Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Introducing Our New Faculty and Staff - 2018

Happy New Year! We are off to an exciting start at Houston Academy, and with our #HAfirstday in the rearview mirror, I wanted to take the time to introduce you to our new faculty and staff.

Marc Edge
 The first person I want to acknowledge is Marc Edge, to whom I introduced our community at the end of last year. Marc will be our Athletic Director this year, as well as an assistant football coach and head golf coach. Unfortunately, Marc will not be joining us for at least another week, as he has recently been dealing with a health issue. Please keep Marc in your daily prayers - it’s been a rough start to the year for Marc. I think you’re going to love him, and we are hopeful for a speedy recovery.

Eddie Brundidge

Eddie Brundidge will be teaching Physical Education in the Lower School and will serve as an assistant football coach.  He has a B.S.  from Troy University where he played football, and he is coming to us from T.R. Miller High School in Brewton. Eddie is married to Sybil and has two Daughters, Leah and Moriah. In his spare time he enjoys hunting and fishing. Eddie says he became a teacher because of the inspiration provided by his own high school teachers and his high school football coach, in particular.

Cassie Carmody
Cassie Carmody will be teaching 7th and 8th grade science. She has a B.S. in Education from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. She and Her husband, T.J., have two children at HA – Ashlinn, who is in the 7th grade, and Tommy, who is in the 1st grade. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, baking, sewing, and watching her children play sports. She became a teacher because of her belief that “each learner is different and needs to be provided different ways to learn.” She enjoys finding "what works" and helping each child master every concept she teaches. She chose to come to HA because of what she saw the faculty do for her own children – how her children became successful and learned the value hard-work. She also felt that the faculty and staff was extremely welcoming.

Cory Hooks

Corey Hooks is joining our maintenance staff. Corey comes to us after being the maintenance man for a hotel. He brings a lot to the proverbial table in terms of skills. You’ll notice very quickly that he’s an excellent painter, but he’s also skilled in a wide variety of areas. He and his wife, Jessie, have a one year old (almost two year-old) boy, Ellic Alexander Randol Hooks. In his spare time, he enjoys video games, target shooting, and restoring and improving his truck.

Justin Horner

Justin Horner will serve in our technology department. Justin has received his associate degree in computer program and is currently in his last few semesters towards earning his bachelor’s in computer programing at Troy. For the last two years, he has worked at Geek Squad, and he has also worked as a tech support specialist at the University of Alabama. Justin is a Houston Academy graduate from the class of 2009, and his sister, Sara Skaggs also graduated from HA. Justin enjoys gaming, school, soccer, and anything at the beach. Justin got into technology because of the computer courses he took from Mrs. Woodcock. Computers became his passion, and he has been doing it every sense.

Jessica Jordan

Jessica Jordan will be working in our extended day program. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education from Troy-Dothan, and she has taught every grade from K5-6th, as well as working with adult students trying to earn their GED. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Ryan, who is the Music Minister at Samson Baptist. They have three children, Jayleigh, who is 10, Jude, who is 8, and Jameson, who is 2. Teaching runs in Jessica’s family – her grandmother, three aunts, and there cousins all or were teachers. She first realized she wanted to be a teacher when she was a child teaching her cousins a new game she had invented. Nothing makes her more proud than helping  others understand things for the first time. She says she came to HA because of the “reputation of the school and because of her desire to be a part of a real team.”

Rachel Kurtz

Rachel Kurtz will be teaching part-time in our art department, helping out in Middle School, where our demand for the visual arts has grown significantly. Rachel is a graduate of Auburn University where she majored in Art. Her background includes broad use of multiple mediums including paint, wood, glass, drawing, crafts, and ceramics. She has served as the art teacher at Abbeville Christian academy and Pike Liberal Arts School. Additionally, she is the owner and art instructor for Southern Strokes Art, providing private art lesson as well as creating commissioned works for customers. We are very excited for what she will bring to our students.

