25 years, “and I want you to know that the state of your school district is outstanding.”
Madison City School superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols spoke to a crowded room of nearly 250 people bright and early on Wednesday morning as the keynote speaker for the “Back to School Breakfast: A Legacy Celebration” held by the Madison Chamber of Commerce and Madison City Schools.
The room was full of Madison residents, area business leaders, city officials, school administration, as well as several of those who were neck-deep in the years-long process of separating from Madison County Schools to create Madison City in the mid-1990s.
I’m sure those few in attendance who have been around since before the system’s inception enjoyed the walk down memory lane as the adorable Caroline Turner, a 6th-grade student at Liberty Middle School, starred in a light-hearted yet informative video that played prior to Dr. Nichols’s talk about how far the school district has come.
Dr. Nichols accepted the role as district superintendent in June 2020, a time when impossible scenarios required tough decisions during the early days of an unprecedented pandemic. He jokes during his keynote that one of the first calls he made before accepting his job was to LaTisha King, the executive secretary to the superintendent and Board of Education.
She’s been serving in her role for 24.5 years.
He wanted to ensure that she’d still be working in her role for the time being and joked that all of the superintendents before him know that Ms. King is the one who actually runs the show.
Dr. Nichols spent time praising many individuals and groups throughout the system who have worked and continue to work hard to ensure its success.
He chokes up though when he speaks of Mr. Eric Terrell, the assistant superintendent.
“He is beyond my comrade while working. He is my friend and brother.”
He continues to share that being a superintendent can be a lonely job “but that it’s never lonely because Eric Terrell is always there.”
He pauses once more and then shares that “working with him makes me a better human being.”
With a mix of humor and pride, Dr. Nichols shares objective numbers about the system’s growth in 25 years and how all of the data stacks up against other systems throughout the state.
Since 1998, Madison City Schools has grown by an average of 321 students per year. 22% of Madison residents are students, compared to roughly 10% of the population in other top districts.
Dr. Nichols shares that Madison City Schools represents the globe as a whole thanks to 59+ languages that are spoken throughout the district.
Financially, Madison City Schools does “more with less” and works hard to ensure every dollar is spent wisely.
A recent expense that Dr. Nichols was adamant about: upgraded playgrounds at every elementary school.
“If we have (those playgrounds) at brand new Midtown (Elementary), we should have a world-class playground for all children.”
He jokes that mulch on playgrounds is one of his biggest pet peeves, and that “if we can put down the artificial turf for the football teams, we can do it for the kids.”
Other new developments that Dr. Nichols shared excitedly about were the new special education wing at Bob Jones High School as well as the new Pre-K center located in the former West Madison Elementary School. Both the special education wing and the pre-k center will open after Labor Day.
Looking ahead, Dr. Nichols discusses the growth that’s expected system-wide and casts a vision for an innovation center where a variety of classes and extracurriculars can meet, study, and create outside of regular classrooms.
“We want to be known as the place to be when people move to this community. We want them to find a place to live in Madison, Alabama because this is the place where they would want their children.”
“For 25 years we have grasped and held onto the vision that was planted 25 years ago. That seed has grown into the most beautiful tree that flourished, planted roots, and nourishes children every day.”
Would you like to attend this event next August to hear annual updates from our city’s school system? The Madison Chamber of Commerce is excited to make this an annual event for the city.