One semester later: Parker reflects on changes at Bob Jones
One semester has passed with two high schools in Madison. How has the opening of James Clemens High School affected Bob Jones High School?
“We said from the beginning, ‘An overcrowded school is a self-correcting problem: the board builds a new school, or parents find another school,” Bob Jones Principal Robby Parker said.
Parker has seen his school gain a freshman class while transferring hundreds of students to James Clemens. “Bob Jones still has 2,100 students. That’s 250 students less than last year,” Parker said.
Class breakdown shows 665 seniors, 550 juniors, 450 sophomores and 425 freshmen. “We’ll lose about 200 students next year and 100 the next,” Parker said. “For the future, 1,700 to 1,800 will be our number.”
Bob Jones halls and ‘infamous’ parking lot are less crowded. The cafeteria handles four lunch periods, each with 500 students.
“The only regret … I won’t be the principal of every kid that lives in Madison,” Parker said. “Selfishly, I miss not being the only principal.”
James Clemens’ opening has “doubled the opportunities for students. Having the new high school is very positive,” Parker said. Bob Jones classes retain the same student/teacher ratio. “We have fewer teachers but also fewer students.”
Bob Jones doesn’t have the benefit of “local units. We’re staffed exactly as the state staffs us. With the split, we have to continue to fight to offer every class we’ve always offered,” Parker said.
That commitment requires an efficient schedule with filled-to-capacity classes, largely credited to assistant principal Dr. Julie Finley, counselors and registrar.
Seniors at Bob Jones had the option to remain for graduation this year. Parker wasn’t surprised that most seniors stayed. “No arrogance … they’ve grown up as Bob Jones Patriots.”
“As principal of only one school, we drove the train. We were on our own. Now, there are repercussions about everything, from scheduling football games to prom,” Parker said.
“We couldn’t have had a better choice at James Clemens than Dr. Brian Clayton,” Parker said. They’re friends and rib each other constantly. “Anyone who has known me for 25 years (in education), it’s a job, but I have a good time with my colleagues.”