Robert Pedroza 

Robert Pedroza is also new in our maintenance department. Previously, Robert worked for the City of Enterprise, for Shaw in Ft. Rucker, as a translator for the Ozark and Enterprise police and the Dale Medical center, and he has also been a restaurant manager for multiple locations of Old Mexico. His hobbies include painting, drawing, restoring old trucks, traveling, carpentry, coach and playing soccer, and working with the Boy Scouts. He and his wife of 25 years (Lisa) live in Ozark with their four children: America Gabrielle, Robert Noah James, Emilee Elisa Isabella and Savannah Audrey.

Melissa Sanera
Melissa Sanera will be teaching World History II in the 9th grade and Psychology to 11th and 12th graders. She has an B.A. in Economics from Arizona State University and an M.A. in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix. Previously, she taught World History at D.A. Smith Middle School and has been a substitute teacher at HA. Melissa is a certified Yoga Instructor who loves to travel, read, sing, and listen to podcasts. Her husband, Matt, is an air force pilot, and she has two children at HA: Eli, who is in the 10th grade and Amie, who is in the 8th grade. Melissa discovered her love for teaching, to begin with, by teaching yoga. In her own words, she “loves inspiring young people to develop a passion for history and civics and help them make connections of things they learn in the classroom to their everyday lives.” She decided to teach at HA because she loves the family atmosphere and the culture of the school. Having lived abroad, herself, she is particularly excited about HA’s mission to developing global awareness in the students.

Carly Williams will be working in Extended Day and Coaching our JV volleyball team. She comes to us from Emmanuel Christian where she was a PE teacher and coach. She holds an associate degree from Enterprise State, but is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in education. Carly’s and her husband, Don, have two children. Don, Jr., is a junior at Houston Academy. She has a daughter, who she home schools, but Carly hopes to bring her to HA next year. Carly maintains that her children would say her “chief hoppy is laundry”! In actuality, she enjoys coaching, gardening, decorating, traveling, and watching any sport in which her children are involved. Carly sought out HA for her son because she wanted the higher level of education that HA provides. She grew up in Dothan and graduated from Dothan High, but she a strong believer in Houston Academy.

Jack Whigham

Jack Whigham will be teaching 7th grade Pre-algebra and Honors Geometry. Additionally, he will serve as Head Wrestling Coach, Associate Athletic Director, and Assistant Football Coach. Jack is a Graduate of Auburn University with a B.S. in Secondary Math Education. Jack has spent 27 years in public education, most recently at Opp High School, where he was head football coach, athletic director, and teacher of everything from pre-Algebra to Honors Geometry. He has three children who will all be involved in HA. His son, Peyton, is a student at Troy University, and he is an assistant coach on our football staff. His other two sons, Cade and Brady, will be joining us in the 9th and 7th grades, respectively. In his spare time, Jack enjoys sports, fishing, cards, and church activities. He became a teacher in order to be a positive influence on children. He truly believes that teaching is a God-ordained calling, and he feels that he is following that calling.

Carol Wright
Carol Wright will be teaching Honors and CP Algebra II, Algebra III, and will be serving as our Camp Rock sponsor. She studied Business Administration and Mathematics Education at Troy University and earned an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Auburn University. She recently retired from Dothan High School. She has two sons, Colby and Baily, both of whom graduated from Houston Academy. She enjoys reading, going to the beach, and “binge watching everything!” She was called to teach after originally thinking she wanted to be a part of the business world. Her sister encouraged her to become a math teacher, and after observing several math teachers, herself, she decided that was her life’s calling. She decided to come to HA because of her children’s’ experience at HA as students from 4P to 12th grade, and she is excited to be involved with the HA family in a different way.

I am truly thrilled at the caliber people who have chosen to join the HA family this year. Please make them all feel welcome!

Go Raiders!

Dr. Scott Phillipps

Monday, March 5, 2018

Buying a Ticket Doesn't Give You The Right to Say Anything You Want!

The other night at a varsity boys soccer game I was forced to confront a group of fans from an opposing school. They were swearing and being obnoxious, but that is not what got my dander up. What made me speak to these parents is the fact that they were targeting individual HA players for harassment.

When I went over to speak to them, one mother screamed at me, "FREEDOM OF SPEECH!"



"Freedom of speech" is a political construct. It doesn't give you the right to harass children at a sporting event. Yes, you have the right to say what you want without legal consequence, but then I have the right to let you finish your offensive speech from the confines of your car on the way back to your home.

The thing that amazed me in this instance is that these adults actually thought they were in the right. I heard one parent say to another," I thought part of being a parent was being obnoxious cheering for your kids?!"



Being a parent doesn't give you the right to be rude and MEAN, and it certainly doesn't give you the right to be MEAN to CHILDREN. I expect to have to correct our students for calling out individual athletes on the field; I don't expect to have to tell adults not to do so.

One of the basic concepts that is necessary for a republic to succeed is for people to be able to engage in productive dialogue and act with civility. Civilization requires that we learn how to be civil to each other. Our continued existence as a nation depends on our ability to respectfully interact with each other and to compromise for the good of the whole. Frankly, it appalls me to see how we treat each other in our culture.

For example, I enjoy logging on to Facebook to see what my former and current students are up to. It used to be that reading Facebook was an uplifting experience.  Now, I usually leave either angry or sad - not because of people's political opinions, but because of the lack of respect and civility that people demonstrate towards each other. People are awfully brave behind a keyboard. People say things I don't believe they'd EVER say to someone  face-to-face. I've contemplated deleting my Facebook account, altogether.

Likewise, we live in a culture where "trash talking" is considered to be a normal and integral part of competition. That is, deriding your competitor is seen as "part of the game." To cite one of the worst examples I can remember, one major college basketball fan base threw panties at a visiting player who had been accused of sexual assault.

I'm sorry, but that is just wrong. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but shouldn't we be cheering for our team, instead of against our opponent? When did taunting and humiliating your opponent become an acceptable part of American sports? Frankly, it sickens me, and it worries me.

At HA we are far from perfect in this regard. We, as parents, have been guilty of poor sportsmanship, and I'm not excluding myself from this. I've behaved in ways in the past of which I am not proud. However, I feel like I at least have good enough sense to be embarrassed about it.

Regardless, I don't think we should accept bad sportsmanship as the norm. I think it's a fight worth fighting. To be exact, reinforcing sportsmanship strikes at the very heart of the concept of honor that we are trying to impart at HA. Every year, I tell the students at our Honor Code Ceremony that "honor is not just about avoiding lying, cheating, or stealing; it's about how you treat others from whom you have nothing to gain." I believe we can tell a lot about the culture of schools by how they treat their athletic opponents "from whom they have nothing to gain."

As our spring sports season gets into full swing, I hope that you will take the time to reflect on the hard work and dedication that the athletes demonstrate over the course of the season. The best way to honor our athletes is to exhibit good sportsmanship. Briefly, let me share with you some of my views that I have partially borrowed from Dr. James Garland, the former president of my undergraduate alma mater, Miami University (OH):

  • Good sports treat opposing teams and their fans with respect and courtesy. Good sports are humble when they win. They accept their victories with poise, without gloating or demeaning the other team. Good sports are not rude. 
  • Good sports understand that losing is part of athletic competition. They accept their defeats gracefully, without pointing fingers or making excuses. They view their losses as opportunities for growth and further development of their skills. 
  • Good sports keep their emotions in check. They understand that stress and pressure are part of athletics, and that the true test of character is when the disappointment, the bitterness, and the frustrations of a game are the greatest. 
  • And finally, good sports keep a sense of perspective. They know that the other team is their opponent, not their enemy, and that the game is a contest, not a battle. They know that if they conduct themselves with dignity, they will always walk off the field as winners, no matter what the numbers on the scoreboard may show. 

Houston Academy athletics has always epitomized a winning tradition, integrity, a commitment to the academic development of players, and good sportsmanship.

I have been incredibly proud of the success of our teams over the years, but I have been even more proud of the comportment and enthusiasm of our fans and athletes.  Win or lose, I know that we will continue exhibiting good sportsmanship in all of our athletic contests.

Go Raiders!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Digital Communication, Part I

For anyone who is in education, it’s impossible to avoid references to the “six Cs” of 21st century education. In case you’re not familiar, the “6 Cs” refers to the skills and knowledge that educators and business leaders have deemed necessary for the future success of our children in the world marketplace. The 6 Cs are:

1.     Collaboration,
2.     Communication,
3.     Creativity,
4.     Critical Thinking,
5.     Cross-Cultural Competency, and
6.     Character

For this blog post, I want to focus on communication. Lately, I’ve been think a good bit about how we communicate in today’s digital world, how that communication has changed since I was in school, and how we best go about teaching communication to students who are “digital natives.”

To start with, I think there are some very good things about our connected, digital world of communication. Social media certainly has its utility. For example, I have 1,989 “friends” on Facebook. Through Facebook, I’ve been able to reconnect with former students, friends and acquaintances from high school, and relatives who live in other parts of the country. I’ve also met people online who have common interests I never would have met, otherwise. Here at HA, we have Skyped with job candidates and hired teachers from as far away California, Minnesota, Utah, China, and Latin America. My children still keep up with their friends from Tennessee, where we lived five years ago. 

Furthermore, I have almost unbelievable access to information. When I first graduated from college, I subscribed to a half-dozen magazines in order to get my news. I don’t subscribe to ANY magazines anymore; I read them on my tablet and phone. In fact, my cell phone gives me access to more information more quickly than I could have EVER imagined when I first started teaching. Additionally, the novel I just finished reading was on Apple’s iBooks. I didn’t have to go to the bookstore or even order it online. I wanted to read it, and POOF, it was on my iPad AND my phone. I could have bought it at the bookstore, or I could have ordered it on Amazon for much less money, but I didn’t want to have to wait for the actual book to arrive. After all, I now live in a world where I demand and receive instant gratification.  

Similarly, I can give feedback to students and parents almost immediately through email and through my web-based Google Classroom. My students in my AP Economics class have a free, online textbook, with links to relevant primary sources and websites, and I can post announcements and changes to my students in real-time, after they leave my classroom. I have to say, as a teacher, it’s pretty awesome.

So, I suppose all of this is good – or at least it’s not bad. But I can’t help but think that in the history of mankind, we have never been so connected, yet, so disconnected. I find myself asking the question: “Is the communication in which our children are engaged authentic.” For example, have you noticed that when you go on vacation that our kids don’t seem to miss each other?

I can remember that when my family went on vacation, I missed my girlfriend and my buddies. I couldn’t wait to see them when I came home. Plus, my girlfriend and I would spend hours and hours on the phone, actually talking.

Not anymore. 

After we returned from fall break this year, I asked my kids if they wanted to get together with their friends, and the response was condescending. “DAAAD!”, they snarled (with a hint of an eye-roll), “We’ve been TALKING the entire time we’ve been gone!” There was no sense of urgency to see their friends. In fact, they told me stories about some of the funny things that went on during break in the cyber-world of Instagram. It actually occurred to me that the kids tell stories of happenings on the internet in a way that resembles the stories I’ve told about my fraternity days. But the kids’ stories aren’t about wearing a goofy costume to a date party or swimming in the campus fountain. Their stories are about clever memes or “LOL” retorts.

Moreover, it’s not just the fact that our children are communicating online, but the amount of time they are spending “plugged in” is worrisome to me. A 2015 Pew Research Center report indicates some not-so-shocking data about teenage social media and electronic usage. 92% of teens (aged 12-17) go online, daily, and 24% report being online “almost constantly” (Lenhart, 2015). Still further, 88% of all teens have cell phones or smartphones at their disposal (Lenhart, 2015), and according to the Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours per day using media online (Tsukayama, 2015).

So, I’m posing the question, to which I honestly don’t know the answer. Is today’s communication real or even healthy?  To me, something seems very wrong, but maybe it’s just a bad idea whose time has come? Maybe I am just old-fashioned? Maybe, I’m like my grandparents who thought rock and roll (and Elvis Presley, in particular) was the source of all evil in society? I mean, to our children, Snapchat IS authentic communication. Our children DO feel connected and DO feel they are engaging in genuine dialogue. Just because I don’t think it’s authentic doesn’t mean it isn’t. 

In my next blog post, I’ll delve into some of the research on social media and screen time, and also talk about some of the ways we can use online tools to our educational advantage.