money. In order to be funded with this money, projects must be completed within the next two years.

Approved at the February 22 Board meeting:

Architect and Construction Manager Approved for Vance Elementary Addition

Architect and Construction Manager Approved for Myrtlewood Elementary Renovation

Architect and Construction Manager Approved for Northside Middle Expansion/Renovation

Architect and Construction Manager Approved for Hillcrest High cafeteria expansion

Construction manager approved for Northside High Baseball Facility

At the February 8 Board of Education meeting, an architect was approved for the addition of a Career Technical Education Annex at Hillcrest High and an activity building for Taylorville Primary.

COVID-19 Data Updates Available at Our TCSS Web Site

Every two weeks, TCSS publishes new data regarding the impact of COVID-19 on our schools.

The most recent update is available here.

Neighborhood Bridges Tuscaloosa County Serves as a Gateway to Kindness for Students & Families

Thank you to the community partners who have worked to make Neighborhood Bridges Tuscaloosa County a reality! Through technology and social media, Neighborhood Bridges creates a “bridge” that connects community resources with TCSS students and families in need.

Visit our TCSS web site to learn more about Neighborhood Bridges Tuscaloosa County, and how you can support this effort. Two of the best ways you can support Neighborhood Bridges is to sign up for their email alerts, and share information about Neighborhood Bridges with people and organizations in our community who want to support students.

Thank you to the Tuscaloosa Education Foundation, Tuscaloosa County Commission, Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority, and the educators within our school system working to make Neighborhood Bridges possible.

Congratulations to This Year's Honorees!

Congratulations to our 2021 TCSS Educator Recognition Award recipients! This year's honorees are a representation of the many outstanding faculty and staff members who serve our students and community so well, particularly throughout the challenges of the past year. Congratulations to all of the honorees, and thank you for what you mean to our students.

This year's system-wide honorees are:

Teacher of the Year - Elementary Level: Mrs. Alicia Bynum, Walker Elementary

Teacher of the Year - Secondary Level: Mrs. Leah Hughes, Hillcrest High

Support Employee of the Year: Mrs. Michelle Townsend, Accountant, Central Office

Principal of the Year: Mr. Steven Sims, Collins-Riverside Middle (pictured above)

Assistant Principal of the Year: Dr. Cay Strickland, Sipsey Valley Middle

View a gallery of all 2021 TCSS Educator Recognition Award recipients here.

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Share Your Ideas and Feedback

If you have ideas for stories and topics you would like to see featured in News & Notes, please contact me. I'd love your feedback!

Terri Brewer

TCSS Director of Public Relations