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4 months ago



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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

• Fairfax Elementary School – Score: 70 (C)

• Five Points School – Score: 75 (C)

• Huguley Elementary School – Score: 86 (B)

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

• Lafayette High School – Score: 74 (C)

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

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

• Valley High School – Score: 75 (C)

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

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

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

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

By David Bell


4 days ago

LaFAYETTE – The Chambers County Board of Education has unanimously approved the appointment of Andrew Leak to the position of Principal at Five Points School. Leak, who has served the past five years as Assistant Principal at Valley High School, will replace Rhonda Givins, who retired at the end of the 2017-2018 school year after serving 18 years at Five Points.


            “I’m very excited about this opportunity to continue the tradition of greatness that has been established at Five Points, and I look forward to exploring new opportunities as we move forward,” said Leak. “I also want to concentrate on building new relationships with parents and the community.”


            Leak was one of 30 applicants for the job, which was narrowed to three finalists.


            “During our concluding interviews with the top candidates, it became apparent to all members of the selection committee that Mr. Leak would be the perfect fit at Five Points,” said school superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “We extend our best wishes as he begins this new challenge in his educational career.”


            Leak is a graduate of Valley High School, and obtained his Bachelors degrees in Business Administration and Education from Auburn University. He also earned a Master of Instructional Leadership degree from Troy University, and completed his residency at Fairfax Elementary School.


            Leak began his teaching career in Chambers County as a Physical Education instructor at W. F. Burns Middle School in 2004, before moving to Valley High School. He has also served as the school district’s Energy Manager since 2007, helping to reduce overall utility costs more than $3.7 million between 2007 and 2017.


            Leak is the son of former Valley Mayor Arnold Leak and current Chambers County School Board member Vicki Leak, who abstained from voting on his new appointment.

By David Bell


4 days ago

Shown above, from left, are 2018 retiring Chambers County School District employees Jason Phillips, Rhonda Givins, Susanne Chambley, Angela Wimberly, Mary Jackson, Mary Floyd and Krallin Hodge.


LaFAYETTE – A total of 16 Chambers County School District employees were recently honored by the Board of Education upon their retirement. The group represented more than 300 years of collective service to the school students of Chambers County.


            Retirees with the most years of service were Deborah Turner, Librarian at Fairfax Elementary, and Brenda Boyd, Paraprofessional at East Side Elementary, with 28 years each.


            Shannon Chandler, Band Director at Valley High School, retired following 27 years of service; Jason Phillips, P. E. teacher at Huguley Elementary, with 25 years; Vickie Noles, Child Nutrition Program Manager at W. F. Burns Middle School, with 24 years; bus driver Effie English with 23 years; Rhonda Givins, Principal at Five Points School, and Mary Floyd, Child Nutrition Program worker at Valley High School, both with 21 years; Diana Catrett, teacher at Fairfax Elementary, Margaret Grapp, Early Childhood Pre-K Special Education teacher, and bus driver Krallin Hodge, each with 17 years; Susanne Chambley, Special Education teacher at Fairfax Elementary, and LaFayette High School Custodian Napoleon Patterson, both with 15 years; Angela Wimberly, teacher at Bob Harding-Shawmut and Lafayette Lanier Elementary schools, with 14 years; Kimberly Brooks, Paraprofessional at Huguley Elementary, with 12 years; and Mary Jackson, Pre-K teacher at East Side Elementary, with 10 years.


            “We owe a debt of gratitude far greater than we could pay to each of these outstanding employees who have faithfully served our school district,” said Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “We wish all of them a very happy retirement.”


            The retirees were presented individual plaques of appreciation for their dedicated service.

By David Bell


3 days ago

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

By David Bell


14 days ago

VALLEY – More than 100 Valley High School students recently participated in the school’s first Student Art Show competition, conducted by The Art Guild and coordinated by art teacher Teresa Davidson.


            “We had excellent entries created by some very talented young artists,” said Davidson. “The Art Guild would like to thank Thea McElvy for judging the show, Eric Creel for creating the labels and Laurie Phillips for providing the library space.”


            Winning Best of Show in the competition was Erin Bryson.


            The First Place Painting award went to Jenifer Burke; second-place winner was Kallie Plair; and third place in the painting category went to Eli Mooney.


            Winning first place in the Drawing category was Kallie Plair; second place went to Dakota Jones; and Jenifer Burke took third-place honors.


            For All Other art categories, first place was awarded to Isabel Boddie; Esther Shiflett placed second; and Tyler Dortch was the third-place winner.


            Honorable Mentions went to the following students: Haley Pike, Chandler Johnson, Peyton Fitch, Eli Mooney, Kaegen James, Isabel Boddie, Amelia Caldwell, Marisa Daves, Esther Shiflett, Kylee Smith, Ashley Gregg and Shalee Hinkle.


            Teachers Choice Awards went to Madison Melton and Hailey Brown.

By David Bell


28 days ago

VALLEY – Students at Fairfax Elementary School are enjoying a new experience this year through participation in a program designed to instill academic and behavioral success while also creating a sense of family and community.


