District 7 Newsletter: The State of Education

An interview with Dr. Willie Goldsmith, Principal of Wenonah High School

Let’s talk about your background. Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?

I’m from Montevallo, Alabama and graduated from Montevallo High School in the class of 1987. I attended UAB for all of my degrees and I received my doctorate online at Argosy University. I’ve been working in the Birmingham City School system for 27 years now. I started working as a middle school teacher at Daniel Payne Middle School, which is now closed.

What made you want to dedicate your life to being an educator?

My mom’s a teacher. My dad is a teacher. It’s something I’ve always been interested in, especially because social studies has always been a favorite subject of mine. One way to make money with a degree in social studies is to become a teacher.

When did you first become a principal?

My first job as a principal was in 2002 at Huffman High School. I was there for five years. I’ve been the principal here at Wenonah for 13 months now, and I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve been able to do in that short period of time.

Dr. Willie Goldsmith

What’s your motto as principal?

I always say, “School may not mean everything to everyone, but it should have everything for everybody.” That’s why we have the Student Life Center to help take away some of those barriers created by poverty. Just because you come from a poor household doesn’t mean you should have a poor education. Realistically we’re trying to give everyone a chance to get out there in the workforce and be producers, whether that be through college or vocational training or another opportunity. We want to help students get there.

When you were younger and going to school, were there moments when having something similar to the Student Life Center would have helped you?

Oh absolutely. Even with getting a physical to play football. Now, students can go to the Student Life Center and get one for free. Generally we have to dress about 25 players for the first football game because we’re waiting on everyone to get their physical because they might not have a ride to get to the doctor. We were able to dress all 60 football players this year. They don’t have to wait and catch a ride or anything like that now.

Health and hygiene supplies are available to students at the Life Center

What are some things about Wenonah High School that you think people should know about?

We graduated — out of the class that began the year in 2018–95 percent of the students. That is outstanding for Wenonah High School. The seniors that started this year are saying they’re going to get everyone to walk across the stage together — 100 percent.

We’ve seen a lot of growth this past year. We have ACT classes and camps to help students in their preparation. We’re going to start implementing STEM classes where students can build their own drones, which could provide future job opportunities.

Our duel enrollment program has gone up by 95 percent in a year. We currently have 80 kids taking duel enrollment classes. They will already have college credits as seniors, juniors and sophomores in high school. That is so important. We really utilize our proximity to Lawson State Community College in that way. Kids can walk across the street and get real training for the workforce and some of them will have a degree or certification a year after they graduate high school. It’s really amazing to see.

Student Life Center

Last month, Wenonah High School opened the Student Life Center, the first of its kind in Alabama. Dr. Willie Goldsmith, principal at WHS, explains what the center is and how it’s helping the community.

The Student Life Center is designed to take away barriers for education. It also allows students to have access to mental and physical health facilities. Students can speak with a pediatrician or a doctor. There is an OBGYN. Students can receive dental and optometry referrals, medication referrals. And we also have mentors there to help students navigate through issues that might arise in their lives.

It’s designed to help alleviate the stress that is put on households and causes students to miss school. They can get all of those services here, free of charge. It’s essentially free healthcare for our students. In the future we hope to be able to open this up to the community and provide them with free healthcare as well.

I’ve always dreamed of having something like this our schools.

The Student Life Center is the first of its kind in Alabama. We based our model on a school in Georgia. Something that set’s our center apart though is that the entire facility is based off of what students told us they wanted. We had focus groups and an organization work with us to put those ideas into our new center. I like the approach of asking the students what they need. It’s really helped us be able to include components that help them the most, like having someone there to help apply for scholarships, or mental health professionals. It’s their creation, and I’m so proud of what they’ve put together.

Student Highlights

Caleb Neverson, 2019 Wenonah High School Grad, Lawson State Freshman:

Caleb Neverson 2019 Wenonah High School Grad, Lawson State Freshman

“I believe education is important. It leads to a better life and a better career. It helps to build a better character and many opportunities are offered. I am a graduate of Wenonah High School. Wenonah is where I learned the importance of education. During high school was when I learned that education is the root of everything. Currently I am a political science major at Lawson State Community College. After receiving my associates degree, I will transfer to Morehouse College to work on my bachelors degree. My ultimate goal is to become a public defense attorney and to be elected Governor of Alabama. I am a firm believer that education is the key to a bright future.”

Jay Smith, senior at Wenonah High School:

“I’m 17 years old, and I’m an activist. I will be graduating from Wenonah High School next year and I plan on going to Morehouse College. I will be running for President in 2040!”

Jay Smith, senior at Wenonah High School

Numbers to Know:

Councilor Wardine Alexander’s Office: 205.254.2498

City Directory: 205.254.2000

311 Help Center: 205.254.2489

City Customer Service: 205.297.8085

Utility Patch Issues: 205.254.2361

CSX: 1.800.232.0144

Norfolk Southern: 1.800.453.2530

Mayor’s Office: 205.254.2771

West Precinct: 205.254.2682

South Precinct: 205.254.2793

For more information about all the happenings in District 7, be sure to follow the Birmingham City Council on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Tweets from The Birmingham City Council in Birmingham, Alabama

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