EARLY — Representatives with the area’s small Christian, public and alternatives schools gave attendees of the State of the Small Schools Luncheon an in depth look at their respective campuses. 

After joining with the Brownwood Chamber of Commerce for the State of the School Luncheon, the Early Chamber of Commerce held a small school luncheon to give area superintendents, principals and other district representatives an opportunity to address the public and inform them of the new events and issues currently effecting their campuses.

“So many of our children go to these small schools,” Early Chamber of Commerce Interim Director Domonique Stephens said. “They are there most of the day with these educators and professionals that are doing it for the passion of education. It’s a time for us to be able to say thanks for being with our kids and part of the community. They are busy individuals and we’re just blessed to give them the opportunity to be here.

Steve Mickelson, Brookesmith ISD Superintendent

Mickelson reported the Brookesmith school district has gone from on the brink of shutting down to “alive and thriving” with enrollment around 170 students – a 62-student increase from 2017.

“We are making strides forward,” Mickelson said. “If you’ve never been to Brookesmith, then let us know. We’ll give you a tour of it. It’s one of the neatest places you can bring a child. We have an excellent teachers and it’s very pleasant. Our discipline issues are extremely low and the issues we have are extremely minor … I consider it a utopia and one of the best kept secrets in Texas.”

Kelsa Blair, Zephyr School principal

Blair reported Zephyr had an enrollment of 221 students with 35 staff members including a few part time employees to oversee those students. While highlighting campus extra curricular activities, Blair mentioned the efforts of new agriculture teacher Derek Ahearn, who decided to spearhead the program despite having a limited agriculture background.

“The most impressive thing to me was he started asking kids ‘What kind of projects do you want to see in Ag. Class this year?’” Blair said. “He started getting some of those ideas, then he started working on acquiring some of those things. He also recognized his own lack of experience and he applied for a mentorship program through Vocational Ag. Teacher Association of Texas. They have an ag. Teacher that will mentor him for an entire year. When I get done here, I’m going back to meet with his mentor for the first time. Some exciting things are happening.”

Debbie Haygood, Victory Life Academy principal

Haygood reported enrollment remained strong this semester and the school’s strength comes from its Christian philosophy built into its education model and its flexibility as a Christian school. Among the bigger announcements made during the Small Schools Luncheon was Victory Life Acadmey fielding a soccer team, which would be unique for a school its size.

“We’re rebuilding. We’re rebuilding our sports program. We’re working with soccer right now, training those students in soccer and will play some tournament games and some pickup games while it’s our first year,” Haygood said.

Billy Rudolf, Premiere High School representative

The Brownwood Campus of Premiere High School is one of 38 campus locations across Texas, which Rudolf said allow students the opportunity to complete their high school degrees. Without their accelerated program, many students would not receive their diplomas and advance to the workforce.

“Responsive Ed. (Premiere’s parent company) was built to respond to the needs of the community,” Rudolf said “We really saw a need to help some of these students who fell through the cracks and weren’t able to graduate or drop out for one reason or another. Twenty-five percent of freshmen don’t graduate on time and in the United States we have more than 1.2 million dropouts a year. What we found out, as studies show, 75 percent might not have dropped out if they had other options … We have 38 students at our campus in Early and 32 at our campus over in Comanche.”