A New Vision for Amelia Love Johnson High School
Amelia Love Johnson High School, also known as ALJ High School, is the only school in Thomaston. The kindergarten through 12th grade school is one of three schools in the Marengo County School system.
The other two schools include Marengo High School in Dixon Mills and Sweet Water High School in Sweet Water. There are approximately 1,000 students in the Marengo County school system with about 180 students attending the Thomaston school.
Lepolean Peterson, the ALJ principal for about 40 years, is retiring this year. In July, new principal William Martin Jr. will take his place.
Martin is currently working at the central office as district technology coordinator and career technology coordinator. Martin said, “I feel like it was a calling to be the principal. I felt like I could help more students in that capacity more directly. In the central office, you can help but you are not there all of the time.”
Martin is a proud graduate who is looking forward to coming home to ALJ as a leader. “I am an ’85 graduate from this school. My heart was already here. I felt like it was a calling to come back and do whatever I can do to help the school be all that it can be,” Martin said.
The incoming principal said he has numerous goals for the school. His vision includes building a better relationship between the community and school, improving technology and providing more academic opportunities.
Martin said other goals include advancing arts education, building agricultural connections and bringing in more students.
The new principal said a top priority is building a better relationship between the community and school. “I want this school to be everybody’s school in the community not just for a certain section of the town. I believe that we can help the community and the community can help us,” Martin said.
Martin is currently planning an open house at the school. He said that he wants the community to come and learn more the school’s goals and visions, meet the teachers and learn more about ALJ.
Martin is also working on beautifying the school to make it look more attractive. He is working with a maintenance to pressure wash the outside of the buildings and buff the floors this summer.
With Martin’s past work as technology coordinator, he understands technology and has plans to bring more advancements to ALJ. The school currently provides students with small laptop Chrome Books. The elementary school is currently at a ratio of one Chrome Book for each student and the high school is almost to that ratio.
Another advancement is the View Sonic Smart Panels in the classrooms. These look like a TV but work like a Smart Board with touch screens and software that correlates with every grade and classroom.
Martin said that he has made a connection with Coastal Alabama Community College in Thomasville on a grant that will provide distance learning equipment in the high school building including two big monitors and microphones.
The students will be able to do online distance learning classes. Dual enrollment will connect students with colleges and allow them to take college classes in high school.
Technology is not limited to just helping the K-12 students. Martin said the equipment can be used for adult education and GED classes that would help the entire community.
ALJ also partners with Extension and the 4-H program to provide students with agricultural education and opportunities. Pam Stenz, Marengo County Extension Coordinator, said, “Last year, they grew cabbages and peppers and even had a cabbage day where they ate the cabbage that they grew.”
One of the school’s goals is to provide the students with more opportunities. Mrs. Lander Fisher, the school’s counselor, stated, “Even though we are small and might not have a lot, I try to expose them to as much as possible. We just have to work together to provide opportunities.”
Fisher and Martin both share school pride as they both graduated from ALJ. Martin said that he hopes to be able to give back to the school and improve it to where it can be a light to the community.
According to the school’s website, the school started when the Johnson family donated the five acres of land where the school stands in 1922. The school was named after a former teacher, Amelia Love Johnson. In 1926, the first building was constructed. The building was renovated in 1984 to include a gym, vocational building and office building.