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Board recognizes ‘heroic’ efforts at basketball championship

On March 5, just before the Vestavia Hills High School girls basketball team was set to tip off against rival Hoover for the Class 7A state championship, rumors of shots being fired sent students and guests scrambling for safety.

In the commotion stood Hoke Smith, a senior who excelled as a member of the Rebels offensive line as well as in the classroom. Smith, committed to the US Naval Academy, helped female students over a guardrail and into a safe area. When the all-clear went out from on-site security, which later found no shots had been fired, Vestavia Hills City Schools Superintendent Todd Freeman found Smith and asked him to relay the news to students.

Freeman, recognizing Smith for his efforts at the March 21 Board of Education meeting, told board members he trusted Smith to get the message to his classmates because he knew his fellow students would trust him.

Smith’s middle school and now high school principal, Tonya Rozell, praised Smith.

“I’m just proud of you,” Rozell said. “You’ve definitely made an impact everywhere you’ve been, and we can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next. You’re going to be missed.”

Also recognized for his efforts that day was Bill Mann. Freeman said the school system received a letter of appreciation for Mann’s efforts to keep students safe from the Alabama Department of Education.

The school board on March 21 approved Mann as the new principal at the Vestavia Hills High School Freshman Campus, following the retirement of current Principal David Howard. Mann currently serves as an assistant principal at Vestavia Hills High School.

The board also heard an update from Rozell and Athletic Director Myra Miles on the school system’s strategic athletic plan.

Athletes at the high school now will have an extra strength and conditioning course along with the existing athletic period, both in and out of season. Miles said while Vestavia’s emphasis on academics is not changing, the school system is seeking to improve athletically in order to compete. Having two periods, which will come, depending on the sport, at the beginning and/or end of the school day, is a boost from a team-building aspect, Miles said. That change does not impact the freshman campus, which will continue with its existing athletic period, Miles said.

Miles said the renovations to the fieldhouse are continuing, adding office and meeting space, as well as a nutrition center. The athletic department is also raising funds, with a goal of $1 million to pay for a new jumbotron. About half of that had been raised as of the March 21 meeting, she said.

Miles also said a new broadcast team featuring former news anchor Scott Griffin would be taking over for football season and would broadcast on YouTube and Facebook.

In Freeman’s report to the board, he reiterated that there is no need for a high school in Liberty Park, even after the City Council approved The Bray development March 14. The expected impact from that development is about 1,000 new students, spread over 13 grade levels, meaning there will be, on average, 77 new students in each grade. Freeman said the high school has enough capacity to accommodate the roughly 200 new students it would gain from the development.

A new elementary school will be needed in the future and likely would have been needed regardless of how the council voted, Freeman said. As part of The Bray development, Liberty Park Joint Venture donated 15 acres of land to be used for a school building. Freeman told the board that while the creation of a new school is not currently in the system’s capital plans, it will be considered in the future. At some point, there will have to be school zoning plans created as well, Freeman said.

In other business, the board:

► Approved new English textbooks

► Approved the new parent/student handbook

► Approved new three-year contracts for both Vestavia Hills Elementary Liberty Park Principal Blair Inabinet and Liberty Park Middle School Principal Roger Dobnikar

► Approved an investment grade audit with Schneider Electric, which is performing an energy audit of all school system facilities. The company recently finished updating the lighting at the high school and is working on replacing the chiller and boiler there before moving on to a partial roof replacement at Vestavia Hills Elementary East.

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