By Kaitlin Fleming
Etowah High School is beginning the new school year with a new principal and the students and faculty are excited for the future possibilities.
Ryan Barkley taught at Glencoe High School for eight years until former Etowah Principal Jeff Colegrove contacted him about an assistant principal position in 2013. Barkley graduated from Etowah in 1999 and was a member of the 1999 Blue Devils’ Class 5A State Championship team. He said he was proud to be back. After Principal Colegrove became the principal at Gadsden City High School, Ryan Barkley moved up to principal at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.
Barkley said he truly enjoyed working with Jeff Colegrove and he was torn when Colegrove left.
“As assistant principal I mainly dealt with discipline and attendance,” said Barkley. “Now as principal, I am responsible for everything going on in this school. I have to know every detail of every day and it is a whole new world.”
When Barkley began his job as assistant principal, he said that there was room to improve the school. And the school has improved since 2013-14.
In 2012 there were 628 students written up. In 2014 there were only 488. Barkley says that he hopes this year there will be less than 400. Attendance has also improved. In the 2012-13 school year there was 93 percent of students attending regularly but in the 2014-15 school year it improved to 97 percent.
So what is the new principal bringing to the table this year? Training programs, year-long schedules and safety procedures are just a few of the new plans.
“Last year we had 40 students enrolled in AP courses here, this year we have 170,” said Barkley. “That speaks for itself. We have new training programs that show teachers how to challenge students and how to set a more in-depth curriculum.”
Barkley said he’s starting to see a positive shift in school culture.
“Etowah has gained a bad reputation over the years, but we want the community to see us as the great school that we really are,” said Barkley. “We have been stressing to our students that when they go out on the weekends and attend games, they represent our school. We hope our students will show the community just how hard we work.”
The numbers back up what Barkley said. The school seems to be improving, and the teachers and students looked happy to be at school.
“Our students are behaving better and our teachers are noticing and rewarding those students,” Barkley said. “Now we make positive phone calls. We call parents and say ‘Hey your child is doing good, their tests have improved, they picked up trash, etc.’ and that has improved that positive attitude around campus.”
Not only are the academics improving, but also the community is looking forward to seeing the Blue Devils dominate the sports competition this year.
“We have a great group of kids, really exceptional characters and we’re excited for football this year,” said Barkley.