Phillips High School principal retiring

Dr. Al Temple, Phillips High School principal, is retiring. (Photo Courtesy of The Journal Record)

BEAR CREEK - Phillips High School Principal Dr. Al Temple is retiring.

The Marion County Board of Education certified his resignation due to retirement, effective July 1, at its May 10 meeting.

Temple has been an educator, coach and administrator for 27 years, most of which he spent in Haleyville City Schools before becoming the PHS principal in 2019.

Temple has two children, Allie, a 2020 graduate of PHS, and Jake, a 2023 graduate of HHS. His parents are Donald and Fran Temple of Bunnlevel, N.C., and Geneva and Paul R. Caudill II of Eupora, Miss.

Originally from Starkville, Miss., Temple briefly attended East Mississippi Community College and then earned his Bachelor of Science in physical education in 1996 and a master’s in physical education/sports administration in 1998, both from Mississippi State University.

He began his career at Oak Hill Academy in West Point, Miss., where he taught elementary PE and coached tennis and varsity boys basketball from 1997-1999.

He then came to Haleyville City Schools, starting out by teaching health and intro to technology and coaching varsity boys basketball. Over the years, he also coached varsity girls basketball, tennis and soccer. He was assistant principal at Haleyville High from 2002-08 and again from 2014-18 and assistant principal at Haleyville Elementary in 2009. He was also HCS transportation supervisor from 2002-2010 and HHS athletic director from 2009-2010.

He continued his own education in Alabama, earning a education specialist degree in educational leadership from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2005 and a doctorate in educational leadership from Samford University in 2018.

He became PHS’ principal in January 2019.

For Temple, some of the highlights of his time as principal include the PHS girls varsity basketball team becoming the 2019 state 1A champions, the PHS volleyball team making it to the semi-finals in 2020 and three students winning state Bryant Jordan awards, Allie Temple (2020 Academic Award), Katelyn Frazier (2022 Achievement Award) and Payton Miller (2024 Achievement Award).

Other highlights include numerous improvements to the school facilities that he was there to help coordinate: the paving of the student parking lot and other areas, the installation of air-conditioning in the gym, the removal of the gym stage to make room for additional bleachers, the installation of an LED sign in front of PHS, renovations of the band hall and library media center, the installation of 85-inch smart TVs with touchscreens in every classroom and, most recently, repairs to the fence. The school, Temple noted, also just ordered new benches and tables to be placed in front of the gym and in its lobby for student use.

PHS also saw an increase in its emphasis on fine arts during his time as principal, Temple said, noting the establishment of an art club and a theater program and the practice of holding an silent art auction or play in conjunction with a band concert.

The music program also grew thanks to a grant applied for by then-band director Nicholas Watts that allowed for the purchase of around 20 guitars and 20 keyboards.

“Our test scores were not as high as I would like them to be,” Temple noted when asked if there were anything he wanted to see accomplished at PHS that hadn’t yet been achieved. “Certainly, we fought through COVID for a couple of years and just battling through that time, that took a kind of a toll. Out of the five and a half years I was there, (COVID) was probably a good three year’s worth. That was a tough time,” he said. “Of course, we always want to see improvement in our test scores and the success of our students.”

Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic, Temple enjoyed his years as PHS principal and the family-like atmosphere that existed thanks to the school’s smaller size, he said, noting that Allie, who transferred from HHS to PHS for her senior year, remarked on the fact that all the students hung out at PHS irrespective of what grade they were in.

“Something I really liked was that the students really get an opportunity to participate in just about anything,” Temple said.  “You have students playing golf, running track and playing baseball all at the same time. It was really kind of neat that they got the opportunity (. . .) to compete in just about anything they wanted to without restriction, and we had to do that at a small school. (. . .) You just don’t have as many students to work with, so you get them involved in everything.”

When Temple’s retirement is official, he will be credited with an additional nine months of teaching thanks to the large number of sick days he’s accumulated in his 25 years in Alabama. He is using a month of his sick leave to finish out his time at PHS because he has already begun the next phase of his career.

Temple started a new position as an Extension Service associate in Mississippi State University’s 4-H Youth Development Center on Monday, June 3.

“I actually worked as a graduate assistant at Mississippi State when I was getting my master’s, and Starkville was my hometown, so I had always kind of had a dream of having an opportunity to come back and work at Mississippi State,” Temple said. He also wanted “to move back home and be close to my dad and family,” he said. “It worked out where I could finish out the school year and see what happens here with this new adventure.”

Asked what he’d tell his successor at PHS, Temple said, “I would say what I was told: ‘It’s a great place to be a principal.’ It really is. You have the opportunity through the board and through the leadership in Marion County to do your job. I hate to say it that way, but you have the opportunity to be a principal.”

He continued, “I would say it’s a great group of students, always has been. They really recognize when you’re working hard and trying to help them, and (. . .) I really feel like I left a really strong faculty. They're well-trained in their areas. They’re highly capable in everything they do and will be very supportive of the leadership. And I would say I feel like the community has always been supportive, but it is making even mores strides in that with the addition of (an athletic) boosters club. They’re really bringing a lot of attention and support to the school. Even the town itself, the town council, the mayor—every part of the town—they’ve all been very supportive of the things we’ve wanted to do. (The community was) extremely supportive of the school, the students, our teachers, our programs.”

Temple is grateful to both the Haleyville and Bear Creek communities. “I’d just like to say thank you to Haleyville, all the leadership in Haleyville, friends and family that are there, the community itself and then the school (for) the opportunities that they gave me while I was there, and I'd like to say the same thing about Bear Creek and Phillips,” he noted.

“I feel very fortunate for the career I had, (and for), especially in public education, being able to be at two schools for the length of that time (and able to be) involved in coaching and administration,” he continued.

“Both communities, I'd just like to say thank you for the opportunities and the support. (I) wish them well,” Temple said. “I won’t be too far away. I’ll be back visiting as often as I can, and (I) wish them all the luck in the world."

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