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Combating Perceptions

A Leader Works with Lawmakers to Improve His District

by Dr. Rod Berger

Dr. Tom Sisk took over the job of superintendent of Limestone County Schools in Athens, Alabama, in June 2012, by a unanimous vote of the school board. His leadership has brought about a complete restructuring of central office cabinet-level leadership, and identification of new revenue streams to support much-needed capital improvements. Tom has also championed a three-fold district curriculum focus: Embrace the Alabama College- and Career-Ready Standards (CCRS); Adopt best practices in school improvement and instruction; and Support 21st Century Learning with the 1:1 Digital Passport Initiative (DPI).

Tom’s goal is to have parents choose public education over private or homeschooling options. To help achieve public school acceptance, his district has launched a virtual school program called the Distance Learning Academy, which currently has 450 students statewide who physically do not attend Limestone County schools, but are considered Limestone County students. They have 400 more students in the application process, which is thoroughly vetted to ensure student success.

They didn’t overlook the importance of face-to-face socialization in K-12 learning when designing their virtual school program. Field trips are scheduled and project-based learning programs are implemented on a regional basis. It allows students to learn and refine important social interaction skills that can sometimes be lacking in the relative isolation of the homeschooling environment.

On account of the virtual school platform being only a year old, to some, there is an impression that the district is trying to poach students from other public school districts to receive additional funding. To combat this perception, Tom worked with the state legislature in the last session to have a virtual school law passed. The law requires all 136 school district in the state to have a virtual school policy which addresses territorial issues and concerns.

It’s commitment to the big picture, as well as an impressive progressive attitude that makes Tom a top-flight superintendent.

About Dr. Tom Sisk

Dr. Tom Sisk has served as the Superintendent for Limestone County Schools in Athens, Alabama, since 2012. Tom was born in Ohio and grew up in rural West Virginia

Tom earned an associate’s degree in secondary education from Potomac State College of West Virginia in Keyser, and followed that up by completing his bachelor’s secondary education. He went on to earn a master’s degrees in special education at West Virginia University.

He began his career as a teacher in Virginia before moving to Alabama in 1995 to teach high school and coach at Foley High School. In 1999, Tom became Foley’s assistant principal, and later oversaw human resources for Baldwin County Schools in Bay Minette, Alabama.

Follow Dr. Tom Sisk on Twitter.

This article was originally published on Huffington Post by Dr. Rod Berger.

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