FLORENCE — Even as Florence High School Principal Rod Sheppard was receiving a banner Tuesday from the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools, he already had plans for where it would go.
"When you walk in the door of Florence High School, this will be the first banner you see," Sheppard said, moments after CLAS Executive Director Vic Wilson presented it to him. "It's elating. We are very excited to receive this, especially realizing you are in competition with all of the schools in the state and there is only one winner from each district."
Wilson said 185 schools from the state applied for the CLAS distinction, with four from each of Alabama's eight school districts receiving the recognition. One of the four in each district receives the Banner School title, with Florence High School winning for District 7.
The other three Distinction schools in the district were Muscle Shoals' Howell Graves Preschool and two Tuscaloosa magnet schools, officials said. The award also comes with a $750 check.
Wilson said the banner that the eight schools across the state receive is a way to showcase the fact that the school has a program that is doing something special.
"We want to make sure that everybody knows what's going on," he said.
Florence High School won for its "Lunch with the Keys" program. Florence City Schools Superintendent Jimmy Shaw nominated the program for the award.
Organized by Pete and Sharlene Key, Lunch with the Keys is a sort of mentoring program that takes place outside the classroom that centers around the types of engaging conversations that occur around a dinner table, school system officials said.
It has been in place for five years, and Sheppard said it makes a difference and helps with character, conflict resolution, communication and leadership.
"You see grades improve, attendance improve and discipline issues reduce when students are part of this," he said.
Pete Key said the idea behind the program makes sense.
“Why is it that when a student fails algebra or an academic subject, we get them a tutor?" Key asked. "Also, if a student needs help in athletics, we get a trainer, but when a student misbehaves, we send them to ISS or alternative school. What programs do we have in place to help them modify the behavior that landed them in alternative school in the first place?”