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over 2 years 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 direction of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and State School Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey, the Chambers County School District will cease daily operations beginning Thursday, March 19, 2020, and shall remain closed at least until Monday, April 6, 2020, due to the potential spread of COVID-19 in our state.

“This action not only includes the suspension of classes on all school campuses but also every other regularly scheduled activity, including PTO meetings, field trips, and sports events,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “Prior to April 6, our situation will be re-evaluated to determine if this temporary closing should be extended.”

“Furthermore, we are currently assessing the need to provide meals for students who participate in our daily nutrition program. We will release additional information as soon as that assessment is completed,” said Hodge.

While students and most teachers will be immediately affected by the closure, all twelve-month employees should report to work on Thursday, March 19, for additional instruction.

“Any parents who feel that their child/children may be placed in a position of vulnerability by attended school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the scheduled closing will be allowed to keep them home without penalty,” said Hodge. “These may include children with respiratory issues or weakened immune systems.”

Teachers are currently preparing academic assignments for students to complete at home during the period of closure. This work will be given to students on Wednesday, March 18, but can also be obtained through the office of each school. Students at the high school level can obtain their assignments online or they will be provided hard-copy versions if they do not have internet access at home.
“Closing schools is a hard decision to make. There are many ramifications. However, closing schools even for a week could be life saving for our community,” said Dr. Ricardo Maldonado, Infectious Disease Medical Director at East Alabama Medical Center. “It is incumbent on all of us to work together to take prudent measures for the protection of our children, parents, and every member of the community. This is not a time for panic, but a time for action, and we must all do our part to shorten the duration and effects of this pandemic.”
Chambers County school officials will continue to reassess this evolving situation and provide ongoing communication and guidance as they continue to monitor the latest public health updates. People should follow all precautionary measures that have been advised thus far, and remain attentive for additional information.


16 days ago

LAFAYETTE – The Chambers County School District has postponed its annual training for the Summer Food Service Program benefiting area youth up to the age of 18. The training was originally scheduled for March 24 at Bob Harding-Shawmut Elementary School and March 25 at the Central Office Training Room.


            “These training schedules had already been distributed via email prior to the scheduled systemwide shutdown due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus,” said Montray Thompson, Director of the Child Nutrition Program. “Once the new dates have been determined, that information will be distributed in the same manner.”


            The federally funded Summer Food Service Program provides a healthy breakfast and lunch for all qualified participants between the dates of June 1 and July 24, 2020.

By David Bell


5 months ago

LaFAYETTE – Visitors to any campus in the Chambers County School District must now present a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, upon entering a facility occupied by students. The ID is then scanned into a device called Raptor, which compares that individual to nationwide sex offender data bases. In the absence of an alert, the visitor is issued a pass which must be displayed on their clothing until they exit that location.


            “As more money has been made available from the state for school security improvements, we have tried to focus on the latest advancements in technology to insure our students remain safe,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “This system provides a proven layer of protection that we’ve never had before.”


            The Raptor system is currently used in over 32,000 K-12 schools across the country, and to date has identified and alerted officials to more than 50,000 sex offenders. It also identifies individuals involved in active custody disputes.


            “We can never be too careful when it comes to safeguarding our students,” said Hodge. “Our mission is to protect every child, every school, every day.”


            In addition to Raptor, video surveillance systems at all schools have been upgraded and enhanced, and most facilities cannot be entered until an inside employee allows access.

Camillia Rampey, secretary and bookkeeper at LaFayette High School, is shown in the photo above using the Raptor system to scan a visitor's driver's license.

by David Bell


about 1 month ago


LAFAYETTE – Two mid-year graduates from Valley High School were recognized for their achievements Wednesday during the monthly meeting of the Chambers County Board of Education. They were each presented a diploma by school superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge.

Katlyn Duffee completed her course studies through both the traditional method and virtual school online. Her fellow graduate, Tori Brown, overcame personal difficulties to finish her required credits in phases. Yet, both accomplished their goals of graduation ahead of schedule.

Tori has plans to attend Chattahoochee Valley Community College and pursue a degree in nursing, while Katlyn intends to enter the local workforce.

Shown in the photo above are, from left, Tori Brown and Katlyn Duffee.

