Demopolis to vote on three-mill property tax Dec. 12

When the polls open Dec. 12 for the special election to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat, voters in Demopolis will have another issue on the ballot to vote on.

A three-mill property tax is up for renewal this year to benefit Demopolis schools.

The last time the tax came up for renewal in the summer of 2007, Demopolis voters approved it by a whopping 87 percent.

Community support for Demopolis schools is one reason Supt. Kyle Kallhoff believes the school system will attain its vision of being in the top ten percentage of the school systems in the state.

“This is one of the things that separates us from the rest of the Black Belt,” he said.

Since a mill is valued at approximately $75,000, three mills will bring in about $250,000 of the $20 million budget of the Demopolis City School System. Under the tax levy, property owners pay 30 cents on each $100 of the assessed value of taxable property.

Kallhoff said that in the past the funds raised from the tax have been used primarily for personnel expenses such as teacher salaries not covered by the state reimbursement, aides and adjunct teachers, employee incentives, School Resource Officers, professional development and maintenance employees.

The money also has paid for SmartBoards at the middle and high schools, buses, bleachers at the high school and fencing around the middle school football field.

The three-mill tax issue will be only on the ballot in the city of Demopolis and will continue for another 10 years beginning in October 2018.

DCS holds stakeholder luncheon

Demopolis City Schools honored its supporters Thursday at the second annual Stakeholder Luncheon held in the Demopolis High School library.

The event, explained Supt. Kyle Kallhoff, is a way of thanking all the people who support the school system and bring them up to date on its progress.

Each of the four Demopolis principals gave a brief overview of one thing the school was focusing on this year. Kallhoff stressed the upcoming 3-mil renewal vote on the Dec. 12 ballot in Demopolis and reported on enrollment and budget trends and the capital plan.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Kallhoff recognized two people who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the school system. Named 2017 Tiger Champions were J.R. Rivas and Jason Windham.

Kallhoff said the renewal of the 3-mil property tax is held every 10 years. It is limited to voters in District 2, who, 10 years ago, approved the renewal by 87 percent. The tax brings in up to $250,000 annually.

The financial support of the school system by local residents “is one of the things that separates us from the rest of the Black Belt,” said Kallhoff.

Enrollment in Demopolis schools is 2,331, the first time in five years it has gone over 2,300, he continued. The figures show a growth of 127 students since the 2013-2014 year, and this year’s totals do not include the pre-K enrollment of 51.

The school system must consider adding on to its campuses since they are reaching their capacity. “We need to accept growth or stop growth,” said Kallhoff.

One of the considerations is whether to accept students from outside the city limits. Demopolis has an open enrollment system, which means it welcomes students from Marengo and other counties and doesn’t charge tuition. Almost half the current enrollment – 1,067 – are from out of city.

Accepting those students greatly helps with state funding, said the superintendent, but local funding is not greatly impacted with higher out-of-system numbers.

Demopolis schools get 11 percent of its money from federal sources, 64 percent from the state and 22 percent from local funding. Another 3 percent come from school-based fees.

The local financial support is above average for the state, Kallhoff said. He also praised the Demopolis City Schools Foundation for, among other things, making it possible to purchase robots for coding and programming classes and for the broadcasting programs on the campuses.

He reviewed the nine Career Tech programs now offered at DHS, including the newest HVAC dual-enrollment curriculum with Shelton State. He said 68 percent of DHS students are involved in some career-based program.

Not included in the career tech curriculum is the broadcasting cluster. It is separate so that it can be more flexible and creative than what a state-sponsored curriculum would allow.

Kallhoff went over the Capital Plan Five-Year Plan submitted to the state every year. Of the eight priorities on the list, only the first two are being addressed with the funding available. They are adapting Demopolis Middle School to meet ADA requirements and remodeling all student restrooms in the schools.

Westside Elementary School principal Roshanda Jackson chose the Leader in Me process as her one area of focus to discuss. It is a whole school transformation that helps develop children to be competent individuals.

Both Leon Clark at USJ and Brandon Kiser at DMS spoke on the coding, programming and robotics courses at their schools. “We’re preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist yet,” said Kiser.

DHS principal Blaine Hathcock said he was disappointed that his school was not listed in among the top 50 in the state by ACT scores. “That’s not acceptable.”

DHS has instituted a school-wide effort focusing on ACT skills. While all the scores aren’t in yet, he said there has been remarkable progress among those that have been returned. Higher ACT scores can equate to thousands of dollars in scholarships for students.

“The bar is going to move,” he said. “We’re going to be in the top 50 or die trying.”

Arlington woman killed in car accident

A three-vehicle crash today, Nov. 16, claimed the life of an Arlington woman. Sonya Bradford Huckabee, 52, was killed when the 2012 Honda CRV she was driving was struck by a 2000 Ford F-350 driven by Russell Wayne McCray, 28, of Millbrook. Huckabee, who was not using a seatbelt, was pronounced dead at the scene.  A parked 2012 Freightliner tractor trailer was involved after the initial collision. The crash occurred at 7:34 a.m. on U.S. 43 near the 122 mile marker, one mile north of Linden. Nothing further is available as Alabama State Troopers continue to investigate.

DCS Board looks to expand ‘Leader in Me’ to second campus

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Pleased with the “Leader in Me” process now being implemented at Westside Elementary School, the Demopolis City Board of Education Monday approved funding to expand into U.S. Jones Elementary School beginning next fall.

The BOE meeting was held a week early because of the Thanksgiving holidays.

A part of the Franklin Covey series of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Leader in Me” is designed for elementary-aged students. The three-year, $40,000 cost for USJ will be paid for with federal Title I funding, said Supt. Kyle Kallhoff.

Eventually, he hopes to include Demopolis Middle and Demopolis High schools with the process that is adapted for adolescents.

The first reading of federal Child Nutrition Policies – one new and changes to two others – was made. A public hearing on the policies will be held Dec. 12 at 4 p.m.

The two revisions involve meal patterns and wellness, and the new policy concerns price and payment.

The personnel report approved by the board saw the conditional employment of Donald Richardson as a DHS custodian, substitute licenses for Janice Coats and Victoria Gandy and medical leave of absence for Tammi Western-Scott, DMS teacher.

The board approved travel for a DHS teacher to attend the Association of Foreign Language Conference in Nashville, Tenn., paid for with state professional development money. It also okayed the disposition of equipment beyond repair.

Overnight and out-of-state trips approved included:

  • DHS Boys Basketball to Wallace Hanceville Community College Nov. 21 and Dec. 20.
  • DHS Girls Basketball to Alabaster Dec. 27-29.
  • DHS Boys Basketball to Corinth, Miss., Dec. 28-29.
  • USJ fifth-graders to Washington, D.C. in April.
  • DMS Honor Band students Dec. 7-9.

The board also accepted a volunteer staffing agreement between Compass Rose Events, sponsored by Georgia-Pacific, and the DHS Band. The band received $2,000 for its efforts.

Also approved were the Career Tech Education Work-Based Learning Manual, a sign at the DHS Spring Sports Complex, disposal of out-of-date textbooks at DMS and DHS and Kallhoff’s attendance at the 2017 Alabama Association of School Boards convention in Birmingham Dec. 7-9.

In his report, Kallhoff said student enrollment continues to grow, with 26 more students attending Demopolis schools this year over last.

He said the 3-mil property tax renewal is coming before voters in Demopolis, an issue that requires approval every 10 years. Kallhoff said Demopolis residents traditionally have shown support for their schools by endorsing the tax renewal when it comes up for vote.

Recognized for outstanding performance were teachers, staff and students from WES and DMS. From WES were Penny Stanford, teacher; Sherron Brown, staff, and Kameron Besteder, student. At DMS, the honorees were teacher Charlene Jackson, staff member Tracy Stein, and student Taliah Isaac.

The next meeting will be held Dec. 18.

UWA’s Tutwiler Scholars Program now accepting applications for 2018

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—The University of West Alabama’s Tutwiler Scholars Program has opened its application process for the 2018 academic year.

Applications for the program will be accepted now through February 1 from incoming freshmen entering the fall class of 2018. From the field of applicants five scholars will be chosen.

Established in 2015, the Tutwiler Scholars Program seeks high-achieving, high-potential students who have demonstrated initiative, creativity, intellectual passion and curiosity, and a commitment to making positive contributions to society.

“The students who are selected for this program will reap the rewards of their demonstrated success as they enjoy opportunities that are sure to not only enhance their university experience but also prepare them in areas that they might not otherwise have the chance to explore,” explained Dr. Lesa Shaul, director of the Tutwiler Scholars Program.

The benefits of the program include supplemental scholarships, renewable each fall semester with the maintenance of a 3.5 GPA; a travel stipend for study-abroad semesters or international study tours; a technology allowance for state-of-the-art laptops, tablets, or touchscreen smart devices; participation in unique and enriching social, cultural, artistic, and scientific enterprises; and targeted mentoring by some of UWA’s most decorated and dedicated professors.

Eligible applicants should be incoming freshmen for Fall 2018. An ACT composite score of 28 or higher is preferred.

The deadline for all application materials is February 1, 2018. The application is available online at http://www.uwa.edu/ tutwilerscholars/. For more information, email Dr. Lesa Shaul at lcc@uwa.edu.

Rotarians hosting food drive, collecting at DHS playoff game

Not everyone in Demopolis is assured of a bountiful Thanksgiving. Stepping in to fill the food shortage gap for those in need is the Demopolis Rotary Club.

Again this year the club is sponsoring a food drive to benefit the Demopolis Food Bank. First begun in 2013, Rotarians and their partners have raised at least $4,500 in cash donations. The first year the club also brought in some two tons of food. Since then the club has counted another 2,500 items donated to the Food Bank.

Rotarians will be collecting non-perishable foods at the ticket gate before the Demopolis High School game on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. They also will have a site set up at Vowell’s on Saturday, Nov. 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Westside Elementary School is having a competition among classes, with the class bringing in the most earning a wing party.

Buckets for donations are at all Parr’s Chevron locations as well as Langley Shell and Malone Texaco.

Several area churches are joining in the food drive. Each church is deciding its own way how to collect food.

Joining with the Rotarians in their annual effort are the cadets with the JROTC at DHS. They will be helping with the donations at Vowell’s and at the DHS game as well as assisting in delivering the food for distribution.

Partnership with BWWMH first of its kind for UAB

For more than a year the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority board worked long hours to form a partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System.

The hard work became official Oct. 1 when the two entities signed a Management and Affiliation Agreement.

At the Wednesday meeting of the Demopolis Rotary Club, Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital board vice chairman Alan Bishop explained the benefits of the partnership with the hospital and to the Demopolis area. He told local Rotarians that the process has been “quite a journey.”

“The time that has been spent has been unbelievable,” he said.

Cooperation started early with the formation of a transition team of representatives from the hospital, UAB, the city and the county. Former Robertson Banking Company President Al Garrett came out of retirement to chair the team.

While UAB has expanded its medical services to Montgomery and other larger communities, the partnership with BWWMH is the first venture into rural health care. The move was made possible because of legislation in 2016 opening the door for University Health Authorities to help rural systems. The collaboration brings with it the Birmingham-based hospital’s management and expertise, marketing, physician recruitment and purchasing, Bishop said.

Such affiliation also brings with it UAB’s reputation strength, he continued.

Already in place was a recently opened branch of the University Medical Center in the Outpatient Building of the hospital, joining UMC’s two other locations in Tuscaloosa and Northport.

Two UAB officials now serve on the BWWMH board. “I thought they’d send down a couple of middle managers,” said Bishop. Instead, the two are Don Lilly, senior vice president of network development and affiliate operations, and Sean Tenney, chief operations officer for the Medical West Hospital. The two sat in their first board meeting on Oct. 26.

UAB is very conscious of its brand. Within the next two to three months, an approved UAB sign will be erected on U.S. Hwy. 80 to let everyone know of the relationship between UAB and BWWMH.

While the link with the Demopolis hospital is the first venture into rural health care for UAB, Bishop said it probably won’t be the last. Lilly’s focus has been to expand UAB’s outreach.

Such a partnership is a win-win for both facilities. With BWWMH handling cases that normally would be transferred to UAB, beds will be freed in Birmingham for more acute medical needs.

“UAB is not here just to be a nice guy,” said Bishop. “UAB is here to make money.”

The new partner is studying the survey that BWWMH conducted to determine what services are needed in the area.

UWA cuts ribbon at Center for Workforce Development on campus

The University of West Alabama held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the launch of its Center for Workforce Development on Nov. 2. Pictured left to right: Dr. Tina N. Jones, executive director of UWA’s Division of Economic Development and Outreach; Mr. Curtis Jones, instructor of automotive technology at UWA; Dr. Mary Hanks, chair of UWA’s Ira D. Pruitt Division of Nursing; Mr. Joseph Brown, Alabama Power Company, economic development chair for UWA’s board of trustees; Dr. Aliquippa Allen, interim dean of UWA’s College of Business and Technology; Dr. Donnie Cobb, CIST professor and director of UWA’s Center for Workforce Development; Ms. Angela Till, State of Alabama deputy secretary of commerce; Mr. Fitzgerald Washington, State of Alabama secretary of labor; Dr. Ken Tucker, UWA president; Mr. J.D. Pruitt, instructor of welding at UWA; Ms. Veronica Triplett, director of UWA’s Center for Business and Entrepreneurial Services; Mr. Johnnie Aycock, special assistant to the president at UWA; and Allison Brantley, director of economic development at UWA.

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—The University of West Alabama hosted a full roster of state, regional, and local officials on Thursday, Nov. 2, for the ribbon cutting ceremony commemorating the launch of the new UWA Center for Workforce Development at Hunt Annex on campus.

UWA President Ken Tucker welcomed a standing-room only crowd, thanking all in attendance for their commitment to supporting the University in its efforts to drive workforce and economic development for the Black Belt region.

“We want to create an education and training pipeline to help unemployed and underemployed individuals to increase their knowledge and abilities so they can get better jobs, pay raises, benefits, and other opportunities that will increase their standard of living,” Tucker said. “Rather than being an island unto itself, UWA is working with local and regional leaders to make a positive difference in the lives of those we serve.”

Dr. Tina N. Jones, executive director of UWA’s Division of Economic Development and Outreach, introduced several special guests and explained that the Division serves not only Sumter County, but west Alabama and the entire Black Belt region by developing the unique natural and cultural assets to address the educational, social, and economic needs of the area.

Mr. Joseph Brown, Western Division manager for Alabama Power Company, sits on the UWA Board of Trustees and serves as chair of its economic development committee. Brown spoke to the crowd gathered, offering the Board’s support and encouragement for this endeavor.

“This event and this initiative are proof of the positive impact that UWA has on economic and workforce development on and off campus,” Brown said. “This Center is truly fulfilling a tremendous need in our region.”

Alabama Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington also applauded UWA’s efforts, which he says are proving to be fruitful. Sumter County’s unemployment rate is down from 6.2 percent to 4.7 percent. He said that Alabama is currently paying 15 percent lower in unemployment wages than the state has paid in the last decade.

“We made a commitment to lower unemployment rates, and that’s what we plan to continue doing, bringing these rates down to single digits” Washington said, citing an only 3.8 percent unemployment rate for Alabama right now, down from 4.2 percent in August and tied for Alabama’s lowest in history. He said Alabama boasts the largest recent drop in the nation.

Angela Till, deputy secretary of commerce for the State of Alabama, commended the University for working to align with the needs or area businesses and industries to improve the overall economy.

“Without workforce development, there is no economic development,” Till said. “UWA is helping to build and strengthen a qualified workforce, and this is vital to our state’s economy.”

Dr. Donnie Cobb, professor of computer information systems and technology for UWA’s College of Business and Technology, serves as director of the new Center for Workforce Development. Cobb shared some of the ways people can support and empower the Center, from offering facility tours at area operations, discussions with students, donations of consumables, and any other steps that can help guide student success.

“Our program has seen a 600 percent growth in recent years, and although that’s phenomenal, we want more,” Cobb said.

