Canadians visit CHAT

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 23, 2005

Students and teachers at Selma Middle CHAT Academy are used to having visitors tour their school.

As a site for top-notch and challenging art and technology programs, the magnet school has become well known among educators across the state and beyond.

Principal Charlotte Griffeth often receives visit requests from other school systems, state department heads and dignitaries who’ve heard about the school’s programs and want to see them in action.

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Last month, CHAT Academy was one of two city schools that welcomed teachers and principals from the Mobile County School System, who came to learn how the schools improved student reading and math scores.

Even a NFL player has been impressed with CHAT Academy.

Earlier this year, Washington Redskins tackle Chris Samuels, who is developing a housing project in Selma, made a generous donation to the school.

More recently, the school has begun to earn an international reputation as well.

Two visitors from a Canadian school district toured CHAT Academy on Thursday to get some ideas for the development of a performing arts middle school.

Bruce Nicholson and Diego Testa, school officials from Abbotsford, British Columbia, located 4.5 miles from the U.S./Canada border, met with Griffeth and her staff and seemed impressed with the school’s programs.

“We saw a lot of great things here,” Nicholson said. “One of the first things that stood out was the pretty orderly atmosphere. Students wore uniforms and the classrooms were focused.”

The Canadian school officials said they planned the trip to Selma several months ago after hearing about CHAT Academy through the International Network of Performing Visual Arts Schools.

“CHAT was listed as one of the top across the nation,” Nicholson said.

Along with CHAT Academy, Nicholson and Testa also visited a school in Montgomery and in the state of Washington.

“We are looking at where the arts are flourishing, and this (CHAT Academy) is a place where this has happened,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson and Testa said they were “thankful for the opportunity” to visit CHAT Academy.

“Everyone here has been wonderfully gracious,” Testa said.

“It’s our Southern hospitality,” explained Griffeth.

Griffeth said this was the first time visitors from another country visited the school.

“It’s exciting to have visitors from another country,” she said. “And the teachers are always excited to meet people from school systems outside of Selma.”

Griffeth said the school takes pride in its many educational achievements, so its not surprising that so many people want to visit CHAT Academy.

“We are the premier school in Selma,” she said.