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UAB awards RCS superintendent for ELL work

Superintendent Heath Grimes has been recognized for the work he has done locally and throughout the state in helping Pre-K through 12th-grade English learners receive a better education.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Education chose Grimes to receive the Outstanding Service Supporting English Learners Award.

Dr. Susan K. Spezzini, program director for secondary education and ESL at UAB, said their ESL teacher education program chose Grimes for this award based on his track record of advocating for better ESL instruction and funding statewide.

With approximately 53 percent of the students at Russellville City Schools being Hispanic, Grimes found himself leading the state’s highest English as a Second Language student population when he became superintendent at RCS five and a half years ago.

Grimes said he realized in order to provide a quality education to this specific group of students, the administrators and teachers at RCS would need additional, focused instruction and training. However, there wasn’t a group at the state level at that time that provided this type of instruction, so he began helping his own administrators and teachers implement new policies and instruction methods aimed at ESL education.

As an active member of the Council for Leaders of Alabama Schools, Grimes eventually was able to spearhead a new affiliate called Alabama Leaders Advocating for English Learners. More than 250 educators attended ALA-EL’s first statewide conference in January 2020. This conference focused on instructing teachers across the state how to better serve and educate the ESL students in their schools.

As part of ALA-EL’s advocacy efforts, Grimes has also been instrumental in requesting additional funding from the state to increase the quantity and quality of services for English Learners.

Spezzini said Grimes’ passion and role in providing equitable education to English learners in  in Alabama has improved their schooling opportunities overall statewide.