10 months ago

An inside look at Alabama’s first-in-the-nation School of Cyber Technology and Engineering

The new Alabama School for Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) in Huntsville is the first high school of its kind in the United States. Yellowhammer News recently got an inside look at how it is operating, and what its plans are for the future.

ASCTE is currently midway through its first semester with students in the classrooms. A state-of-the-art campus is currently under construction on Research Park in Huntsville, but for this year and next, the school meets on the campus of Oakwood University.

Created by an act of the state legislature in 2018, ASCTE is a public magnet school for students in Alabama. It offers the opportunity for students to live on campus in dorms, so it can be attended by any high school age student in the state, and tuition is free for all who enroll.

Its school supplies list for the fall included “empty 2-liter bottles for a rocket project.”

Background

Alabama has two institutions similar to ASCTE — the School of Fine Arts in Birmingham and the School of Math and Science in Mobile; they both also have students live on campus and are available for free to Alabamians who satisfy the admission requirements.

However, not one school in the entire nation shares ASCTE’s comprehensive focus on cyber technology and engineering.

The legislative effort in Montgomery to create ASCTE was spearheaded by State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and strongly supported by Governor Kay Ivey and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. Those three figures all spoke favorably about how the project was coming along at a recent groundbreaking for the new campus.

Matt Massey is the president of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. The school’s board of trustees conducted a nationwide search for the right person to fill the job and found Massey right in their backyard. He had been serving since 2014 as superintendent of the Madison County School System.

“This was just different, where you get to start everything from scratch,” Massey said about taking the job at ASCTE, adding that what excited him was getting to “do things like change the way education has been done for the last 150 years.”

Matt Massey (Henry Thornton/YHN)

“We’re an investment for Alabama in itself; the Alabama students have an opportunity to get an education in K-12 that nobody else in the country has,” Massey said of ASCTE’s role in the state.

Before being elected superintendent in 2014, Massey spent years teaching math in the Madison County School System. That is where he met his wife, Jenny, or in his words, “the English teacher across the hall.” The couple and their three kids live in Huntsville.

Intelligent and welcoming in person, Massey has been granted significant authority to shape the pioneering new high school he leads. Massey has structured the organization after a university. Next to his office sits the dean of learning, who left a place in leadership at Athens State University to join ASCTE. Other staff members have the title “instructor” or “director.”

“We get to determine what are the graduation requirements for our students, and what classes do you have to take,” relayed Massey, who described his school as being “completely independent” of normal state standards but answerable to a 19-person board that approves the curriculum, graduation requirements and other important matters.

The composition of the ASCTE Board of Trustees is laid out in the legislation that created the school, and it includes government officials, university presidents and someone appointed by the governor from each of the state’s seven congressional districts.

Massey says he and his team did not feel like ASCTE “could guarantee quality” via virtual learning options due to its unique curriculum. That cost the school a student from the Black Belt who was admitted but chose not to attend because of COVID-19. Beyond the one student who could not enroll, the pandemic has affected the ability of employees to travel, recruit students and otherwise publicize itself.

As far as the operations of the school year on campus, the pandemic has not been overly disruptive. ASCTE has attentive testing protocols and space to quarantine kids if they get a positive result. All students are required to wear masks when inside, a rule which employees told Yellowhammer has been met with less than expected resistance.

Teachers at ASCTE have been hired from a wide range of backgrounds. The unique requirements of creating courses with no exact template demanded a degree of outside the box thinking, according to Massey, who added that he made a “concerted effort not just to hire teachers out of the local schools,” and ended up with only one instructor from a Huntsville area system.

The head engineering teacher came to the school after 30 years with Boeing, and his equivalent in cybertechnology comes to ASCTE from the Missile Defense Agency. Two other teachers moved from the Montgomery area and suburban Atlanta, respectively.

Yellowhammer News asked one ASCTE instructor, Brad Irish, what it was like to teach a group of kids with such specialized interests and abilities.

“Honestly, they are just like any other kids, they’re just a little more geeky,” he said with affection.

How it is working

The building where ASCTE classes are being held in 2020. (Henry Thornton/YHN)

For 2020, the school’s first year, there are 70 students enrolled, 30 of whom are boarding on campus. A coronavirus-impacted recruitment process saw about 130 Alabamians apply for the inaugural ASCTE class.

Massey told Yellowhammer that ASCTE staff focused on middle school scholars bowl and honor band competitions for recruiting students, saying that a “grassroots effort” was required for the early days.

