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9 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


9 days ago

VALLEY – Special needs students from schools in Chambers County, West Point, and the City of Lanett were recently treated to picnic courtesy of the local WOW! cable television provider. Normally held each year at West Point Lake, this year’s event was moved indoors due to projected inclement weather from Hurricane Michael.


            “We are grateful to Langdale United Methodist Church for allowing us to use their Family Life Center free of charge to conduct our activities,” said Bobby Ann McCollough, Regulatory Comp Administrator for WOW!. “It has been our pleasure to host this annual picnic for at least the past 24 years, going back to when the company was simply Interstate Telephone.”


            In addition to a hot dog lunch, prepared by Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart, students enjoyed a variety of games including corn hole and pin the tail on the turkey. Valley High School cheerleaders also provided face-painting and did cheers for participants, accompanied by their mascot “Rambo.”


            Participating sponsors included Coca-Cola of West Point, Sonic Drive-In, McDonald’s, Renasant Bank, CharterBank, Capital City Bank and Chattahoochee Federal Credit Union, who also provided an appearance of their corporate mascot.


            The picnic is one of several annual events in which WOW! employees donate their time for benefit of the community.

By David Bell

LaFAYETTE - The most comprehensive assessment of public education in the history of the Chambers County School District is being launched to gather public input on the future direction of the system.
“We believe the time has come to closely examine where we currently stand and determine what avenues we should take to give our children the best opportunities to be successful in a global society,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “As a major part of this effort, we are asking every citizen in the county to express their opinion regarding the future of our schools.”
Among the proposals for discussion will be school safety, technology, and capital improvements. A facilities assessment is currently underway to determine the present condition of all existing facilities, which will include cost estimates for any repairs or renovations.
“While I am cognizant of the history and rivalry factors that have dominated our past, I believe the most important issue moving forward is the best interest of our children. It is our responsibility to provide them the highest quality education possible, and we need maximum input to bring future plans to fruition,” said Hodge.
The Chambers County Board of Education has hired the project management firm of HPM, with Alabama offices in Birmingham, Auburn, and Mobile, to spearhead the collection of data and public input. The company has, in turn, subcontracted certain aspects of the project to other entities.
For example, Pitts Media, of Birmingham, has produced a special video featuring community leaders, educators, and even local students that can now be viewed on the school system’s Facebook page. Another group known as Cooperative Strategies will compile online surveys for citizens to express their opinions, after which HPM will conduct public forums to encourage in-depth discussions.
In addition, HPM will study the current and projected demographics of Chambers County over the coming decade to be included in the final data.
“This is, by far, the most important issue impacting our community in terms of how we shape our economy, growth, and quality of life for years to come. That’s why we need total participation from everyone,” Hodge added.
The online survey should be ready for public view within the next two weeks.


3 months ago

Bob Harding-Shawmut Elementary School, shown at left, is one of several Chambers County schools that has been equipped with a new security system to restrict public access to the building. 


New security equipment restricting access to school buildings in the Chambers County School District is making facilities safer for students and faculty that occupy them.


            “At the conclusion of the previous school year, we began installing magnetic lock systems on the entrance doors of several schools. These systems do not permit a door to be opened until a staff member inside the building activates a release of the lock”, said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “The safety of our students, teachers, and support personnel is a top priority that we take very seriously, and these new systems will help to insure better security.”


            Schools thus far that have had the equipment installed, or are in the process if installation,  include Fairfax, Shawmut, Huguley, Lafayette Lanier and Eastside elementary schools, J. P. Powell and W. F. Burns middle schools, and Five Points School.


            “The current state education budget contained additional funding which allowed expenditures for school security. We’re now in the process of determining areas of greatest vulnerability, and addressing each of them on a priority basis”, said Hodge.


            The main focus for additional improvements will be upgrading video surveillance and possibly alarm systems at J. P. Powell and W. F. Burns middle schools, as well as Valley and LaFayette high schools.