In other business, the school board approved a resolution opposing a new school calendar currently under consideration by the Alabama legislature. The proposal would basically mandate that school systems statewide begin their 2020-2021 academic year after Labor Day and finish prior to Memorial Day. Such a schedule would eliminate many of the holidays currently observed by public schools, including MLK Day, Presidents’ Day, and others. In addition, there would be no spring of fall breaks and only one day for Thanksgiving, instead of the traditional long weekend.

“I have sent copies of this proposed calendar to each member of our local state delegation to show them exactly how public schools would be placed at a major disadvantage,” said Dr. Hodge. “While losing a majority of our holiday schedule, there would be no days available for teacher work sessions or in-house training.”

The resolution in opposition to the plan contends that school systems should be allowed to set their own calendars according to the specific needs of the individual areas they serve.

School board members also heard a presentation from Chambers County Career Technical Center Principal Ken Sealy in recognition of Career Technical Education Month, being observed during February. What began in 1978 as the Chambers County Area Vocational Center with seven basic courses of study has today become a facility centered around technology, with more than a dozen areas of specialized instruction. This fall, Sealy will enter his tenth year as the center’s principal.

Chris Busby addressed the board regarding various work done by the Chambers County Development Authority over the past year, particularly in the areas of business recruitment, existing business expansions, and an aggressive effort toward new residential development. Busby said details of the CCDA’s activities are being outlined in an annual report that is currently being published and will soon be distributed to the public.

The school board also approved three upcoming overnight and/or out-of-state field trips requested by student groups. Gifted students will be traveling to Jekyll Island, GA, April 8 – 10, 2020, to participate in ecology lessons; W. F. Burns Middle School students will visit Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta on April 24, 2020, to participate in Education Day; and, other students from W. F. Burns will be going to the CNN News Center in Atlanta on April 30, 2020, to learn more about public speaking and reporting skills.

By David Bell


3 months ago

FIVE POINTS – The interior walls at Five Points School are beginning to feature amazing works of art, courtesy of private school students from Georgia. Sophomores, juniors and seniors at Trinity Christian School in Sharpsburg started the project on January 6 as part of their annual “Go Week” activities.


            “Each year, our senior art students leave the school campus and travel to other locations where they share their talents in communities like Five Points, much as Christ shared himself with others during his earthly journey,” said Trinity art teacher Amy Simonton. “A large part of our teaching philosophy focuses on community service.”


            “The idea for our project at Five Points began with our former Special Education teacher, Caitlyn Powell, who is Mrs. Simonton’s daughter,” said Five Points School Principal Andrew Leak. “We decided on the type of themes we wanted to create, and they took it from there.”


            On the middle school side there is a Harry Potter theme emerging, while murals on the elementary side feature a Dr. Seuss literary theme and popular PBS characters.


            “We tried to choose subject matters that students could easily identify with, and I’ve been very pleased with the results,” said Leak. “Our kids have really enjoyed seeing some of their favorite literary works come to life before their very eyes.”


            To date, Trinity Christian School has conducted “Go Week” service projects in seven states. They raise their own money to cover all expenses, including travel, lodging, and art supplies.


            “Our students get more from these activities than they put into them,” said parent chaperone and teacher Erica Hachworth. “They have been truly blessed during our visit to Five Points, and we look forward to coming back.”

Trinity plans to return next year and continue the mural project that will eventually encompass the school’s complete interior. Meanwhile, discussions are underway for a possible weekend art activity for Five Points students near the end of the current school year.

            The murals as they currently exist will be the focal point of next week’s Open House at Five Points School, hosted by the Chambers County School District. Pre-registration is required for the public event, scheduled for Tuesday, January 14, beginning at 9 a.m. CST.

            Shown in the above photo is Trinity Christian School senior art student Maggie Hellgeth as she works on the Harry Potter themed mural at Five Points School.

By David Bell


7 months ago


LaFAYETTE – The Chambers County Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to revise its policy regarding tobacco use to also include e-cigarettes, commonly known as vaping. 

​“Our tobacco use policy has always applied to students, and all of our campuses are tobacco-free zones. We are now extending it to all employees, as well as visitors to any of our facilities,” said Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “With documented health risks associated with smoking of any type, we have a responsibility to ensure such dangers do not affect our students, faculty, and members of the general public who frequent our school properties.”

​Dr. Hodge added that signage has been ordered for all facilities district-wide reflecting the new policy, which is effective immediately.

​In other business, the school board concurred with a request by the superintendent to pre-approve certain school field trips and out-of-town travel sanctioned by state organizations. 