            At the beginning of the current school year, the entire student body was randomly divided into four “Houses,” each one representing concepts such as Friendship, Dreams, Unselfishness and Courage. Students were given the opportunity to win points on a weekly basis for things like completed homework, improved grades, good character decisions, etc. These individual points go toward their “House” points, and throughout the year, houses that earn or exceed their goal points receive accolades and awards from teachers and administration.


            Each “House” is assigned a specific color and name, with a corresponding Greek name of the same meaning. For example, red is Friendship/Amistad; blue is Dream/Reveur; green is Selflessness/Altruismo; and yellow is Courage/Isibindi. A “Fairfax crest” was created incorporating the four characteristics into a t-shirt design, and donations from parents and generous local sponsors insured that every child received a shirt.


               On designated occasions, all students, teachers and support personnel proudly wear their colored shirts showing which “House” they belong to, and giant scoreboards displayed in the school’s lobby show a running weekly total of points earned by each house.


            “At the end of every quarter, the team with the most points receives special recognition,” said fourth-grade teacher and program facilitator Lauren Dabbs. “The friendly competition among students gives them an incentive to fulfill the necessary requirements for obtaining points, and provides them a sense of pride with each accomplishment.”


            The “House System” is the brainchild of the Ron Clark Academy, a highly acclaimed, nonprofit middle school in Southeast Atlanta. The Academy has received both national and international acclaim for its success in educating students with academic rigor, passion and creatively balanced by a strict code of discipline.

Over the past nine years, the Ron Clark Academy has reached beyond its campus to impact students around the world. It has become a center of professional development where visiting educators observe practices in action before engaging in hands-on workshops. To date, more than 38,000 school superintendents, district level administrators, and teachers from 42 states and 22 countries have participated in the RCA Experience to learn better ways of creating a climate and culture that promotes success.

"Some of our teachers from Fairfax visited the Ron Clark Academy and saw for themselves the positive aspects their system provided," Dabbs added. "An implementation team was then formed to help bring it to our school."

Dabbs is assisted in the "House System" program by second-grade teacher Amanda Moore and fifth-grade teacher Melissa Roberts.

by David Bell


28 days ago

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

By David Bell


14 days ago

Students at Bob Harding-Shawmut Elementary School recently enjoyed “Careers On Wheels Day,” an opportunity to see and learn about the vehicles used by public safety and local businesses. Shown at left, students are given a demonstration by a firefighter from East Alabama Fire District.


VALLEY – Students at Bob Harding-Shawmut Elementary School were recently treated to a special event when public safety and business representatives came and displayed the vehicles they use in the course of their daily jobs.


            “Known as ‘Careers On Wheels,’ this was the first time we’ve hosted an activity of this type, and I think the students really enjoyed it,” said Principal Allison Burton.


            Participants included Valley Police, Valley EMS, East Alabama Fire District, Teague Towing, J. C. Colley Trucking, Floral Expressions and Pigg’s Plumbing.


            “The students got to walk around and see each vehicle, learn about the various jobs they perform, and ask questions,” said Burton. “We appreciate each of the organizations and businesses that took time out of their busy schedules to come and visit with us.”


            Burton added that she hopes to continue “Careers On Wheels” as an annual event.


By David Bell

VALLEY, AL – The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board presented a program Friday to students at Valley High School designed to discourage underage drinking.

Entitled “Under Age-Under Arrest,” the program was created in 2013, and has been presented at schools across the state.

“Underage drinking is a major problem in Alabama,” said Dean Argo, Government Relations Manager for the ABC Board. “Approximately 75 percent of high school seniors have admittedly consumed alcohol, and one-third of those are currently binge drinking.”

According to Argo, a recent study showed that 65 percent of underage drinkers get their alcohol from family and friends, and more than 80 percent of the alcohol consumed by minors is done within their own home or the homes of friends.

“Each year, about 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. That is almost the entire population of Valley, Alabama,” Argo told students. “These include deaths from drunk driving, other accidents, homicides, suicides and alcohol poisoning.”

Students were shown examples of young people their age who lost their lives due to alcohol-related incidents. In some cases, the victims didn’t actually consume alcohol but got into a vehicle driven by someone who was knowingly impaired.

“Decisions made at this juncture in your life will affect you forever,” said Argo. “That’s why it’s important to make the right decisions. Don’t make the mistake of saying it will never happen to me.”

Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon also encouraged students to always drive defensively when operating a motor vehicle.
“It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself and watch out for others. When you’re driving on the road, be alert to dangers that may approach you,” said Weldon. “Each of you are precious, and we care about you. That’s why we’re here today.”
Valley High School Principal Sherry Ashe said she heard about the program this past summer and knew it would be beneficial to her students.
“Alcohol impacts our student body every day. We hear it from them about what goes on in their personal lives away from school,” said Ashe. “We want all our students to finish high school and become productive citizens. Hopefully, programs like this will help them stay on track.”
“We don’t expect to change the lives of everyone who attended this program,” added Chambers County School Superintendent Dr Kelli Hodge. “However, if it helps just one student, then it was worth the effort.”
The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board partners its education effort with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and local law enforcement agencies across the state. The agency has presented more than 40 programs since the beginning of the current school year.
All students who attended Friday’s presentation were asked to sign a pledge card committing to remain alcohol-free until they reach the legal drinking age of 21.