Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thankful Thursday - A New School for Annie

Rolling out the red carpet for our students on the first day of school!

On Thursday, August 11, 2016, the doors opened at the Sprayberry Center at Lloyd Wood Education Center for the first time. Sprayberry has been Annie's school since she turned 3 and transitioned from Early Intervention with Community Service Programs of West Alabama. While Sprayberry is technically a "center", it is Annie's school and always will be!

Sprayberry Regional Education Center opened it's doors in 1974, under the direction of Dr. Charles Sprayberry, to serve the special needs population in  Tuscaloosa and surrounding counties. Through the years, the population of students has changed and the needs are different than they were in 1974. Both the changing student population and the age of the building contributed to the need for a new facility to serve Annie and her fellow students.

There has been talk of a new facility for several years. The PTO committed a quite a while ago to not spending money on anything we could not move if and when we should ever get a new facility. I am thankful today for the leadership who made our dreams become a reality.

First of all, the last two principals who have served our students are men who truly care about our Sprayberry Stars! This initiative began under the leadership of John Barnacastle and was completed under the leadership of Neal Guy. For these guys, education is really all about the children. I am thankful for their dedication to serving our school. Incidentally, both of these men served our school previously, left for a period of time and came back to serve our Sprayberry Stars. I think that says a lot about our special students!

Less than a month after Dr. Elizabeth Swinford starting her job as Superintendent, a group of Sprayberry Staff met her for the first time at Nick's Kids Luncheon. We were all so anxious to move to a new facility (and we knew the former Lloyd Wood Middle School was available) that I was afraid we would bombard her with requests. Actually, it was Dr. Swinford who brought up the subject when she said, "I'm trying to get you guys moved to Lloyd Wood". For the first time, I felt like their was really hope that it would happen. I am thankful that Dr. Swinford saw the need immediately and had the vision for the beautiful new facility that now houses our special needs students. She was so excited when the Tuscaloosa County Commission approved sales tax funds to be used for the renovation and she shared that enthusiasm with our families. I am thankful to Dr. Walter Davie for seeing this project through to completion.

I am thankful to the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education, past and present for deciding to invest in our students. I am personally thankful to Mark Nelson, past chairman of the board, for answering every phone call, every text and every email and answering questions in the grocery line at Publix or at La Gran Fiesta. He assured me it was going to happen and it did! I am especially thankful to the board for including the beautiful handicapped accessible playground in the construction cost, allowing us to spend PTO funds to equip our sensory-motor rooms and provide therapy equipment.

Sprayberry has never been about the building to me. It is the amazing people that take care of, train, and educate our children every day! Now we have the building to match and for that, I am most thankful! I was quite overwhelmed when I walked into the building for the first time - it's bright, shiny, spacious, colorful,  and so much more than we dreamed! It will provide so many more opportunities for Annie and her friends! And I'm most thankful of all for the smiles on the faces of our staff and students, who really are what it's all about! I do believe the best is yet to come!

So, here's to the Sprayberry Center at Lloyd Wood Education Center - wishing you many blessings as you have so blessed the life of our Annie!

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