Phenix City Central High School leader Tommy Vickers retires
Central High School has improved its graduation rate from 51% to 96% over Tommy Vickers’ 11 years as principal is reason enough to believe his leadership has created a positive impact. Listen to the people he guided there, and you will see why.
Math teacher Sarah Weber, sponsor of the school’s beta club, told the Ledger-Enquirer that Vickers has empowered staff members to do their best.
“It’s one thing to come to work and love your job, to enjoy what you do,” she said, “and it’s another to come to work and feel important and to feel valued and supported and to have your administration to get excited about the things that matter to you.
Senior central Ellison Laney, 17, summed up what she hears classmates say about Vickers.
“Overall they think he’s a really great guy,” she told LE. “I don’t know how you couldn’t. The student body, I would say, sees him less as that creepy, mysterious figure and more as not a father, but a guardian type role – less dictator-like and more brotherly.
No wonder the Town of Phenix Superintendent of Schools, Randy Wilkes, said LE Vickers was “second to none” among principals.
“To say he will be missed is an understatement to say the least,” Wilkes said. “He left his mark and he leaves a legacy. It leaves something that I believe can be supported, built and improved.
Vickers’ last day at Central, February 28, will end 30 years at the school, first as a math teacher and assistant football coach (1992-2006), then as an assistant principal (2006 -2010) before becoming director.
“I’m going to run a school that is disciplined,” he said, “but also try to make it an environment where people like to come to work and students like to come to school.”
Vickers, 53, told LE he was retiring from the teaching profession to give him more time to pursue another passion: military service. He is a Brigadier General of the Alabama National Guard, leading the 135e Expeditionary Support Command since February.
In March, he is expected to begin an 11-month deployment to Kuwait as the commanding general of 135e Sustainment command camp. He served there as the Chief of Staff during a one-year deployment in 2013. He was also deployed to Iraq as the battalion commander of 1203e Engineer Battalion from May 2007 to June 2008.
“The time is right,” Vickers said of his retirement. “I’ve been deployed twice before, and the school system has been very generous in having someone replace me and let me return to my original position. But this time I just thought that because of the timing and where I am in my career and other opportunities for me in the military after I come back, it would take me even further away from school. … At one point, I feel like I’m unfair to keep going and coming back.
Vickers’ father, grandfather and great-grandfather also served in the military.
“It’s just a lineage for me,” he said.
He grew up in San Antonio, joined the Guard at 17, and graduated from Cole High School, where his father was stationed in the military at Fort Sam Houston.
Vickers learned this mantra about serving: “If I don’t, who will? … That’s what kept me going for so long.
He went to Auburn University to become an engineer, but said he realized his “heart and soul” was to become a high school football coach. And when he became an assistant coach at Central, he realized that being a good educator and a soldier required similar leadership skills.
After his first deployment, his goal of becoming a football head coach changed.
Instead of using his leadership to influence only football players as a coach, he could influence all the students in the school as a principal.
“It’s to see the students, the athletes or the soldiers being successful,” he said. “If you can participate in their training, their training, their mentoring to be successful in whatever they do, that’s an internal reward that you can’t get in any other company. “
Vickers received an MA in Strategic Studies from the US Army War College, an MA in Secondary Education from Columbus State University, and a BA in Secondary Education from Auburn University.
He was made a second lieutenant in the Army National Guard in 1988 through the Fort Benning Officer Candidate School. He is a graduate of the Engineer Office Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms and Service Staff School, the Command and General Staff Course, the Engineer Pre-Command Course and the US Army War College.
Vickers was PCS Teacher of the Year and Administrator of the Year. His military honors include two Legion of Merit medals, two Bronze Stars, one Meritorious Service Medal, and three Commendation and Achievement Medals.
“His service in the United States is admirable,” said Wilkes. ” It’s sincere. He has a real love for the country. The only thing that rivals his love for the country is his love for Central High School.
Praised for the inclusive approach
Ellison said Vickers “wants the school to be a force.”
Despite his background as a coach and Central having a successful track and field program, Vickers supported all extracurricular activities, Weber said. And all of Central’s students attend at least one, Wilkes said.
“He does a great job showcasing our students who may not be our athletes but still doing wonderful things in our school system,” Weber said. “It shows our kids that he cares. It shows our staff that he cares.
Vickers gave Weber the resources to make the Beta Club a state and national competitor, she said. He even invested his own money in the club’s induction ceremonies to turn them into a catered event instead of a cupcake moment, Weber said.
“He wanted to show it was important,” she said. “… It was a breath of fresh air.”
When she walks into her office with a ‘crazy idea,’ Weber said, ‘He says,’ OK. How do you think we can make it work? ‘ He doesn’t shoot it down, even as bizarre as it sounds.
For example, sending 17 students to Oklahoma for a national Beta Club competition, she said.
By creating a dual enrollment program with Chattahoochee Valley Community College and strengthening the curriculum and technology in the classroom, Vickers has helped raise the level of education, Weber said. It gave students more chances to graduate through payback programs for better grades and more credits, she said.
Five years ago, when Central started giving the ACT College Entrance Examination to the entire junior class, its average composite score was 17.9. Now it is 18.7. And the college and career readiness indicator rose from 63% to 90% over the same period.
“It’s really a family atmosphere here,” Weber said. “… He will be sorely missed, and they are gigantic shoes to fill for the next one.” … He put a ton of good things in place. I’m excited for the years to come, but it’s a tough act to follow.
Vickers returned the praise to the Central family.
“I’m just thankful to work with such great people along the way,” he said. “… Whether teachers, administrators, central office, board members, the community,. . . the relationships that I have forged here over the past 28 to 30 years have been very enriching.