Interim Dean Dr. Aliquippa Allen also spoke on behalf of the College of Business and Technology, commending the faculty and staff that have taken lead roles in creating the center and driving its success. She introduced Mr. Curtis Jones, instructor of automotive technology, and Mr. J.D. Pruitt, instructor of welding. Both have developed curriculum as part of the University’s workforce development effort to prepare students for certificate programs that increase their skill levels and can even be transferred toward a two- or four-year program.

Information on UWA’s Workforce Development programs and contact information relevant to each are online at http://www.uwa.edu/workforce_ development.aspx.

To learn more about UWA’s Center for Workforce Development or the programs and initiatives offered to empower and grow west Alabama’s workforce, contact Dr. Donnie Cobb at 205-652-3704 or email him at dcobb@uwa.edu. Reach the Division of Economic Development and Outreach by calling 205-652-3828 or email Dr. Tina N. Jones at tnj@uwa.edu.

Moundville man dies in Greene County crash

A single-vehicle crash at 4:26 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, claimed the life of a Moundville man. Steve Earl Nevels, 54, was killed when the 2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue he was driving left the roadway and overturned. Nevels, who was not using a seatbelt, was ejected and pronounced dead at the scene. The crash occurred on Greene County 191 approximately two and a half miles north of Union.  Nothing further is available as Alabama State Troopers continue to investigate.

University Charter School announces PK-8 opening structure

University Charter School signed its official charter on Thursday, Oct. 26, marking the beginning of a five-year contract with its authorizer, the Alabama Public Charter School Commission. Pictured left to right at the charter signing ceremony are University of West Alabama President Ken Tucker, University Charter School Board President Micky Smith, APCSC Chairman Mac Buttram, UCS Head of School Dr. J.J. Wedgworth, and Logan Searcy of the Alabama State Department of Education. The University of West Alabama sponsored the application for the new charter school in Sumter County, which is set to open for grades pre-k through eight in August 2018. The school will add a grade each year to become a pre-k through 12 school in 2022.

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—Sumter County’s new University Charter School has now entered into contract with the Alabama Public Charter School Commission with a pre-k through 8th opening grade structure. At the charter signing ceremony, held Thursday, Oct. 23, in UWA’s Tutwiler Conference Center, school leaders and the Alabama Public Charter School Commission signed the contract outlining a final plan for opening, enrollment, and development of the school.

A standing room only crowd gathered in support of the charter signing. APCSC was represented by Chairman Mac Buttram and Logan Searcy. UWA President Ken Tucker offered support on behalf of the University of West Alabama, and UCS Board President Micky Smith thanked all in attendance for the continued support shown to the effort.

Buttram commended the community and school organizers for the work that has been done thus far to establish the school and provide opportunity and choice to students. He also recognized UWA for offering leadership in the application process, referencing the University’s long history of providing teacher education to the region.

“I hope some other universities will look at what UWA has done and follow their lead,” Buttram said, referencing several other higher education institutions that were once teacher colleges, like UWA.

Opening in August of 2018, the school will serve grades pre-k through eight and will add one grade per year to reach grade 12 by the 2022-23 academic year. The finalized contract is a framework that has evolved to accommodate the needs and interests expressed by the community, including grade structure and enrollment eligibility.

“We are excited to solidify plans for University Charter School and begin the process of registering and enrolling students for the 2018-19 school year,” said Head of School Dr. J.J. Wedgworth. “We believe we have a strong plan for moving forward and for meeting the needs and interests of the community as determined through the interest surveys we have collected.”

Wedgworth explained that the school was first expected to open for pre-k through 5th grade, but an interest inventory conducted throughout the community following the school’s application approval showed the need for additional grades. She said that the Commission allowed flexibility if plans could be backed by significant research.

“The goal is for UCS to provide an educational option to as many of the children in our region as practically possible,” Wedgworth said. “Based on the results of our recently-conducted interest survey, the practical grade structure based on enrollment interest is pre-k through 8th grade. Although we originally planned to open with a pre-k through 5th grade structure adding the remaining upper grades in Year 2, we saw an opportunity based on survey results to expand the opening grade structure and provide an educational option to more children in Year 1.”

