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about 1 year 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

LaFAYETTE – At the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge, the Chambers County Board of Education has unanimously approved the appointment of one former and two current employees to new administrative positions.

Benji Mitchum, who has served as Principal at Huguley Elementary School since 2013, will become the school district’s new Transportation Director. Mitchum replaces Mike Frazier, who is retiring after 16 years at that position.

Mitchum began his educational career at Auburn City Schools in 2000 after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Auburn University and a Masters degree in Educational Leadership from Troy University. He has been employed by the Chambers County School District since 2001, serving in various coaching and teaching capacities at W. F. Burns Middle School, Fairfax Elementary, and LaFayette Lanier Elementary. Mitchum was the Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Valley High School before moving to Huguley.

In his new role, Mitchum will be responsible for the district’s bus fleet, including the safe and efficient transportation of students and mechanical maintenance. The transportation department is located in the school board’s annex building on Veterans Memorial Parkway in LaFayette.

Fran Groover, who has been the Principal at Fairfax Elementary School since 2006, will replace Diane Sherriff as Director of Special Education. Sherriff is retiring after serving in that position for the past 25 years.

Groover earned her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Auburn University, before obtaining a Masters degree and Education Specialist degree in Education Leadership from Troy University. She taught at Five Points and Huguley Elementary before moving to Fairfax.

Jennifer Goodwin, current Assistant Principal at South Smiths Station Elementary School in Lee County, will succeed Allison Burton as the new Principal at Bob Harding-Shawmut Elementary School. Burton is retiring after serving at Shawmut since 2013.

Goodwin formerly taught at Five Points and LaFayette Lanier Elementary between 1997 and 2015. She is also an adjunct professor of undergraduate education classes at Troy University.

Goodwin earned her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Auburn University before obtaining her Masters, Reading Specialist, and Education Specialist degrees from Auburn University at Montgomery. In 2014, she was awarded a Masters of Instructional Leadership degree from Troy University.

“We offer our best wishes to the employees transitioning into retirement,” said Superintendent Hodge. “They have served our school district, and more importantly our students, with unparalleled dedication and professionalism. We will miss their contributions to our overall goal of providing the best opportunities possible for the children of Chambers County.”

During a called meeting May 22, the Chambers County Board of Education approved the recommendation of Superintendent Hodge for the two vacant administrative positions effective the 2019-2020 school year.

Misty Hudmon, who most recently has served as Reading Specialist at Fairfax Elementary School, will become the new Principal at Huguley Elementary. Her previous experience includes teaching third-grade Math and Reading and serving as an Instructional Specialist at Valley High School, where she coached and co-taught History, Science, and Math.

Hudmon earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Auburn University at Montgomery before obtaining her master’s degree at Troy University. She also holds a master’s degree in Instructional Leadership and Administration.

Hudmon will replace Benji Mitchum, who was recently appointed as the new Director of Transportation.

Beth Chandler, who has spent the past 27 years as an educator in the Carroll County, GA, school system, will become the new Principal at Fairfax Elementary School. She has served as Principal at Glanton-Hindsman Elementary in Carrollton since 2012, and as an assistant principal at three other elementary schools. Additional experience includes serving as Instructional Facilitator with Carroll County Exceptional Children Services, working with multiple schools as educational leader and advocate for students with disabilities.

Chandler earned her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She also has a Master of Education degree in Learning Disabilities, plus an Educational Leadership Add-On and Specialist in Education, Educational Leadership, all from the University of West Georgia.

Chandler will replace Fran Groover, who was recently appointed as the new Director of Special Education.

By David Bell


about 1 month ago

LaFAYETTE – A second round of public forums regarding the proposed consolidation of LaFayette and Valley high schools addressed specific questions that were raised in the first round of forums last fall. During meetings held recently in both Valley and LaFayette, citizens were told of four possible locations for building a new high school, the estimated costs of construction, what the campus might look like, how it would be funded, and the time zone in which it would be operated.

             Greg Ellis of HPM, the company hired by the Chambers County Board of Education to conduct research and analysis on the proposal, said a sophisticated computer program was used to identify the geographic center of the entire student population in the county school district. Based on the data, the following locations were identified as possible construction sites to keep transportation times below 30 minutes for at least 80 percent of students riding buses.

 1.     The Cusseta area off Interstate 85 at Exit 70.

2.     Highway 50 between Valley and LaFayette.

3.     Off Highway 50 in a more eastern direction toward Huguley.

4.     Near the Fredonia community.

The estimated cost of constructing a new high school, which would also include a new career technical center on the same campus, is between $70 and $80 million. According to school superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge, the project could be funded without raising local taxes.

“Our debt is currently at the lowest level it’s been in many years, which gives us the ability to borrow a larger sum of money,” said Hodge. “If our present state and federal funding levels remain the same, we could be eligible to finance up to $47 million.”

Hodge said the remainder of the estimated construction costs could be paid for from other sources, such as increased state and federal support as well as workforce development funds, which would primarily benefit the new career technical center. In-kind services and other forms of non-financial support could be provided by city and county governments.

