Across Alabama last week, communities learned their public schools have been reduced to a letter grade on the state’s new report card. In Tuscaloosa, though, we know that one letter can’t adequately express the innovation and passion of our local school leaders.

Earlier this year, Central High School Principal Clarence Sutton Jr. asked a group of employers to help him figure out a way to help students who wanted to get into the workforce upon graduation. This opportunity to collaborate allowed us to develop a curriculum with the Alabama Community College System and blend that with the needs of local employers.

Students gained credentials through Shelton State Community College and over a semester participated in field trips to employers in various businesses and industries in West Alabama. This exposure helped the students make informed decisions about the jobs they wanted to seek, and within a week of the program’s close more than half the class was employed.

We’re excited about this new program, Ready to Work, and what it’s going to do for these young adults and for our area workforce.

We have employers in this community who are engaged with local schools and the school systems, and this is what can happen when we partner to make our communities stronger places to learn and earn.

No one is questioning the importance of school accountability, but in light of partnerships and leadership such as this, surely there is more to say about our schools than merely a single letter grade.