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Decatur Excel Center Receives Little Red Schoolhouse Award

by Alyssa Godfrey, CLAS Director of Communications and Technology | Aug 28, 2020
Corrected August 28, 2020: This article originally stated the Excel Center won the Dr. James A. Street Award.

Decatur, Ala. – August 28, 2020: The Decatur Excel Center in the Decatur City School System was awarded the prestigious CLAS Little Red Schoolhouse Award. This award is typically presented during the annual CLAS Convention in June; however, due to Covid-19, the presentation took place in Decatur, Ala.

The Decatur Excel Center is an English Language program in the Decatur City School System and is the result of four years’ work. The two-in-one program focuses on newcomers and sheltered students within the school district.

Newcomers to the district, entering grades 6-12 who are not proficient in English, may take classes at Excel Center. The Excel Center is also open to junior high or high school students who want to increase their English proficiency may participate in the “sheltered” program. Decatur’s English Learner students voluntarily go to the Excel Center while also being part of their “home zone” school.

The Excel Center was a collaborative effort led by Special Education Supervisor Dr. Stefanie Underwood and Excel Center Principal Ressa Chittam with the support of Superintendent Dr. Michael Douglas. The result of the program has allowed the faculty, administrators, and transportation providers to better meet the needs of English Learners and their families to find academic and social success.

The Little Red Schoolhouse Award is given by the CLAS Board of Directors to a person, persons, school, or school system that has inaugurated a significant curriculum or instructional innovation deserving of statewide recognition. The program or activity should have a positive impact on the education of children, high potential for dissemination to other schools or systems, and demonstrate leadership in curriculum or instructional procedures in an Alabama school or school system.

“The Excel Center is a shining example of innovative leadership in our state,” said CLAS Executive Director Dr. Vic Wilson. “The level of thoughtful consideration and system-wide coordination put into the creation of the Excel Center to meet the needs of English language learners is a testament to the great things happening in Alabama’s schools.”

About CLAS: CLAS, the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools was founded in 1969 by a small group of school leaders to provide targeted professional development and support for Alabama’s public school administrators.  CLAS now serves eleven affiliates representing each type of public school/school system leader.  CLAS provides the framework to connect dedicated school administrators and other successful leaders with a network for professional growth and support.  CLAS is the premier professional learning provider for administrators in public schools in the state of Alabama.

Photo (L to R): Mitzi Dennis, retired educator; Heath Grimes, superintendent of Russellville City Schools and representative of ALA-EL (Alabama Leaders Advocating for English Learners); Stefanie Underwood, special education coordinator for Decatur City Schools; and Ressa Chittam, principal of the Excel Center. DOWNLOAD PHOTO

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