Ellis showed a conceptual drawing of what the new high school might look like. The two-story, red brick building would be located on at least 40 acres of land to allow for future growth. The initial campus would include a fine arts auditorium and state-of-the-art security features. Existing facilities, such as Ram Stadium in Valley, would continue to be utilized for extra-curricular activities.

            “While our opinions about this project will always differ, I think we can agree that we all want what’s best for our children,” said Hodge. “By combining our resources and eliminating the duplication of services, we will be able to expand our curriculum and provide a broader range of academic opportunities. Furthermore, our career tech students will receive an additional 118 hours of instruction annually that are currently being lost due to travel time between their schools and the current career tech campus.”

            An aspect of the proposed development that generated the most discussion was the time zone in which the new facility would operate. One of the greatest challenges for the school district has always been the issue of dual time zones, with Valley area facilities on Eastern time while all other locations are operated on Central time.

            “Since the majority of Chambers County is located in the Central Time Zone, we are proposing that a new consolidated high school would operate on Central time, regardless of its physical location,” said Hodge. “Otherwise, we would have students in the northern portion of the county boarding buses as early as 5:30 a.m. to be in school by 7 a.m.”

            Hodge said an option for students living in the Eastern Time Zone might be what’s known as a “zero period” that would offer elective courses an hour before the beginning of the regular school day.

            If a new consolidated high school came to fruition, the existing facilities in Valley and LaFayette would be repurposed as middle schools. Another option that was studied by HPM was the retention and renovation of LaFayette and Valley high schools to meet current construction codes, which would cost an estimated $70 million. However, this option would not eliminate the duplication of services nor reduce travel time for career tech students.

            There are no further public forums scheduled for open discussion of the proposed consolidation. However, Hodge said local citizens will be kept informed regarding future plans and developments.

            “Public input is still a vital element of this process,” said Hodge. “We gladly welcome suggestions on how we can make our future school district the best possible learning environment for students.”

            A presentation from the two recent forums is available for view on the school district’s website at, which includes all the information that has been collected to date.

By David Bell


29 days ago

Shown above, from left, are top LaFayette High School graduates Nicholas Fell, MarKevious Tolbert and Me’Kevion Shealey. They each received a plaque from the Chambers County Board of Education in recognition of their academic accomplishments.


LaFAYETTE – During their regular meeting recently, the Chambers County Board of Education recognized the achievements of the top three graduating seniors at LaFayette High School.


            With the third highest weighted GPA of 4.59, Nicholas Fell has served as manager of the basketball team, and was active in the Science Club, Beta Club, Honor Society Club, and National Society of High School Scholars. He was also a recipient of the Professor Powell Award and served as a volunteer at Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church and Lots of Love Daycare Summer Program.


            MarKevious Tolbert, graduating with a weighted GPA of 4.674418, was captain of the school’s baseball team and also played football and basketball. He served as President of Unite, Inc., and was active in Skills USA, Piedmont Racing Team, Beat Club, Honor Society, the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Junior Ambassador Program, and Chosen Generation Worship Center International.


            LaFayette’s top graduate this year, with a weighted GPA of 4.674419, is Me’Kevion Shealey, who lettered in football, baseball and basketball. He was an active member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, National Technical Honor Society, and Gifted Advisory Committee. His volunteer service has included the LaFayette Police Academy and Back 2 School Bash.


            The three graduates will be roommates together at Norfolk State University in Virginia, where they plan to pursue similar interests.

"These young men have been in friendly competition with each other for most of their lives," said superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. "We wish them well as they continue that competitive nature through higher education."

Each of the graduates was awarded a plaque from the school board acknowledging their academic accomplishments.

By David Bell


29 days ago


Shown above, from left, are top Valley High School graduates Stephanie Doan, Madison Melton and Ariton (A. J.) Bailey. They each received a plaque from the Chambers County Board of Education in recognition of their academic accomplishments.


LaFAYETTE – During their regular meeting recently, the Chambers County Board of Education recognized the achievements of the top three graduating seniors at Valley High School.


            With the third highest weighted GPA of 4.7, Stephanie Doan was a dual-enrollment student at Southern Union State Community College, and an active member of the Beta Club and National Honor Society. She was also a recipient of the NaphCare Dual Enrolled Scholarship, and has served as a volunteer at East Alabama Medical Center-Lanier Hospital.


            Stephanie plans to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham and major in Biomedical Science.


            Madison Melton, graduating with a weighted GPA of 4.6, served as Girls State Representative, Editor-In-Chief of the Yearbook Staff, and Vice-President of the Student Government Association. She was also an active member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, tennis team, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, as well as a recipient of the Teacher’s Choice Award for artwork.


            Madison plans to attend Auburn University in the fall.


            Valley’s top graduate this year is Ariton (A. J.) Bailey, with a weighted GPA of 4.7. He has been an active member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Valley High Rambassadors and Piedmont Motorsports. He is also certified in CPR and has served as a lifeguard at the Valley Community Center.


            Ariton has been in the top three of his class every year of high school, and plans to attend Auburn University as an engineering major.