The 70 students are split into four teams of 17 or 18 kids, each of which takes all its classes together. ASCTE currently has three teams of 9th graders and one team of 10th graders.

Ninth graders take physics as their first science course at ASCTE, whereas the vast majority of public schools begin with biology, a small example of curricular freedom given to ASCTE.

All classes, in all subjects, “fit in line with the mission of the school,” according to Massey.

Clicking image opens ASCTE academic guidance in a new tab. (ASCTE)

ASCTE does not and will not divvy up their kids into advanced level and standard level classes, according to Massey. Leadership wants each pupil to experience the same curriculum and believes their admission criteria selects for a high enough caliber student that separating by ability is not worthwhile.

“We have high expectations for all of them,” Massey explained.

A world history class at ASCTE gives focus to the timeline of important engineering advances across the ages; students may build a miniature trebuchet during a medieval physics enrichment class. English classes focus on professional and technical writing.

“Less poetry and more on writing how an engineer would write,” Massey said in response to a question on what an English course at ASCTE looks like.

Each student at ASCTE is given a laptop when they arrive on campus, a privilege not often enjoyed at the high school level. Conversely, enrollees are also subject to a stricter dress code than most schools: male students are required to wear collared shirts to class and no student is allowed torn or ripped blue jeans, for instance.

A typical ASCTE class (Henry Thornton/YHN)

Arts are included in the ASCTE curriculum; in the current school year, students are taking a class on how to create digital music via software on their laptops.

Regulatory freedom also allows ASCTE to grade its students differently than other high schools. Both the letter and number scale used by the school differ from what is traditional, which Massey sees as an asset.

The old 100-point scale of grading, with its letter assignments beginning at 60 and changing every 10 points, frustrated Massey.

“We have sixty points to document an ‘F,’ there are 60 ways to fail! That is really kind of ridiculous,” he remarked about the traditional grading method.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Within ASCTE’s system, a traditional B grade from an 85 is roughly equivalent to a P grade from 3.5. Massey gives a detailed explanation of the grading system here.

Massey said that a challenge for the school in the early going has been the varying qualities of education received at the middle schools the kids attended previously.

He explained that one student who arrived might have taken Algebra 2 in eighth grade, while another might have gone to a middle school that does not even offer Algebra 1.

“That is why we chose to be grades 9-12,” advised Massey, who believes those years allow enough flexibility that pre-existing imbalances can be leveled off.

A day at ASCTE’s engineering class (Matt Massey/ASCTE/Contributed)

For some classes at ASCTE, no student will have previous experience in, outside of hobbies they might have pursued on their own. Engineering instructor Bryan Martin said his goal for the first year of teaching was to put all his students “on the same foundation” and teach them the basics of the field, such as how to use computer-aided design (CAD) software.

“Nobody really came in knowing CAD,” added Massey about the students’ relationship to the advanced software being taught, “It doesn’t matter where you come from, this is new for everybody.”

Life on campus

Oakwood University, a historically black Seventh Day Adventist school with a 1,600-acre campus, is hosting both the school and the boarding students on its campus in northwest Huntsville.

ASCTE’s cutting edge campus is scheduled to open in the fall of 2022.

Massey called Oakwood “a great partner” in the ASCTE endeavor and praised the university’s leadership for how accommodating they had been to their new neighbors.

A construction delay at the Oakwood dormitory over the summer meant that ASCTE’s students are living in small housing pods that are reformatted professor housing. A selection of ASCTE staff live alongside the students to provide guidance, oversight and care.

An example of where a group of ASCTE boarders live in 2020. (Henry Thornton/YHN

Yellowhammer News was told on multiple occasions that several of the boarding students have taken to the freely available table tennis and air hockey tables.

Others may prefer video games, which can be played communally on common room televisions, or board games, which are readily accessible and often kept going for days at a time.

Students are not allowed TVs in the rooms where they sleep in an effort to foster greater levels of community.

The common area of a dwelling where ASCTE boarders live. (Henry Thornton/YHN)

Still another group of attendees have created and tend to a garden, even forming a club around their new agricultural interest. Club participation and recreation are big parts of afternoons on campus. Massey is the sponsor of the fishing club, which he says he particularly enjoys.

Yellowhammer asked the school counselor at ASCTE what the biggest challenges are, from her perspective, among the students.

