skip to main content


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


22 days ago


LaFAYETTE – Two retiring Chambers County School District administrators, representing a combined 74 years of service, were presented plaques of appreciation Wednesday from the Board of Education.

Diane Sherriff has spent the past 25 years as Director of Special Education and Services. The previous 14 years she worked in various teaching capacities in Chambers County, after serving the first two years of her education career in Lee County.

“I’ve enjoyed working with wonderful students and a great staff of co-workers,” said Sherriff. “I will always have fond memories of the things we accomplished over the past two decades.”

Sherriff plans to spend more time with her family as she moves into retirement. She has been succeeded by former Fairfax Elementary School Principal Fran Groover.

Mike Frazier has been the school district’s Transportation and Maintenance Director since 2003, after serving as a teacher and baseball coach the previous 17 years.

“I’ve been getting up every morning at 4 a.m. I might sleep a little later now, but not much,” said Frazier.

Former Huguley Elementary School Principal Benji Mitchum is now serving as Frazier’s successor.

Shown in the photo above, from left, are Mike Frazier, Diane Sherriff, and Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge.

In other business Wednesday, Dr. Hodge presented her list of priority 2019-2020 capital outlay projects to the school board:

Complete renovations for a culinary arts classroom and replace a portion of the roof at the Chambers County Career Technical Center.

Replace the floor of a cooler at Fairfax Elementary School.

Remodel restrooms at Huguley Elementary School.

Land acquisition for a proposed consolidated high school.

And, school board member Jeffrey Finch was appointed to serve as the district’s delegate to the Alabama Association of School Boards Assembly December 5 – 7 in Birmingham. Board member Mary Terry will be the alternate delegate.

By David Bell


12 days ago

LaFAYETTE – All LaFayette High School Senior Cedric Heard wanted was to graduate and receive his diploma. But adversities prevented him from walking with his class at spring graduation. Yet, Cedric did not allow the setback to prevent him from achieving his goal.

Wednesday evening, during a regular meeting of the Chambers County Board of Education, Cedric Heard, dressed in cap and gown, marched to the front of the room as a You Tube rendition of Pomp and Circumstance played over the sound system. Waiting for him at the end of that walk was school superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge, who presented the young man his well-earned diploma.

“Cedric has worked hard to get to this point,” said Career Tech Principal Ken Sealy. “He took two classes at the Career Technical Center while completing his course work at LaFayette High School. We are very proud of what he has accomplished.”

Cedric’s family was in attendance to share the special occasion.

Shown in the photo above, from left, are Ken Sealy, Cedric Heard, and Dr. Kelli Hodge.

By David Bell


about 1 month 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


about 1 month 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


2 months ago

LaFAYETTE – Major upgrades in educational technology are being provided for Chambers County school students through Advancement in Technology Funds from the Alabama Department of Education.


Orders have been placed for a total of 1,470 Chromebooks, along with 57 charging carts, that will allow every student in the district direct access. In addition, computers are being replaced for all teachers, counselors, principals, secretaries, and Central Office staff.


“We are currently doing a wifi assessment and will be adding additional access points where warranted,” said Michael Sanders, Director of Technology. “We have done two projects over the past couple of years to update our wifi environment, but this should bring us up to maximum performance.”


Sanders said all the new equipment should be installed by the first of the year.


by David Bell

LaFAYETTE – Beginning next month, the Chambers County School District will provide unique opportunities for local citizens to witness first-hand their public education system in action. A series of special Open House activities will allow visitors direct access to a classroom setting while students are in the process of learning.

“We wanted to create a different type of experience for anyone interested in visiting one of our classrooms during instructional time,” said Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “In addition to parents, we welcome former students, Partners In Education, business and industry personnel, or anyone else wishing to participate.”

These community open house events will be held at different schools twice a month, with the exception of December due to holiday schedules, between 9 and 10 a.m. in the time zone where each school is located. Scheduled sites and dates include:

Eastside Elementary School – Tuesday, September 24, at 9 a.m. CDT
LaFayette Lanier Elementary School – Thursday, September 26, at 9 a.m. EDT
J. P. Powell Middle School – Wednesday, October 9, at 9 a.m. CDT
W. F. Burns Middle School – Thursday, October 17, at 9 a.m. EDT
LaFayette High School – Wednesday, November 13, at 9 a.m. CST
Valley High School – Tuesday, November 19, at 9 a.m. EST
Chambers County Career Technical Center – Tuesday, December 3, at 9 a.m. CST
Five Points School – Tuesday, January 14, 2020, at 9 a.m. CST
Bob Harding-Shawmut Elementary School – Wednesday, January 22, at 9 a.m. EST
Fairfax Elementary School – Tuesday, February 11, at 9 a.m. EST
Huguley Elementary School – Tuesday, February 25, at 9 a.m. EST

“We encourage everyone who possibly can to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity,” said Dr. Hodge. “We have a great staff of educators who work hard each day to help our students learn and grow in all aspects of their daily lives.”

There is no limit on the number of schools individuals can visit. Participants can either choose a location closest to them or attend activities at all of the schools.

By David Bell


about 1 month ago

VALLEY - On Friday, August 23, prior to the Valley-Lanett football game, a special dedication ceremony was held at Ram Stadium to officially honor long-time stadium announcer Heston Yates by naming the facility's press box in his memory. Heston passed away in July after serving as the voice of the Valley Rams for more than 40 years.

"I can't think of a more fitting tribute to a man who exemplified Valley football," said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. "We will always remember Heston fondly, and appreciate his many contributions to the athletics program at Valley High School."

The signage, along with a plaque featuring a photo of Yates, were made possible by the Valley High School Athletic Club. Members of the Yates family attended the dedication.

By David Bell


6 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