Each of the graduates was awarded a plaque from the school board acknowledging their academic accomplishments.

By David Bell


29 days ago

Shown above, from left, are 2019 Amazing Shake finalists Si’Nora Greer, Parker Williams, Eli Whorton, winner Ka’lyn Hargett, and Maggie Jo Rennie. They were each awarded medals and their official Ambassador shirts during a recent meeting of the Chambers County School Board.

LaFAYETTE – The five finalists in this year’s “Amazing Shake” competition were introduced to the Chambers County Board of Education during its recent regular meeting. The fifth and sixth-grade students were among hundreds throughout the district who participated in the program designed to help them hone special life skills for becoming successful citizens.


            The competition began on April 16 when 34 contestants, chosen by their respective schools, demonstrated for a panel of judges the importance of making a good first impression. Twelve students receiving the highest scores then advanced to round-two at Langdale Auditorium on April 23, where they displayed their public speaking skills. The field of contestants was then narrowed to five.


            The final round was held April 30 at the Chambers County Board of Education building in LaFayette, when each of the students was given a “job interview” by Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge and members of her administrative staff. The overall winner of the 2019 Amazing Shake Competition was Ka’lyn Hargett, a sixth grader at W. F. Burns Middle School.


            “The Amazing Shake” was created by the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, and was introduced to Chambers County fifth-graders for the first time last year. Sixth grade students were added to the competition this year, and additional grades will be included in subsequent years through the eighth grade.


            All five finalists will serve as Ambassadors for the school district during the 2019-2020 school year, beginning with the Teacher’s Institute for new educators in August. They will also serve as mentors for future students participating in Amazing Shake competitions.

by David Bell


about 1 month ago

The top twenty-five accelerated readers at Fairfax Elementary School (shown above with teachers, administrators, and family members) were treated to a luncheon at Bradshaw Chambers County Library to celebrate their reading achievements. The group as a whole read more than 2,400 books during the school year.

VALLEY – Twenty-five accelerated readers from Fairfax Elementary School were recently treated to a luncheon at Bradshaw Chambers County Library to celebrate their reading achievements. The group was comprised of the top five readers in each grade level.


            “It seemed like some of our students were reading constantly, even when they weren’t supposed to be,” said school librarian Erica Jenkins.


            Students accumulated points throughout the year for each book they read. First through third-graders were awarded one-half point per book while fourth and fifth-graders received a full point per book due to the more comprehensive content.


            Top readers in the first grade were Madalyn Garsee, Brantley Hussey, Sapatraye Huguley, Allisia Beaty and Cayson Culbertson.


            Top readers in the second grade were Addyson Scott, Kaydon Northcutt, Brantley Jones, Brylee Davis and Eleanor Gregory.


            Third grade readers with the highest points were Zavion Mathis, John Sanders, Kylee Brown, Adelaide Floyd and Gracyn Melton.


            Students in fourth grade receiving the most points were Isaiah Gray, Tristyn Maddux, Elizabeth Clark, Colt White and Egypt Dawson.


            And, the top fifth grade readers were Annabelle Letson, Addilyn Hale, Chelsea Clark, Ashton Smith and Cameron Austin Barber.


            The top three teachers in this year’s Accelerated Reading Program were Robin Landreth (second grade), Cierra Terry (first grade), and Misty Letson (first grade).

By David Bell


26 days ago


VALLEY – Langdale United Methodist Church in Valley presented “Peacekeeper Awards” recently to local school students who best exemplify good character and peacekeeping at their respective schools.


            “Since 1999, we’ve been presenting these awards to students whose behavior and demeanor makes a positive impact on everyone around them,” said church youth director Melissa Roberts, who is also a teacher at Fairfax Elementary School. “Each year we ask participating schools to select two students they feel are most deserving of these awards.”


            This year’s recipients were Diamond Clay and LaMarcus Hutchinson (Fairfax Elementary), Sarah Madison Davis and Thomas Kade Riley (LaFayette Lanier Elementary), Shamir Welch and Bryson East (Huguley Elementary), and Treanna Bridges and Zacarinen “R. J.” Miller (W. F. Burns Middle School.)


            “We sincerely appreciate the churches and civic organizations throughout our community that recognize the outstanding efforts of our students,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge.

By David Bell


26 days ago

Shown at left, Firefighter/EMT Josh Hundley with East Alabama Fire District talked to students and answered questions during a "Career Day" event at LaFayette Lanier Elementary School.


VALLEY – Students at LaFayette Lanier Elementary School got an up-close view of various occupations recently during the school’s first “Career Day.” Representatives from nine different businesses and organizations participated in the event and displayed vehicles associated with their work.


            “We’ve done a similar activity for several years at Shawmut Elementary, but this was the first time it’s been hosted at LaFayette Lanier,” said school counselor Connie Guice. “The kids really enjoy seeing the big trucks and having the opportunity to ask questions.”


            Participants included representative from East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire District, WOW Internet-TV-Phone, Alabama Power, Scott’s Towing, KISSIN’ 95.3, Floral Expressions, Valley Police Department, Kona Ice, and Courtesy Limousine.


By David Bell