“Just kids adjusting to living away from home as 9th graders. That is a pretty big deal when you are 14 years old,” she responded.

Students were not allowed to choose roommates upon enrolling at ASCTE. Administrators see having to cohabitate with someone who may come from a different background or have differing views as a positive aspect of the boarding environment.

ASCTE’s meals are prepared by the kitchen staff at a nearby event center and brought to the campus for consumption, an arrangement that proved fortuitous for both organizations as the coronavirus pandemic has greatly reduced the demands on the event center.

Boarding students have meals provided each night, but also have kitchens available for light cooking.

The school does charge students for meal plans, but assistance is available to any individual where the cost might strain finances at home.

Students told Yellowhammer they generally enjoyed the on-campus lifestyle and how close-knit they had become. A teacher who resides alongside the students praised the “family atmosphere.”

The original plan for weekends at ASCTE included many field trips to spots like movie theaters, but the coronavirus pandemic has put a dent in those plans. Outings to escape rooms and local shopping centers have been accomplished with the proper precautions.

Jordan Bolte, ASCTE’s director of residential life, came to the school after a string of jobs in the field at colleges, most recently at Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

“We have a lot of students that are not only articulate, but also thoughtful, about why they are here and what they want to do,” Bolte told Yellowhammer about ASCTE kids.

“When I was 14, I think I had just discovered I had thumbs,” he added jokingly.

“I think it takes a special kind of student to come here and say, ‘I want to be an engineer, I want to be a programmer, I want to work in cybersecurity, and here is how I think I will get there,'” he advised with respect to the students he deals with each day.

The future

Plans currently have ASCTE doubling in size each of the next four years, with a goal of over 320 students enrolled by 2024.

For the foreseeable future, half of ASCTE’s enrollees will be students in the Huntsville area; the new campus will have 150 beds for boarding students.

The School of Math and Science in Mobile, which requires all attendees to board, has around 280 students. The School of Fine Arts, which allows some students to live at home in a similar fashion to ASCTE, has around 340 enrolled.

Every one of Alabama’s 138 public school systems is guaranteed a spot for at least one student in each incoming class of students at ASCTE once it reaches full enrollment.

Massey says a priority for him is “reaching farther into South Alabama” for enrollees in the coming years. He says that many students currently enrolled were referred to the school by superintendents or pushed to apply by their middle school principals.

Courses developed at ASCTE will eventually be exported to any other school in Alabama that wishes to add them to its curriculum. Officials at the institution say that only a patchwork of engineering classes currently exist in Alabama’s public schools.

On top of developing a number of courses that other schools could teach if they wish, Massey also envisions “cyber camps” in other counties that ASCTE could play a role in shaping so the school can demonstrate benefits to the state outside the Huntsville area.

Students at ASCTE in the coming years will take a biotechnology course that is being developed in concert with scientists at the world-renowned HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, one of the many ways ASCTE draws on the resources available in the Rocket City to strengthen its offerings.

Martin, the engineering instructor, and Massey both told Yellowhammer that they collaborate with “industry partners” on the development of things like their engineering courses.

“We’ll connect Raytheon with them, we’ll get Boeing and some of their cyber folks to come and help with how to incorporate cyber and engineering,” explained Massey.

Raytheon is, to this point, the biggest industry backer of ASCTE, having given $4 million towards the new campus. The legislation that created ASCTE allows for fundraising from private sources to help boost the school beyond what is possible with state funds.

Artist rendering of future ASCTE campus. (Huntsville Madison County Chamber)

In media appearances, Raytheon executives have expressed that they see a growing shortage of cyber and engineering workers in the coming years and want to encourage kids to focus on those subjects in school.

A large selection of faculty housing is being built alongside the dorms on the new campus, a decision Massey says was influenced by what he saw on the campuses of Baylor and McCallie, two successful private boarding schools in Tennessee.

Massey remarked to Yellowhammer News about what he would like to see once his students become graduates.

“We have great universities here in the state. We want our kids to see those opportunities, and we want them to stay in Alabama. We want them to go to college in Alabama and come back and contribute,” he replied.

Massey added, “Our students are going to get a leg up on some of these industry and governmental agency opportunities that other students in other states don’t have.”

What the students have to say

One student, a sophomore who had been homeschooled in years past, said ASCTE “was not all what I expected.”

“It is probably better,” she continued, “It is an amazing school.”

Joshua Ledlow, a 10th grader at ASCTE, told Yellowhammer that ASCTE is “leaps and bounds better” than his previous school experiences.

