West Elementary welcomes new principal as former retires
Finishing a long and rewarding career in education, with the last two years as principal at West Elementary School in Russellville, retiree Ann Scott has spent a lot of time in schools, and she said it’s been time well spent.
“I love children,” explained Scott. “I feel like if they have great educational experiences, it’s likely to enhance their chances of success. For me, nothing is any more precious than a child, whether kindergarten or 12th grade. I’ve always called them my babies.”
As Scott transitions into the next stage of her life, stepping into the role of principal at West Elementary is Alicia Stanford, whose past position was as Scott’s assistant principal at West.
Scott graduated from the University of North Alabama in 1985 and began teaching that fall at Mount Hope, a fifth- through eighth-grade school in Lawrence County. Some of those years were self-contained with fifth-grade, and others were spent teaching seventh- and eighth-grade math.
She taught there for 20 years before moving to Russellville Elementary School to teach fifth-grade math and science for seven years.
The next stop in her career was principal at Tharptown Elementary for four years, after which she served as principal at Belgreen High School for wo years. She then landed back at Tharptown, serving as the high school principal for a year.
As she prepared for retirement, Scott took some time to reflect. “One thing that kind of hit me recently was that I presented a kindergarten graduation certificate to the child of one of my first students from Lawrence County,” Scott reminisced.
She said it seems many people aren’t going into education these days. “I still think it’s the most wonderful profession that anyone could be involved in,” Scott said, “but I also feel like you’ve got to have that calling. It’s got to be something you want to do, and teachers today are faced with a lot of challenges we weren’t faced with when I started teaching in 1985.”
Scott attended Russellville City Schools through 10th grade. “One of the things that’s so special to me about being at West Elementary is I was in the first second-grade class that started school here when the school was built,” she said.
After 10th grade, her parents moved the family to Lawrence County, where she and her brother graduated from Mount Hope High School.
“It was special to be able to teach there for 20 years,” said Scott, “and it’s been wonderful to be back at Russellville. My children both graduated from Russellville High School.”
Although she said it’s time to move on with the next chapter of her life, she emphasized how much she will miss children, her colleagues and the work she’s had the opportunity to do over the years.
“I’ve been very impressed with Dr. Grimes, the school board and my colleagues and how supportive they are of students,” she said. “I’m very sad to leave this faculty. They are truly my friends, and I’m going to miss them along with the students.”
Scott said another very special part of being in the Russellville City School system is having her daughter, a gifted education specialist, also working in the same school system. “I’ve gotten to work with her professionally in education, and that has been one of the highlights of my career.”
While Scott was a teacher at RES, she worked with Kristie Ezzell, who also recently retired, who was the principal at the time.
“She was a huge role model for me,” added Scott, “along with Tony Rutherford, who was the principal at Mount Hope High School. They were great mentors.”
She said she and Ezzell have been friends and gone to church together all of their lives. “It’s been wonderful working with her. We work so well together,” Scott said. “Even when I wasn’t working in RCS, I would call her as an administrator and ask for advice, as well as Dr. Grimes. He’s been wonderful. I also enjoyed my time in the Franklin County School system and received a lot of support while there. They were great to work with also.”
For Melissa Kiel, a K-2 intervention specialist at West, Scott has been an inspiration.
“There’s so much good to say about her,” Kiel said. “I notice that, as a leader, she wouldn’t ask you to do something she wouldn’t do herself. She’s always been willing to jump in and do whatever’s needed. She’s encouraging, and she loves working with the kids.”
They are sentiments first-grade teacher Kim Palmer shares. “Ann Scott unifies the group. She treats everybody very fairly – every faculty member,” Palmer said. “She’s very supportive. She brings unity to the faculty and forms personal relationships with them. She trusts us to be the professionals that we were trained to be.”
For Kaylee Brannon, a kindergarten and first-grade special education teacher, it’s all about Scott’s experience and caring. “She has a great personal relationship with the students. She knows their backgrounds, and she knows their interests and makes it a point to be able to call them by name, and that’s huge to me.”
Brannon also said Scott’s positive outlook has been an encouragement. “She’s very upbeat, and she’s always made the best out of every situation, using all of her resources to best help the kids as well as encourage the faculty, remaining very approachable. If we needed anything, we felt like we could come to her and be honest with her.”
Olivia Barksdale, speech and language pathologist at West Elementary, also praised the high quality of Scott’s leadership at the school.
“Her leadership has shifted the culture as a whole at our school. She’s not just an admin; she also wants to be your friend,” Barksdale said. “On a personal level, she understands about struggles, and she’s left a lasting mark on us.”
It’s extra personal for Liza Scott, Ann Scott’s daughter. “I feel like everything I’ve learned about education, I’ve learned from her, and I’ve gone to school with her when I was little,” Liza said. “She’s just always been a great mentor to me, and she’s the reason I went into education.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned from her is to always make the best decision for the kids, and then you can lay your head down at night. It’s been very nice for her to finish out her career here in the same school system as me.”
Although Ann Scott is hanging up her principal’s hat, she said her time in education will always be near and dear to her heart. She said she’d like to thank all the people who have helped her along the way, including Dewayne Key “for giving me my first teaching job in 1985,” as well as former Franklin County Superintendent Gary Williams and former Franklin County Assistant Superintendent Donald Borden “for believing in me and giving me my first administrator’s position at Tharptown Elementary,” as well as many, many others, too numerous to name.
Scott said she’s looking forward to living life at a more relaxed pace and being able to spend more time with family and friends.
Stepping into the role of principal at West Elementary is Stanford, rising from assistant principal at West.
“Before that,” explained Stanford, “I was an assistant principal at Russellville Middle. Prior to that, I was a teacher at Russellville Elementary. This will be my 12th year in education.”
Stanford earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Athens State University, and she earned her administration degree from the University of West Alabama in 2020. Her experience includes teaching Pre-K as well as first, third and fifth grades.
She said what she loves about working with elementary-age students is that they love to be at school and love their teachers.
“There’s so much excitement when they walk through the halls,” she said. “It just sets the tone for your whole day when they walk in, and they’re so excited to be here and eager to learn.”
As to goals for the year, Stanford said her objective is to continue supporting the teachers and other staff members while continuing to build relationships with the students, parents and other members of the community.
“I’m looking forward to working with our teachers and students and continuing to see the great things we can accomplish together,” explained Stanford. “Last year, we saw so many wonderful things happen at West Elementary. There was so much growth, and I just look forward to continuing to see that with our students and teachers.”
She said she’s thankful for the opportunity to serve as principal at West Elementary.
“We have some amazing leaders in the Russellville City Schools,” explained Stanford, “and I’m just very thankful that I get to work with them and have their guidance. It’s going to be a great year, and I can’t wait to see the results of all our hard work.”
Stanford is married to Trey Stanford, a health teacher, head soccer coach and a football coach at Russellville High School. They have two sons.