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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



1 day ago

LAFAYETTE – When the Chambers County School District resumes operations on August 12, 2020, students will have the option of returning to a traditional classroom setting or receiving their course studies via the Internet.


            “The Alabama State Department of Education has purchased an online/remote learning platform which can be used K-12,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “This is a completely new option; different from the Virtual School that our system has offered for students in grades 6-12 over the past several years. However, we will continue providing this option as well.”


            Students wishing to use the new online/remote platform, which is completely free, must be enrolled in the Chambers County School District and have access to a reliable internet connection. Once a student begins remote learning, they must continue for a minimum of nine weeks.


            “We will be posting a survey link on our district website,, by the end of this week for those who are interested in the new online/remote option,” said Dr. Hodge. “If a parent plans to continue the traditional option, they do not need to complete the survey.”


            Parents will be notified by telephone as soon as the survey becomes active. Anyone whose phone number has changed since the previous school year can update their contact information by calling their child’s school.


            In addition, regular updates will be provided through the local media regarding specific plans and guidelines for resuming traditional classroom instruction.




By David Bell


23 days ago


LAFAYETTE – Graphic Design students at the Chambers County Career Technical Center recently created new logos for Valley Haven School, which provides education, training and special instruction for intellectually disabled and/or developmentally delayed preschoolers and adults.

             “We met with the students back in February and told them what we wanted,” said Valley Haven Executive Director Craig Brown. “It was awesome working with these local students, and they have done a super job.”

             Brown and Valley Haven Board President Chris Busby had been discussing for some time their desire to update official logos for the school that would help promote its mission and create greater identity among the general public regarding services provided to the community.

             “We always like to partner with local organizations on projects such as this,” said Busby. “Because of my relationship with the Chambers County School System, I reached out to Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge and pitched her the idea of us working with the Graphic Design class. She was extremely excited about the opportunity, and put me in touch class instructor Kaprice Smith.”

             The design project had barely begun when public schools across Alabama were closed in mid March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, even though the students were not always physically together, they continued their work and created several different options to choose from. A total of 25 students from Valley and LaFayette high schools contributed to the project.

             “As always, I am amazed daily by my students’ willingness to learn, and even more impressed by their competitiveness and desire,” said Smith. “In addition to creating these logos, several students have taken on the challenge and become self-published authors, freelance designers, recording artists, and even young entrepreneurs.”

“I’m grateful for people like Kelli Hodge, Chris Busby and Craig Brown for taking a chance on our students and trusting them with something so vital and important,” Smith added.

 Of all the designs submitted, four were selected for the Valley Haven Board to choose from. Once the choices were narrowed down to two, the Board decided to use both of them; one as a unique logo for the Early Intervention program for babies and the other as the main Valley Haven logo. The Early Intervention design was created by student Marcus Curry, while the main logo was a collaborative design by Ms. Smith and student Michael Little. Both Curry and Little are graduating seniors at LaFayette High School.

 “I will forever be proud of our Chambers County School District students and continue to push them outside their comfort zone,” said Smith. “I believe in their abilities, and I love sharing the journey of watching them grow, become, and learn.”

 The Graphic Design class has existed at LaFayette High School since 2014, and is coordinated through the Chambers County Career Technical Center. Students from Valley High School also participate in the program and are transported to the LaFayette campus for classes.


By David Bell


about 1 month ago

For the first time in history, two sets of triplets will be among the 2020 graduating class at Valley High School. Madison, Will and Jared Bush, along with Jordan, Journey and Jacobe Caldwell, will receive their diplomas on Monday, June 8, during a ceremony at Ram Stadium.

            “It has been a pleasure to work with both sets of triplets and their families,” said Valley High School Counselor Tolanda Harris. “They are all great students who each had their own personality. There were some similarities and differences in both sets. But, overall they have been wonderful all four years that I have had an opportunity to work with them.”

            “They are all in the top 25 percent of their graduating class, and have earned combined scholarships in excess of $100,000,” Harris added. “I am sad to see them leave, but I’m also excited to see what the future holds for each of them.”

            In addition to their academic achievements, the two sets of triplets were very active in extracurricular activities. Jared and Will Bush played baseball for the Rams, while Madison Bush, Journey and Jordan Caldwell were cheerleaders. Jacobe Caldwell played in the Valley Pride Marching Band.

            As their high school days come to a close, the Caldwell triplets will attend college together at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where Jordan and Journey will pursue degrees in nursing. Jacobe plans to major in Criminal Justice towards a career as a drug enforcement agent.

            The Bush triplets, on the other hand, will all go their separate ways this fall. Jared will attend Southern Union State Community College before transferring to Auburn University, while Madison will be working on a degree in nursing at the University of Alabama. Will has committed to military service with the U.S. Marine Corps, with plans to pursue combat engineering.


By David Bell


8 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


5 months 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


11 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


about 1 year 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