“All of the teachers are very passionate about what they are teaching, and that is very clear in the way they communicate what you need to learn,” he stated.

A career in the military, either the Air Force or Army, is the goal for ASCTE sophomore Sam Ware.

“To me, the main reason I wanted to come here was there is a lot of, I guess you could say, growing up that you have to do,” explained Ware, one of the boarding students.

He believes the ASCTE curriculum and environment are what he needs to prepare himself “to be a leader down the road.”

When a classroom of students was asked by Yellowhammer if they would recommend ASCTE to their friends with similar interests, they all nodded their heads, “yes.”

Editor’s note: Students interested in applying to ASCTE next year can click here to get more information on how to apply.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

12 hours ago

Birmingham-Southern College to impose fee on unvaccinated students

Unless students of Birmingham-Southern College are vaccinated against COVID-19, those who attend the private liberal arts school will be forced to pay a $500 fee “to offset continual weekly antigen testing and quarantining.”

In an email sent to students, the college announced its pandemic protocols for those returning to campus for the fall semester. In what appears to be an effort to encourage students to receive the vaccine, BSC told students it will levy a monetary charge against those who are unvaccinated. The school cited the need for funding to be applied toward COVID-related mitigation measures as a reason for the charge.

The email reads in part, “Due to the lack of federal funds for pandemic precautions this term, all students will initially be charged $500 for the fall term to offset continual weekly antigen testing and quarantining. Students who are fully vaccinated prior to the beginning of fall term will receive an immediate $500 rebate.”

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The college announced in the email that it has also set separate move-in dates for vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

The College Republican Federation of Alabama (CRFA) has condemned the move as discriminatory against students who have chosen not to receive the vaccine.

“The College Republican Federation of Alabama condemns this obvious attack on students who are not vaccinated,” says CRFA chairman Clint Reid. “While vaccines are an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 we are still a free society where one should not be held at ransom to the tune of $500 if they do not feel the vaccine is the best course of action for them. We call on Birmingham-Southern College to drop this outrageous fee.”

The college’s email goes on to direct students who have been immunized against the virus to complete a “Vaccination Report Form.” BSC stated that the school’s goal is to achieve an 85% vaccination rate among students, faculty and staff.

Portion of the email sent to BSC students as follows obtained by Yellowhammer News: 

Birmingham-Southern College did not respond to a request for comment. Yellowhammer News has inquired with the Attorney General’s Office regarding the legality of BSC’s guidelines and will provide updates accordingly.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

13 hours ago

Tim James: A house divided against itself cannot stand

Last week the discussion of COVID vaccination burst into the news and ripped the scab right off the wound exposing the divide among Alabamians about whether to vaccinate or not. We all know there can be tense moments among friends and family when the vaccine topic comes up especially when there are differing opinions in the room.

Well, last week the discussion hit a fever pitch on a grand scale and landed on the front pages of the national news outlets. According to news reports, in Alabama, there are about 2.5 to 3 million people that have CHOSEN NOT to take the vaccine out of the state’s population of 5.1 million. Approximately 60% of all Alabamians have made this their personal health choice.

I am writing this letter today to express my distaste for those bent on shaming people in which they disagree on the vaccine issue. They divide Alabamians into two classes: the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The media’s contempt is in overdrive for anyone that dares to disagree and not blindly follow the government directives. So, they shame by spewing their poison proclaiming the unvaccinated are the problem. Their assertion of “Blame” by extension means the unvaccinated are responsible for the spread of COVID. If you want to blame someone or something, blame the virus and the makers of it. As everybody knows, it was not the bats.

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The problem is not the unvaccinated, but rather those spawning division among the population. It’s the BLAME GAME.

They shake their fingers in the face of millions of Alabama citizens for refusing to take the vaccine and are beside themselves when everyone does not fall in line like sheep. I guess the unvaccinated are the “New Deplorables.”

I’ve listened to their shaming long enough and felt it was time to stand up for millions of Alabamians that have made their decision, over the many months, NOT to take the vaccine. I fall into this category; however, like most families I have family members that have chosen TO take the vaccine. Alabamians know full well what is going on in their communities, local hospitals, nursing homes and churches. They are not ignorant to the medical realities and associated risks. Neither are they reckless or selfish.

