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Taylor ready to begin new era at John Essex

Luke Taylor III hit the ground running in his first days as the principal of John Essex School, getting his office organized and preparing the school for the upcoming 2010-11 school year.

Taylor came to Essex after serving as the principal of Southside High School in Selma for two years. Before that, he served one year as the principal of Wilcox County Alternative School in Camden.

Taylor said he pursued the position at John Essex because of its similarities with Southside and its potential for success.

“When you look at the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) data, John Essex had almost similar data to Southside, down to the percentage of AYP points and making 12 out of 13 goals,” Taylor said. “Both schools’ scores were almost synonymous. I also have some family members in this area — including my grandmother, Virginia Braxton, and my mother’s niece, Marilyn Whitfield — and that made it a little more interesting.

“I looked at the school and thought that they are almost where they need to be, and I think I know what it is that I can do to push this school forward and move it towards making AYP and reaching those state standards.”

Taylor earned his bachelor of science degree in language arts education from Alabama State University in 1997 and his master of science degree in school counseling from ASU in 2001. He received certification in administration in 2003, and is currently pursuing his doctorate, having completed all of the courses and is working on Chapter 3 of his dissertation at Walden University in Minnesota.

“I’m very excited about that,” he said. “I hope to be through by the end of the year.”

Taylor succeeds Loretta McCoy, who was released by the school in accordance with a $4-million improvement grant the school received last month. That grant will also bring other changes to the way that classes are taught and will provide up-to-date technologies to the classroom.

“We’ve been through extensive training this summer with standard space instruction,” Taylor said. “That is teaching the teachers how to teach towards the interests of the students and how to differentiate instruction where each of the child’s individual needs are met. We will be looking at learning styles, whether that is hands-on, kinesthetic or visual learning, and incorporate that and give choices in the lessons.

“As far as the technologies that come with the grant, it will be second to none. We’re going to have the highest technology in each classroom, down to handheld laptops for the students and things of that nature. We are in exciting times!

“Our schedule will allow us to look at classroom data every day of the week,” he said. “We are going to be on a 7:30 schedule until 2:30 for students. However, teachers will come in at 7 and will not be able to leave until 3:30. So, from 2:30 to 3:30 every day, we’re going to have some type of professional development or data meetings to look at our students’ data to see if they meet or exceed the standards for those goals.

“We will have a full access distance learning lab, where children who may want to take classes that we don’t offer can take the class online. We are excited about that.”

Taylor said he wanted to send the message to students that the school wants them there, and that they will get a first-class education at John Essex. He added that he wanted to let the students who dropped out know that they would be welcomed back to complete their education.