​“Our student-athletes routinely attend competition events sanctioned by the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Likewise, our Career Tech students travel out-of-town for activities sanctioned by the Career Technical Student Organization,” said Dr. Hodge. “Previously, the board has addressed all approved out-of-town travel requests individually. However, there have been occasions when students missed out on these opportunities because their travel request for a particular date fell between regular board meetings. This change regarding sanctioned activities only should help eliminate those issues.”

​At the suggestion of board member LaShay Herring. all sanctioned out-of-town travel by students will still be individually identified in monthly information packets supplied to the board.

​In a similar move, the school board approved requests from Valley High School Band Director Kitty Deloach for students at both Valley and W. F. Burns Middle School to attend Honor Band events during the current school year.

​The middle school band will travel to the University of Alabama at Birmingham December 5 – 7, while the high school band will visit the same location December 12 – 14. High school band members will also attend the Troy University Honor Band January 30 – February 1, 2020, and both school bands will travel to Jacksonville State University May 7 – 9, 2020.

​The board of education also conducted it’s second of two required public hearings on a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The $39.8 million spending plan is less than last year’s budget due to increased funding from federal, state, and local sources. Final action on the budget will be taken during the next regular meeting in September.

By David Bell


7 months ago


LaFAYETTE – LaFayette High School junior Jalen Drummond and his teacher, Precious White-Jordan, spent six days in Aspen, Colorado, this summer as guests of the Bezos Family Foundation, creators of the Bezos Scholars Program. If the name sounds familiar, the foundation’s president is Jackie Bezos, mother of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

            Beginning in 2005, the Bezos Scholars Program launched a global initiative for leadership that promotes the spirit of inquiry and dialogue. Hosted annually through the Aspen Institute, only 17 high school juniors and a supportive educator are selected as Bezos Scholars from around the U.S. and from the African Leadership Academy.

            Participants are selected through an application process, containing their individual ideas for implementing a community-changing project through their local school. Of the thousands of applications submitted, Drummond and White-Jordan were chosen to attend, becoming the first Bezos Scholars from the state of Alabama. They recently shared their experience with members of the Chambers County Board of Education.

            During their week-long visit, the pair attended the Aspen Ideas Festival, the nation’s premier public gathering place for leaders from around the world and across many disciplines to present and discuss the ideas and issues that both shape lives and challenge innovation. At the conclusion of the festival, participants return to their communities and develop a community change project that combines their passion with meeting a defined community need.

            The proposal submitted by the Bezos Scholars from LaFayette is two-fold. The first is a program called “Bulldog Buddies,” a mentoring/tutoring initiative that will focus on academic preparation and coping skills, with an emphasis on decision-making. The initial target population will be ninth and tenth graders, chosen through an application process. The program will start with ten mentors and buddies meeting during their school’s advisory time each week.

            The mission of Bulldog Buddies is to enhance academic preparedness and coping skills through the development of one-on-one relationships, encouraging students to make positive choices in an effort to create a rewarding future. The ultimate goal is to establish a school culture in which all students are ensured compassion, acceptance, and empowerment to move boldly into a promising future, free from limits.

            The second aspect of the team’s proposal is called “We’re In This Together,” a podcast focusing on mental health affecting people within the school community, and sharing news in an effort to bridge the gap. The daily or weekly news-style podcasts would originate from the school’s front office and be displayed on monitors in each classroom. Students will also be able to download a free app, allowing them to access the information at will.

            The mission of WITT is to re-establish trust between students and community stakeholders by communicating useful and relevant information, with the goal of building a community that is inclusive, well informed, and knowledgeable concerning local issues.

            “We will receive a $1,000 grant to fund the launch of our projects,” said teacher Precious White-Jordan. “However, the grant will not be released until December, and therefore, our initiatives will not begin until January. Specifics of each proposal are subject to change during that time, and we welcome additional ideas for enhancing maximum success.”

            White-Jordan praised Jalen Drummond for his creative application, which he said was submitted at the urging of his mother.

            Once the programs are established, they will become eligible for annual funding of $1,000 over the next two years, as long as they continue to achieve their intended purpose.

            Shown in the photo above are, from left, LaFayette High School teacher Precious White-Jordan and student Jalen Drummond during their appearance before the Chambers County Board of Education.

By David Bell


11 months 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