Every unvaccinated person has considered whether to take the vaccine for months. They have discussed the matter with others, prayed about it and even may have tolled back and forth on the decision. In the end, their “call” was to not take the vaccine for their own personal reasons. I can’t help but wonder why so many vaccinated people lecture everyone else when they themselves have marginal health risk as they are the vaccinated class.

Has it occurred to them that their shaming is certain to follow children into the classroom in the form of bullying? Do they care about young women in childbearing years who are rightfully cautious about what goes into their bodies? It’s ironic that people that CHOOSE NOT to take the vaccine are labeled dissenters even though they are the majority in Alabama and cross all races and political lines.

Going forward I want to encourage people to take a deep breath and stand back from the situation. COVID, of course can be lethal, but at the same time the odds of fatality are extremely low. This is one of those times when we must not succumb to fear. Fear is the root from which anxiety and worry bud.

Fear is a weapon used to manipulate the public, and the press is its enabler. The Lord speaks to the issue of fear through the Apostle Paul. “For God hath not given a spirit of fear but of power and sound mind” – 2 Timothy 1:7

I also would like to take this opportunity to say something about Governor Ivey’s statement last week concerning unvaccinated Alabamians. She said, “It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

The unvaccinated people represent approximately 60% of the population in our state. The Governor’s comments triggered uncontrollable elation and gaiety from politicians and news anchors at CNN, NBC and others. As one could expect, President Biden and Dr. Fauci were ecstatic at Alabamians being scolded by their Governor over this issue. I believe the Governor’s comments were off-base. I also believe she likely misspoke in the heat of the moment; something any of us could do. As we navigate forward, we need to lower the tone and not take the bait of those whose goal is to sow seeds of division amongst Alabamians.

I have a message for the American press corps concerning their hysterical, fear-based coverage of the pandemic.

It’s a quote from Edward R. Murrow, the great broadcast journalist during the first half of the 20th century.

He effectively warned his fellow journalists what would happen if the free press became compromised. He wrote: “No one can terrorize a whole nation unless we are his accomplices.”

Tim James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, is a Greenville, Alabama businessman. He was a 2010 GOP candidate for governor.

13 hours ago

Regions names Jason Isbell senior vice president of state government affairs and economic development

Regions Bank has tapped one of the state’s foremost experts on banking law and government affairs to serve as senior vice president of state government affairs and economic development.

Jason Isbell comes to the Birmingham-based bank brandishing nearly two decades of legal and government affairs experience in the public and private sectors.

Elizabeth Taylor, head of government affairs and economic development for Regions, highlighted Isbell’s depth of knowledge and relationships throughout the industry.

“Regions Bank has a strong history of working with government leaders and other stakeholder groups on issues impacting our associates, customers and communities,” Taylor said in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “Jason Isbell brings a wealth of knowledge and experience on a variety of financial services matters to this role. His work building relationships and navigating a myriad of legislative issues will serve us well. We look forward to his service advancing economic development opportunities that move our communities forward while also building on the strong relationships we have in the areas Regions serves.”

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Isbell most recently worked with Maynard Cooper & Gale where he represented a wide array of clients, including Regions, as an attorney and lobbyist in the firm’s Government Solutions Group.

Prior to his time at Maynard Cooper, he held the position of vice president for legal and governmental affairs at the Alabama Bankers Association (ABA). Isbell was charged with implementing ABA’s legislative and regulatory agendas at both the state and federal levels. He honed his skills in public policy during his 11 years in state government, first as a fiscal analyst for the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office and then as general counsel to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Isbell is a member of the Faulkner University board of trustees and is a graduate of the school’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law.

Regions Financial Corporation recently reported $748 million in second quarter earnings. The company cited strategic decisions in high-growth areas, such as Florida, Texas and Tennessee, as contributing to those earnings.

Isbell noted the momentum of the bank’s growth and influence throughout its footprint as he prepares for this new endeavor.

“I’m excited to represent an institution with such a rich history and stellar reputation,” he told Yellowhammer News. “Regions Bank is poised to continue making a positive impact on communities in Alabama and beyond. I’m grateful for this opportunity and look forward to being part of the Regions team.”

Isbell is set to officially join the bank in mid-August.

RELATED: Joia M. Johnson appointed to Regions board of directors

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

14 hours ago

State Rep. Wes Allen: Biden administration’s mixed message on COVID shows he doesn’t put Americans first

The Biden administration is issuing warnings to Americans regarding the increasing number of COVID cases across the country. Calls for a return to mask-wearing and social distancing are becoming more frequent from the President and his advisors.

