By Barry H. Hendrix
Kyle Ferguson believes the local public school should be the focal point of your community. He returned July 1 as principal of Thomasville High School. “The high school (in particular) is the front porch of your community,” he said. “It is where everybody gathers – all races, cultures, socioeconomic classes…this is the place where everybody comes as one.
“…(Potential) business, industry – the first thing they are going to want to know about, ‘tell me about your schools.’ …I’m very confident, based on the people I’m coming back to work with…our focus is going to be on our kids. …Our parents are going to be involved. …And we’re going to see growth.”
He recently left the position
principal of Northridge High School in the
Tuscaloosa City Schools District, a position he had held since July 2014. Ferguson
previously served as principal of THS from July 2007 to June 2014. His new THS contract will run through June
He talked about the great support he received at both Thomasville, in the past, and recently at Northridge. The call to return to Thomasville came not only in his love for “this beautiful part of our state” (Ferguson is an avid outdoorsman), but also his interest in “being in a smaller community and being able to focus on building relationships with all stakeholders.” In the smaller school system, he will be able to have a better one-on-one relationship with fellow educators, students, parents and the community.
“You deal with less bureaucracy and a lot less politics in a smaller district, and can focus on doing what’s best for your students” he said. “Common sense, logical thought processes, and transparency, are seen as assets here. No personal agendas here, just an intense focus on children.”
Ferguson left approximately 1,115 students at Northridge. THS
is expected to have 550 students for the 2019-2020 school year.
While he was principal at Northridge, the school was able to attract students from private schools such as Tuscaloosa Academy and American Christian Academy. Now back at THS, “my goal is to have a school that makes people never even consider paying tuition to go somewhere else - when you can come here tuition free and get a top notch, world class education.
“The foundation of everything else we do starts with having safe and orderly learning environment,” Ferguson said. “We will provide a positive climate, while having accountability for everyone. We are going to focus on student engagement (giving students ownership), and getting our students ready for the world – college and/or career.
“We are going to make sure we know every student by name.
“Anywhere that I have gone, if you’re fair and consistent, if you hold everyone to a high standard, they are going to live up to that standard,” the THS principal said. “…It’s a choice – you either choose to have high expectations – or you don’t. We want to have high expectations for everybody (students, faculty, staff, parents and the community).”
Ferguson’s style embodies discipline but also being approachable. “It’s like being a father to your students,” he said. “…I’m not their buddy….I’ll correct them when they need it.” However, he wants students to know that the administration, faculty and staff love them. “Without exception, I have always found that kids do not resent discipline or correction, when they know you genuinely, truly, deep down inside care for them. Every kid needs that.”
Ferguson also will communicate important school information to the faculty, staff, parents and the community. “One of my strengths has been communication,” he said. “I probably over-communicate, but my goal is for there to be no excuse for anyone…to not know what is going on. …I am going to expect teachers to communicate. I’ll use every resource and venue that we have to make sure that all of stakeholders know what is going on at all times.” The principal said he would make sure “the expectations are very clear. I will be responsive to parents that have concerns and listen to every student.”
Through his experience in education, out of hundreds of
students each day, Ferguson has had that knack of being able to find that one
student who needs a caring word or pat on the back. He gave an example of
letters from former THS students he had received when he left to go to
Northridge. Ferguson established the Comeback Academy in his earlier tenure at
THS, and there had been a letter of appreciation from a student who had been
helped by the Academy. It was a gifted student, who had hated coming to school,
but she was changed by the consideration that Ferguson gave her and her family.
The principal is also concerned about students, whose environment at home might not be so positive. “If a student is struggling with adversity outside of school, this needs to be the one place they can go to every day where everything is good,” he said. “You are surrounded by adults who are going to support you and encourage you and hold you accountable.”
Ferguson wants to provide an environment where each student can find an interest, whether it be athletics, band, drama, robotics, etc. “Student engagement is so incredibly important,” he said.