Capacity for the first year is set at 350 students. Enrollment will include three phases: pre-registration, seat offering and acceptance, and final registration.

Pre-registration for kindergarten through 8th grade will begin Nov. 15, 2017, for students residing in Sumter County. With pre-registration for Sumter County residents concluding on December 13, if the number of Sumter County pre-registrants exceeds the facility’s capacity, a lottery for Sumter County residents will be held on Dec. 14.  If pre-registration does not exceed capacity, this lottery will not be necessary, and students will be offered available seats on a first-come, first-served basis.

A second pre-registration period will be held for students who do not live in Sumter County, including Mississippi residents who live within 15 miles of the Sumter County line or whose guardian works in Sumter County. These students can pre-register for kindergarten through 8th grade beginning January 3, 2018, through January 31, 2018. If the number of pre-registrants exceeds space remaining after Sumter County registration, a lottery for non-Sumter residents will be held on Feb. 1, 2018. If the number does not exceed availability, this lottery will not be necessary, and students will be offered available seats on a first-come, first-served basis.

Pre-kindergarten will be open to students who will turn four years old on or before Sept. 1, 2018. Enrollment for pre-kindergarten will be announced at a later date, as directed by the Office of School Readiness policies and procedures for First Class Pre-K Classrooms.

“UCS will continue pre-registration until all seats are filled or until we feel that we have reached a sustainable founding class size,” Wedgworth explained.

Following pre-registrations and any lottery drawings that may be necessary, parents and students will receive letters from UCS with an offer for a seat in the grade in which they pre-registered. Parents must then accept or decline the seat in that grade in order to move into the final registration process. Following acceptance of a seat offer, the seat is held for the student, and the student’s more detailed application will be completed for enrollment.

“For all three phases of enrollment—pre-registration, seat offering and acceptance, and final registration—UCS will utilize SchoolMint, which is a mobile and cloud-based student enrollment platform,” Wedgworth said. “We believe this system is a good fit for our needs, and it’s easy to use. I encourage all students and their families to set up a profile now on SchoolMint to become familiar with the platform and to be prepared for the opening of pre-registration.”

Beginning November 15, the pre-registration application will be available to families residing in Sumter County, but parents can access UCS’s SchoolMint platform now to create an account at https:// universitycharterschool. schoolmint.net/signin.

Anyone who would like assistance or has limited access to a computer, mobile device, or internet can participate in one of six on-site pre-registration sessions, three for each pre-registration period. For Sumter County resident pre-registration, the sessions are scheduled for Nov. 20, Dec. 4, and Dec. 13. For non-Sumter County resident pre-registration, the sessions are scheduled for Jan. 4, Jan. 15, and Jan. 30. All sessions will be open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., held in Lyon Hall Room A136.

UCS will be housed temporarily in Lyon Hall, which is home to the University of West Alabama’s Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education.

“Plans are already being made for constructing a standalone, independent facility for University Charter School,” Wedgworth said. “As the school grows and develops, a new facility will be built to reflect the school’s needs and offerings. This will be built in a different area on campus already designated to University Charter School. We look forward to matching the innovative school plan with a facility that will house its many offerings and accommodate a growing student body.”

University Charter School is the result of an innovative collaboration between UWA and its surrounding community. A rural, regional public institution of higher education, UWA, in fulfillment of its mission to “improve the region through education and outreach” fostered the development of UCS as a solution to some of the unique challenges facing rural public education in the Black Belt region.

By partnering with UWA, UCS will open with the support of an experienced board of directors, well-trained teachers and staff, and proven systems to implement the innovative educational model. The University partnership will bring to UCS relationships within the education and philanthropic communities and experience in the design, implementation, and support of staff from the Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education that are formally trained in rural education.

“University Charter School was designed with input from and support of the community to meet the needs and desires of the community and this will continue to be the priority for the school,” Wedgworth said.

To learn more about University Charter School, call 205-652-5459 or visit www.universitycharterschool. org. Further information on enrollment, employment, and other operations of the school will be announced as it continues to be developed.