Businesses, large and small, fear the possibility of mandated shutdowns that plagued our nation last year. Parents are wondering if they will be forced to face the inadequacies and challenges of remote schooling again. These are all worries that are being forced upon law-abiding, tax-paying Americans by the Biden administration.

But it goes further. Our northern border with Canada remains closed to non-essential travel for fear of spreading the virus. Biden and his team cited concerns over the Delta variant as the reason for banning travel from 26 nations including most of Europe, South Africa and Brazil.

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This all seems like a concerned President who is trying to save our nation from the death and damage of a pandemic. But a closer look at Biden’s policies proves that his concern is not for Americans and he has little to no desire to stop the spread of COVID from coming across our border.

His policy that allows thousands of illegal immigrants to move freely across our southern border and into our towns, neighborhoods, restaurants and schools without any regard for their immigration status or their COVID test results prove that the Biden administration doesn’t care about America or Americans. Is the health of Americans, the success of our economy and the fate of our schools and health care system of any concern to this President or his advisors?

I think not.

State Rep. Wes Allen is a Republican candidate for Alabama Secretary of State.

14 hours ago

Alabama League of Municipalities launches Economic Development Academy

The Alabama League of Municipalities (ALM) on Thursday announced the creation of its Economic Development Academy, which will partner with local leaders in an educational capacity to offer their assistance regarding business and industry recruitment practices.

Developed in conjunction with the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) and supported by an advisory council of industry leaders, the Academy will engage local leaders and help them further understand their role in the economic development process.

The Academy is specifically designed to educate and engage municipal officials and designated community business leaders on best practices and strategies for successful economic and community development. Additionally, the ALM says the Academy will focus on the role of elected officials regarding evaluating abatements, legal processes and implications, correctly marketing the community, gaging the community’s expectations, workforce development as well as other key aspects of the development process.

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ALM says the Academy is unique from other economic development programs in that it is tailored to municipal officials using a team model. The mayor or another designated elected or administrative official and at least two council members are required to participate from each community to form a team of up to five members.

In promoting the new program, ALM executive director Greg Cochran conveyed the importance of economic development efforts that take place at the local level.

“Our organization is pleased to collaborate with the Alabama Community College System and Neal Wade to launch the ALM Economic Development Academy,” said Cochran. “It is our goal for the Academy to develop intentional programming and identify resources to empower our municipal officials so they can create legacy programs and projects within their cities and towns. Municipalities are the foundation of our state’s economy, and it is the League’s mission to provide our members the necessary tools to build a community where citizens can live, work, play and prosper and where businesses can thrive.”

The Academy will take place over a full year and consists of an orientation; four one-day sessions that include community assignments; and a special graduation ceremony. To graduate, participants must conduct an economic vitality survey of their communities; complete a community assessment/project; and attend all sessions.

At the conclusion of the year-long program, graduates will be presented a certificate of municipal economic development from the League and ACCS.

Neal Wade, former head of the Alabama Development Office as well as a consultant for Alabama Power, The St. Joe Company and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, has been tapped to develop the Academy’s curriculum and conduct the classes.

“The objective is for Alabama communities to be the best they can be and competitive for growth and new revenue,” Wade said. “Setting realistic expectations for each community will be foremost.”

In addition to working with Wade, the League has developed a partnership with ACCS to provide classroom space and workforce development resources for Academy participants. The four mandatory sessions for selected municipalities will be conducted at ACCS campuses throughout the state based on each region.

Chancellor Jimmy Baker praised the partnership and expressed his optimism on the potential growth opportunities he believes can stem from the Academy.

“At Alabama’s community colleges, everything we do is workforce development – from education and training to providing wraparound services and hosting community events,” Baker said. “We are honored to work alongside the Alabama League of Municipalities to launch the Economic Development Academy and host its participants at our campuses across the state. Education is so often the linchpin to positive change and the resources and training this effort will provide will have a positive impact on Alabama for years to come.”

An Academy Advisory Council has been developed to add input, assist with training and provide additional resources to the process. The Council consists of state and federal government agencies, ACCS presidents, utility partners, League strategic partners, local economic developers and statewide business associations.

Academy applications will be accepted via the League’s website July 29 – August 31. Applicants will be thoroughly evaluated and candidates chosen by mid-September. There is a community fee to participate.

Those interested in attending the Academy may apply via online application at almonline.org.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL