Douglas, Alabama’s 3.4-mile stretch is part of the Huntsville, Decatur, and Albertville, Alabama Combined Statistical Area (CSA) located in North Alabama. The town is about ten miles from the manmade Guntersville Lake, on the Tennessee River, which supplies this region with hydro-electric power and provides many recreation activities such as yearly bass tournaments along with hosting the 2014 Bassmaster’s Classic Tournament. Douglas’s population is 744, and the town has a very low crime rate, which makes the area’s safe-ranking high.
Douglas was founded by the Douglas family, and it was incorporated in 1978. Herbert Chaffin was Douglas’s first mayor. It is an agricultural area with a vast amount of poultry suppliers. The town is home to several hometown businesses, volunteer fire department, police department, Douglas Town Hall, and a couple of family owned restaurants. A few miles down Highway 75, one can visit Silver Ridge Golf Course. Douglas is also home to the Douglas Water Authority that serves 5,600 customers, and it is fed by Big Springs and three wells from the Tuscumbia Limestone aquifer.
Since large industry is not a focus point of the Douglas community, many of the residents commute to surrounding cities for their livelihood. The town holds to high moral beliefs and wants the community to stand strong. Thus, the oak tree is recognized as the town tree to symbolize strength and endurance. The town bird is the Golden Eagle, which represents great strength, leadership, and vision. Red and white are the town colors, and they reiterate strength along with incorporating peace and purity.
In the midst of this symbolism and small town atmosphere lies the Douglas school campus. The Douglas campus has more than doubled over the past thirty years due to surrounding cities pulling out of the county system to form city school systems. With this type of makeup, it is also evident that the town tax revenue is minimum because four of the other school systems in the county are located in major cities and absorb roughly 90-95% of the tax base. Although Douglas struggles against tax odds, the town takes pride in the school. Stakeholders saw the need to accommodate the growing campus and in 1991 Douglas Middle School was built. It is one of sixteen total schools and one of three middle schools in the Marshall County School System.
The entire Douglas campus caters to over 2000 students, and 477 are in the middle school. Douglas Middle School’s ethnic makeup consists of 65% White, 34% Hispanic, .25% American Indian, and .75% African American. Of the 34% Hispanic students, only 5% are in the EL program. The other 29% have either been in the system since kindergarten or have exited the EL program. The free and reduced lunch rate is 81.08%, and this figure has risen over the past four years and held steady for the past two.
With a small tax base and free and reduced lunch rate statistics, it is obvious that Douglas Middle School’s biggest challenge is poverty. Douglas Middle School’s leaders used research on poverty and Douglas’s statistics to develop the school’s mission and purpose statement. One-third of the faculty and staff grew up in the area and graduated from Douglas; thus, this group understands where the students come from and know many of the local families. This also helps the school to build strong community partnerships because of the loyalty and trust that has been created through the years. Although leaders view this aspect as a strength, they are also aware that having unbiased input is just as important in building relationships, so the other two-thirds of the faculty and staff are from surrounding areas. This faculty helps give students a well-rounded approach to education.
Research has also shown that families of poverty may consist of single income homes, single parent homes, and lack of education that contributes to the blue-collar work force. These scenarios hold true for many Douglas Middle School students, which creates a unique challenge for the Douglas campus. Douglas Middle School has made Annual Yearly Progress for the past several years under the No Child Left Behind stipulation, and the staff is embracing the changes that the new Aspire testing is bringing.