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10 months ago



CHAMBERS COUNTY, AL – The Alabama Department of Education has released the Alabama State Report Card, containing a letter grade for schools and school systems across the state.

            The Report Card reflects several different factors including academic achievement, academic growth, and chronic absenteeism, as well as graduation rates and college and career readiness for high schools.


            The Chambers County School District as a whole received a letter grade of C, and a numerical rating of 76.


            “While we are certainly not ecstatic over receiving a ‘C’, we are pleased that our results were in line with the state average,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr Kelli Hodge. “In a discussion with principals, I reminded them that the Report Card grade was based on the performance of a single test. We don’t give report card grades to children based on just one assignment. While ‘C’ is average, and most people are supposed to score average, we are not satisfied with staying average. We will use this information to help us improve, but we will not discount all of the areas in which our schools are already showing improvement.”


            The State of Alabama introduced the State Report Card this year in compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress in 2015, which requires states to report on student academic achievement. The goal of the Report Card is to provide a starting point and to offer easy-to-understand and concise information showing how a school is doing.


            However, most of the data used for the State Report Card score was taken from the ACT Aspire Summative Assessment that the State of Alabama used to measure the educational standing of students in grades 3 through 8 and 10 from 2012 until 2017. In June 2017, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to terminate the use of ACT Aspire as the state summative assessment, yet included its data as a major component of the Report Card formula.

 Therefore, the Chambers County Board of Education has joined a growing number of school boards across the state that have adopted a resolution for a Vote of No Confidence for the report card because of the criteria established for measuring assessments, including “chronic absenteeism” that does not recognize excused absences.

 “We are not opposed to a report card that uses multiple measures in an equitable way to report successes or lack thereof in achievement, growth, college and career readiness, graduation rates and student success,” said Hodge. “We are opposed to a report card based on one test that has been discontinued for a number of concerns, including limited reliability and not being aligned with state standards.”

“We welcome a report card that recognizes the millions of dollars in scholarship money our students receive, one which recognizes students who graduate with credentials, college acceptance or military commitments,” Hodge added. “We want a report card that does not unfairly categorize students who work hard to keep up or catch up after having cancer, losing a home to fire, attend school-sponsored events or just have the bad luck of being sick several times in one year.”

According to the data used to measure academic growth and achievement during the 2016-2017 school year, the State Report Card indicated the following results for individual schools in the Chambers County District:

• Bob Harding Shawmut Elementary School – Score: 74 (C) 

• Fairfax Elementary School – Score: 70 (C)

• Five Points School – Score: 75 (C)

• Huguley Elementary School – Score: 86 (B)

 • John P. Powell Middle School – Score: 58 (F)

• Lafayette High School – Score: 74 (C)

• Lafayette Lanier Elementary School – Score: 78 (C)

• Lafayette Eastside Elementary School – Score: 66 (D)

• Valley High School – Score: 75 (C)

• W. F. Burns Middle School – Score: 77 (C)

“While the Report Card definitely has its flaws, it is one tool to highlight what we are doing well and where we need to improve,” said Hodge. “It is not meant to be the only measure of a school’s performance. Rather, it gives us an opportunity to encourage honest conversations about what we need to do to help our students succeed. We are all in this together. Schools, parents and our communities have a role to play in educating our children.” Hodge also pointed out that current initiatives are in place to help schools improve academic achievement, such as parent development workshops conducted at Lafayette  Eastside Elementary designed to teach parents how to encourage reading at home through daily interaction with their children. And, at J. P. Powell Middle School, family math, science and fitness nights are held each month, as well as after-school tutoring in math and reading each week. Similar activities are scheduled on a regular basis in schools throughout the district.

“There will always be opportunities for improvement, and our efforts to provide the best educational experience possible for our students will continue without ceasing,” said Hodge. “We welcome insight, suggestions and involvement from parents and the community to insure our success.”

Additional data and details about the factors used to determine grades for each school are available on the Alabama Department of Education’s website at Parents can also see how their children’s school compares with others of similar demographics.

By David Bell


13 days ago

TIS THE SEASON - FFA students at the Chambers County Career Technical Center are getting ready for their annual poinsettia sale. Shown above, from left, are John Emfinger, Cody Lumpkin, Donkia Edmondson, Mayrin Vasquez, Antavious Dunn, and Amanda Doan.

LaFAYETTE – The Future Farmers of America chapter at the Chambers County Career Technical Center will begin its annual Poinsettia Sale on Monday, December 3, 2018. Students began working on this crop in August and have cared for the plants each day since.

Plants will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis from the greenhouse at the year of the Career Tech Center in LaFayette. The sale hours will be from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. CST on the first day, and 12 noon until 3 p.m. CST each day afterwards until all plants have been sold.

The poinsettias are red and priced at $6 for a plain pot or $7 if you wish to add a decorative pot cover. These plants will make for the perfect holiday gift or table decoration. 

All proceeds from the sale will benefit the FFA.

By David Bell

LaFAYETTE - The Chambers County School District recently hosted two public forums to gauge community interest in a proposal to consolidate local high schools. Results of an online survey were also discussed, which gave citizens the opportunity to express their opinions on the proposal.

Specifically, the survey asked citizens if they would prefer a merger of Valley and LaFayette high schools, with the possible inclusion of Lanett High School.
More than 1,600 people participated in the survey, representing all segments of the county. Approximately 40 percent of those respondents were opposed to consolidation, while 37 percent said they were in favor. Yet, 23 percent indicated they needed more information before reaching a decision.
“This was the first step in our effort to gather information from the public, and we now know there is a significant number of people who are requesting additional information,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “Our next step will be gathering data that will answer those questions.”
Over the past few months, the Birmingham-based project management firm HPM has been conducting a facilities assessment to determine the current condition of all existing structures in the school district, as well as the current costs of maintenance, expense of renovations, and long-term upkeep. Those figures will be compared to the costs of constructing and maintaining a new consolidated high school campus and how such a project might be funded.
“The most important aspect of this endeavor is to create a better future for our students,” said Hodge. “We are currently stretching our resources among multiple schools, which limits the opportunities we can provide for each. By pooling those resources into one facility, we greatly expand the possibility of enhanced curriculums that will benefit our entire student population."
As additional data is collected, future public meetings will be scheduled to keep local citizens updated and allow for further input. Meanwhile, information gathered thus far, including complete results of the recent online survey, can be accessed through the school district's website at


10 days ago

Shown above, from left, are Secondary Teacher of the Year Toni Shaddix, Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge, and Elementary Teacher of the Year Sherrie Taylor.


LaFAYETTE – Nominees for outstanding elementary and secondary “Teacher of the Year” awards were each presented plaques of recognition and achievement during a recent meeting of the Chambers County Board of Education. From that group, two finalists were announced as the overall winners.


            Vying for top honors this year at the elementary level were Mary Ann Daves of Eastside, Willonda Caffie of Fairfax, Mary Ann Spence of Five Points, Courtney Peacock of Bob Harding-Shawmut, Sherrie Taylor of Huguley, and Yolandria Rachel of LaFayette Lanier.


            Nominees at the secondary level included Jill Romine of J. P. Powell, Kelly Mezick of W. F. Burnes, Jennifer Williams of Career Technical Center, Precious White-Jordan of LaFayette High School, and Toni Shaddix of Valley High School.


            “Teachers of the Year are selected by a panel of different people,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelly Hodge. “They look at each nominee’s teaching strategies, their innovation, letters of recommendation written by students, parents, and from colleagues. A lot of different data goes into the selection process.”


            Winner of the “Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year” award was Huguley nominee Sherrie Taylor, while Toni Shaddix of Valley High School was recipient of the “Outstanding Secondary Teacher of the Year” award.


            “All of our teachers do an exceptional job of educating their students,” said Hodge. “We congratulate this year’s winners while expressing our gratitude for their outstanding service.”


By David Bell


13 days ago

LaFAYETTE - With the potential for tragic accidents involving children at school bus stops, the Chambers County School District is reminding local motorists to be especially vigilant in areas where students are entering or exiting buses.

Here are some basic tips to help insure children's safety:

  • Parents, teach your child to take five giant steps backward from the edge of the roadway and remain there until the school bus comes to a complete stop.
  • Children should always look both ways before entering a lane of traffic.
  • Reflective clothing will make children more visible to motorists.
  • Older children in each group should take extra precautions for younger students.
"The school bus stop should not be a place of fear," said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. "It is every driver's responsibility to remain alert and cautious in areas where children are getting on or off a bus."

"I also want to thank our bus drivers who do an excellent job in the careful transportation of our students on a daily basis," Hodge added.

State law requires traffic in both directions to come to a complete stop anytime a school bus deploys its red flashing lights. The only exception involves a divided highway that contains a median or some other structure separating opposite lanes. Violators could face stiff fines and penalties issued by law enforcement.

By David Bell


5 months ago

Bob Harding-Shawmut Elementary School, shown at left, is one of several Chambers County schools that has been equipped with a new security system to restrict public access to the building. 


New security equipment restricting access to school buildings in the Chambers County School District is making facilities safer for students and faculty that occupy them.


            “At the conclusion of the previous school year, we began installing magnetic lock systems on the entrance doors of several schools. These systems do not permit a door to be opened until a staff member inside the building activates a release of the lock”, said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “The safety of our students, teachers, and support personnel is a top priority that we take very seriously, and these new systems will help to insure better security.”


            Schools thus far that have had the equipment installed, or are in the process if installation,  include Fairfax, Shawmut, Huguley, Lafayette Lanier and Eastside elementary schools, J. P. Powell and W. F. Burns middle schools, and Five Points School.


            “The current state education budget contained additional funding which allowed expenditures for school security. We’re now in the process of determining areas of greatest vulnerability, and addressing each of them on a priority basis”, said Hodge.


            The main focus for additional improvements will be upgrading video surveillance and possibly alarm systems at J. P. Powell and W. F. Burns middle schools, as well as Valley and LaFayette high schools.


            “We’ll utilize the available funding as far as it goes”, Hodge added. “Our goal is to make each campus as safe and secure as possible. As more funding becomes available, we will continue our pursuit of this goal.”


            In addition to new security equipment, the Chambers County School District has implemented an aggressive school safety plan that addresses particular situations where safety may be in jeopardy. Frequent drills are conducted to keep students and staff prepared for appropriate measures to be taken during such incidents.

By David Bell


8 months ago

FIVE POINTS – Olivia Kadyrova was only seven years old and living in her native country of Russia when her mother married a local American citizen and the family moved to Chambers County, Alabama. The young girl was enrolled in the first grade at Five Points School.


            “Olivia could barely speak English, but she was a fast learner,” said Five Points Principal Rhonda Givins. “Much of what she learned in the beginning came from listening to music.”


            Through the help of an excellent teaching staff, Olivia’s progress and development continued to thrive all the way through seventh grade, when she transferred to Chambers Academy for one year before the family moved to Auburn. She graduated Auburn High School and currently lives in Lee County.


            Sometime during the past three months, Olivia, who is a CharterBank customer, used her debit card as credit, which automatically made her eligible for the bank’s “Swipe It Forward” campaign giveaway. The first quarter prize was a package of various products from Apple, plus two $100 Apple gift cards. In addition, the winner could designate a school or nonprofit organization to receive ten Apple ipads.


            “As fate would have it, Olivia was the winner, and chose Five Points School as the recipient of the ipads. They will be utilized by students in every classroom” said Givins. “We also want to thank CharterBank for making this contribution possible.”


            “I’m just glad I had the opportunity to give something back to the school that gave so much to me,” said Kadyrova. “I remember as a young girl in a new country how awesome the teachers were; very focused on learning. I will always be grateful to them.”


            Representatives from CharterBank recently accompanied Olivia to Five Points School for an official presentation, at which time she also received her prize package.

By David Bell


7 months ago

Shown above, from left, are 2018 Chambers County 'Amazing Shake' finalists Rylee Yates, Jacob Smith, Journey Dixon, Madison Heard and Da'Mauriel Davis. They were each presented medals at a recent school board meeting , and will serve as special ambassadors during the 2018-2019 school year.


LaFAYETTE – The five finalists in this year’s inaugural Chambers County ‘Amazing Shake’ competition have been appointed by school superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge to serve as district ambassadors for the 2018-2019 school year.


            The fifth-grade students were selected from an initial group of 30, five from each of the district’s six elementary schools, who participated in three rounds of competition demonstrating various life skills for future success. The exercises included how to give a proper handshake, maintaining eye contact, and presenting themselves in a professional manner, with emphasis on etiquette, discipline, and respect.


            At each level, students were scored by a panel of judges according to their performance, culminating from what they had learned throughout the school year. The 2018 Chambers County ‘Amazing Shake’ winner was Journey Dixon from Huguley Elementary School. The remaining four finalists were Madison Heard, Jacob Smith, Da’Mauriel Davis and Rylee Yates.


‘The Amazing Shake’ was created by the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, and was introduced to Chambers County students this year. Long-range plans are to expand the program from fifth to eighth grades.


            “Selecting an overall winner was a difficult task,” said Hodge. “These students exhibited outstanding poise, confidence, and ability to perform well under pressure, all traits that will help them become successful citizens. Our thanks to Lauren Dabbs and the East Alabama Regional In-Service Committee Ron Clark Implementation Team for their extraordinary leadership.”


            “During the coming school year, our five finalists will serve as special ambassadors for our district,” Hodge added. “You will be seeing them at events including Teachers Institute on teachers’ first day back from summer break, Advance-Ed accreditation, comprehensive monitoring, and anytime we have special guests or activities. They will also serve as mentors for future students participating in ‘Amazing Shake’ competitions.”

At a recent meeting of the Chambers County School Board, the finalists were presented medals, and Dr. Hodge gave them a shirt that they will wear while performing official duties as ambassadors. Overall winner Journey Dixon was also awarded a trophy.

By David Bell


7 months ago

Shown above, from left, are 2018 top LaFayette High School graduates Ny'Keirria Billingsley, Miciah Vines and D'Angelo Swanson, and top Valley High School graduates Jase Phillips, Callie Pike and Alexis Elise Walls.


LaFAYETTE – The top three graduating seniors from LaFayette and Valley high schools were recently presented plaques of achievement by the Chambers County School Board.


            The top graduates from LaFayette High School are Ny’Keirria Billingsley, Miciah Vines and D’Angelo Swanson.


            Ny’Keirra Billingsley served her senior year as President of her class, the National Technical Honor Society, Student Government Association, and Health Occupations Students of America. She was also an active member of FCCLA, Beta Club, and Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Junior Ambassadors.


            In addition, Ny’Keirra was a cheerleader from 2013 until 2017, and was Miss LHS for the 2017-2018 school year. Her community involvement has included serving as a volunteer at the Rampey Daycare Center and LaFayette Nursing Home.


Ny’Keirra plans to attend the University of Alabama in Birmingham where she will major in nursing. She leaves LaFayette High School with a 4.6 (weighted) GPA.


            Miciah Vines has been active in the National Technical Honor Society, National Beta Club, National Society of High School Scholars, Family Career Community Leaders of America (Secretary), and Future Teachers of America. She also served as statistician for the LaFayette High School basketball team, was a gate worker at Auburn University football games, a Teacher Education Student at the Chambers County Career Technical Center, and is a member of the White Hall Baptist Church Youth Choir and Praise Team.


            Miciah is CPR certified and plans to become a registered nurse. She leaves LaFayette High School with a 4.5 (weighted) GPA.


            D’Angelo Swanson has been a member of the National Honor Society, National Beta Club,  and was recipient of  the  LHS  Superstar  Award  for scoring 20 or above on the ACT. He also received a Platinum score on the ACT Work Keys.

In addition, D’Angelo served as Business/PR Manager for Piedmont Motorsports and Engineering at the Chambers County Career Technical Center, and President of UNITE Mentoring, Inc., contributing more than 50 hours of volunteer community service.

            D’Angelo has already earned a Machine Shop Certificate from Southern Union State Community College, and plans to attend Spring Hill University to obtain a degree in Management Marketing. He leaves LaFayette High School with a 4.5 (weighted) GPA.

            The top graduates from Valley High School are Jase Phillips, Callie Pike and Alexis Elise Walls.

            Jase Phillips has been an active member of the National Honor Society, Key Club International, National Beta Club, FCA, VHS Scholar’s Bowl, Math Team, Pep Club, Tennis Team, Student Government Association, and Rambassadors. He was also a member of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, a Class Favorite his Junior year, a Senior Superlative (Most Positive), and a finalist for Mr. VHS. Furthermore, Jase was on the ‘All A’ Honor Roll every year of his high school education.

            In terms of community involvement, Jase served as a Junior Ambassador with the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and volunteered with Huguley Elementary School Fall Festival and May Day activities, Hawkes Library Summer Children’s Program, Kidfest and Children’s Ministry at Spring Road Christian Church, Out of Darkness suicide awareness walk, Mill Village Christmas, and Casas Por Cristo Missions house-building team in Acuna, Mexico.

            Jase plans to attend Auburn University and obtain a degree in Pharmacy. He leaves Valley High School with a 4.7 (weighted) GPA.

            Callie Pike has been a member of the National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, and served as President of the VHS Key Club. She was also active in the National Beta Club, Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce (Jr. Ambassadors), VHS Rambassadors and Pep Club, and was Miss VHS for the 2017-2018 school year.

            While in high school, Callie obtained work experience through CharterBank, Performance Power Equipment, and the Chicken Stop. She plans to attend Auburn University and major in Veterinary Medicine.

            Callie leaves Valley High School with a 4.7 (weighted) GPA.

            Alexis Elise Walls spent her senior year as a member of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, and was also active in the Key Club and marching band. In addition, Alexis was an Academic Achievement Award winner and member of the ‘All A’ Honor Roll and Beta Club.

Among her volunteer experiences, Alexis has served as a missionary to Haiti, where she taught basic computer skills, an English class, Bible class, and assisted with a sports camp. She also worked with other volunteers in the Valley area building wheelchair ramps.

            Alexis plans to attend Southern Union State Community College and obtain her Associates degree before transferring to Auburn University and majoring in Early Childhood Education. She leaves Valley High School with a 4.6 (weighted) GPA.

            “We want to congratulate all our graduating seniors and wish them well as they continue their education and embark upon their careers,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge.

by David Bell