            “We’ll utilize the available funding as far as it goes”, Hodge added. “Our goal is to make each campus as safe and secure as possible. As more funding becomes available, we will continue our pursuit of this goal.”


            In addition to new security equipment, the Chambers County School District has implemented an aggressive school safety plan that addresses particular situations where safety may be in jeopardy. Frequent drills are conducted to keep students and staff prepared for appropriate measures to be taken during such incidents.

By David Bell


2 months ago

Alabama Third District Congressman Mike Rogers recently toured the Chambers County Career Technical Center, guided by Principal Ken Sealy, who explained the significance of each course study provided by the facility. Shown above are, from left, Congressman Rogers, Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge, and CCCTC Principal Ken Sealy.


LaFAYETTE – During a local stop on August 13, Alabama Third District Congressman Mike Rogers was given a tour of the Chambers County Career Technical Center in LaFayette, where more than 500 area high school and middle school students attend classes. The Congressman visited various sections of the tech center campus while Principal Ken Sealy explained the significance of each course study provided.


            Currently, instruction is taught in eleven different career fields, including Automotive Technology, Health Science, Industrial Systems and Precision Machining, Pre-Engineering and Teacher Education. The courses are available to both public and private school students in Chambers County.


            “Earlier this year, that collaborative partnership was strengthened by an extension of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006,” Sealy told Rogers. “Virtually everything we do here hinges on that particular piece of federal legislation.”


The Perkins Act is dedicated to increasing learner access to high-quality career technical education programs of study. With a focus on systems alignment and program improvement, Perkins is critical to insuring that programs are prepared to meet the ever-changing needs of learners and employers.


“I’m impressed by what this facility offers to local students,” said Rogers. “Some of today’s highest paying jobs require specialized technical training above and beyond what a general bachelor’s degree would provide. I think there are still a lot of parents who fail to realize this significance when steering their children toward a college education.”


The Chambers County Career Technical Center first opened for classes in 1977. Its mission is to motivate and prepare students to either enter a post-secondary school academically prepared or the workforce with an industry recognized credential, so as to become productive citizens through academic and technical learning.

By David Bell


3 months ago

VALLEY – Chambers County school officials are warning the public regarding a current scam targeting athletic programs at Valley High School.


            “We have been made aware that there are calls being made to various banks, businesses, and community members stating they are collecting funds on behalf of Valley High School football and cheer. They are leaving a 1-800 number as a call back,” said Valley High School Principal Dr. Sherry Ashe.


            “We have verified that no one from Valley High School or the affiliated booster clubs authorized these calls. While we do rely on our community to help raise funds, we do not outsource to anyone and would not use a 1-800 number,” added Ashe. “All funds that we raise are deposited through Valley High School and, at this time, we only accept cash and checks made payable to the school.”


            Anyone receiving one of these calls should disregard it as a scam, and immediately report the incident to local law enforcement.


            “It’s unfortunate when people target our schools to scam money from the public,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “When these situations occur, we try to get the word out as quickly as possible to avoid citizens being taken advantage of. Meanwhile, we are grateful for the support we receive through legitimate fundraising activities.”


            Parents, businesses, and individuals are encouraged to verify whether fundraising events have been sanctioned through the school system by either calling the school in question or the Chambers County Board of Education’s administrative office at 334-864-9343.


By David Bell


6 months 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


5 months 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


5 months ago

Shown above, from left, are 2018 top LaFayette High School graduates Ny'Keirria Billingsley, Miciah Vines and D'Angelo Swanson, and top Valley High School graduates Jase Phillips, Callie Pike and Alexis Elise Walls.


LaFAYETTE – The top three graduating seniors from LaFayette and Valley high schools were recently presented plaques of achievement by the Chambers County School Board.


            The top graduates from LaFayette High School are Ny’Keirria Billingsley, Miciah Vines and D’Angelo Swanson.


            Ny’Keirra Billingsley served her senior year as President of her class, the National Technical Honor Society, Student Government Association, and Health Occupations Students of America. She was also an active member of FCCLA, Beta Club, and Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Junior Ambassadors.


            In addition, Ny’Keirra was a cheerleader from 2013 until 2017, and was Miss LHS for the 2017-2018 school year. Her community involvement has included serving as a volunteer at the Rampey Daycare Center and LaFayette Nursing Home.


Ny’Keirra plans to attend the University of Alabama in Birmingham where she will major in nursing. She leaves LaFayette High School with a 4.6 (weighted) GPA.


            Miciah Vines has been active in the National Technical Honor Society, National Beta Club, National Society of High School Scholars, Family Career Community Leaders of America (Secretary), and Future Teachers of America. She also served as statistician for the LaFayette High School basketball team, was a gate worker at Auburn University football games, a Teacher Education Student at the Chambers County Career Technical Center, and is a member of the White Hall Baptist Church Youth Choir and Praise Team.


            Miciah is CPR certified and plans to become a registered nurse. She leaves LaFayette High School with a 4.5 (weighted) GPA.


            D’Angelo Swanson has been a member of the National Honor Society, National Beta Club,  and was recipient of  the  LHS  Superstar  Award  for scoring 20 or above on the ACT. He also received a Platinum score on the ACT Work Keys.

In addition, D’Angelo served as Business/PR Manager for Piedmont Motorsports and Engineering at the Chambers County Career Technical Center, and President of UNITE Mentoring, Inc., contributing more than 50 hours of volunteer community service.

            D’Angelo has already earned a Machine Shop Certificate from Southern Union State Community College, and plans to attend Spring Hill University to obtain a degree in Management Marketing. He leaves LaFayette High School with a 4.5 (weighted) GPA.

            The top graduates from Valley High School are Jase Phillips, Callie Pike and Alexis Elise Walls.

            Jase Phillips has been an active member of the National Honor Society, Key Club International, National Beta Club, FCA, VHS Scholar’s Bowl, Math Team, Pep Club, Tennis Team, Student Government Association, and Rambassadors. He was also a member of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, a Class Favorite his Junior year, a Senior Superlative (Most Positive), and a finalist for Mr. VHS. Furthermore, Jase was on the ‘All A’ Honor Roll every year of his high school education.

            In terms of community involvement, Jase served as a Junior Ambassador with the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and volunteered with Huguley Elementary School Fall Festival and May Day activities, Hawkes Library Summer Children’s Program, Kidfest and Children’s Ministry at Spring Road Christian Church, Out of Darkness suicide awareness walk, Mill Village Christmas, and Casas Por Cristo Missions house-building team in Acuna, Mexico.

            Jase plans to attend Auburn University and obtain a degree in Pharmacy. He leaves Valley High School with a 4.7 (weighted) GPA.

            Callie Pike has been a member of the National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, and served as President of the VHS Key Club. She was also active in the National Beta Club, Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce (Jr. Ambassadors), VHS Rambassadors and Pep Club, and was Miss VHS for the 2017-2018 school year.

            While in high school, Callie obtained work experience through CharterBank, Performance Power Equipment, and the Chicken Stop. She plans to attend Auburn University and major in Veterinary Medicine.

            Callie leaves Valley High School with a 4.7 (weighted) GPA.

            Alexis Elise Walls spent her senior year as a member of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, and was also active in the Key Club and marching band. In addition, Alexis was an Academic Achievement Award winner and member of the ‘All A’ Honor Roll and Beta Club.

Among her volunteer experiences, Alexis has served as a missionary to Haiti, where she taught basic computer skills, an English class, Bible class, and assisted with a sports camp. She also worked with other volunteers in the Valley area building wheelchair ramps.

            Alexis plans to attend Southern Union State Community College and obtain her Associates degree before transferring to Auburn University and majoring in Early Childhood Education. She leaves Valley High School with a 4.6 (weighted) GPA.

            “We want to congratulate all our graduating seniors and wish them well as they continue their education and embark upon their careers,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge.

by David Bell