DCSF doles out $31,000 in grants

Another $31,000 in grants were announced Monday at the annual Donor Appreciation Celebration by the Demopolis City Schools Foundation.

The spring round of grants brings to a total for the 2017-2018 term to $69,000, said executive director Amanda Barnes.

The event, held in the Coplin Building, also recognized major donors with plaques and certificates and announced two more named endowments. The Endowment Fund now totals more than $1.2 million. Income from the fund is used to supplement the grants.

The named endowments were for Elizabeth B. Lawrence, giving by the John C. Webb III and Marie Suttle Webb Foundation, and from the estate of the late Susan Ulmer Wallace.

Barnes said the amount of grants awarded and the strength of the endowment rivals such schools systems as Mountain Brook.

The grants are as follows:

Westside Elementary — Andrea Johnson, $1,000 to supplement the school’s collection of community helper books and e-books.

Demopolis High School — Rachel White, $7,000 for 30 Chromebooks for the high school English Department; Dale Acker, $6,000 to purchase welding machines for the welding program at the high school; Charles Jones, $6,000 for a power threader to train the pipe threading process, and Meggin Mayben, $4,000 for a set of 10 Google Expedition virtual reality headsets for use in the high school history department.

Demopolis Middle School — Javalynn Henderson, $4,000 for a set of 10 Google Expedition virtual reality headsets for use in the middle school history department, and Adam Brown, $3,446.32 for new and improved stands for the middle school band and its first concert bass drum.

Major donors recognized by the DCSF are:

Executive: Georgia-Pacific, Parr’s and WestRock.

Patron: Alabama Power Co. – Greene Co. Steam Plant, CEMEX Southeast LLC, Foster Farms, Jackson/Newell Foundation, Karen and Olen Kerby, Marengo Insurance, Louise Webb and Steve Marzen,

Donna and Kris Mullins/ State Farm Companies, Cindy and Claud Neilson, Rotary Club of Demopolis, Mellie and John Warner, John Cox Webb IV and Vickie and Dan Wilson.

Partner: Amanda and John David Barnes, Sarah Chandler and Luke Hallmark, Kayte and Thomas Melton, Mary and Freddie Rutledge, The Perfect Touch and Perfect Touch Home.

Continued Endowment Support comes from Betsy and Bill Coplin, Kathryn and William Cunningham, Demopolis High School Class of 1967, Bill Horton and Judilyn Brooks, Sarah Chandler Hallmark, Angela Northcutt Holifield, Nancy and John Northcutt, JR Rivas, Robertson Banking Company and Martha and Joe Turner.

Polling map, road re-striping highlight Marengo commission meeting

Marengo County never has had a printed map showing its polling places. That has changed, thanks to the work of Board of Registrars member Barry Hunt.

The Alabama Secretary of State mandated that each county have such a map, and Hunt presented his work to the county commission Tuesday for approval before submitting it to the state.

After the unanimous vote to accept Hunt’s map, Commissioner Freddie Armstead complained that the requirement was yet another unfunded mandate by the state.

Probate Judge Laurie Hall thanked Barry for his work that has been ongoing for some two years. She said the map should have been done a long time ago, but the project “slipped through the cracks.”

The commission approved a $2-per-month rate hike for trash pickup by Advanced Disposal. Solid Waste officer John Bell said rates had not gone up since 2014. The increase will bring the rate to $19.72 per month effective April 1, he said.

In response to complaints about unsightly trash being dumped at the intersection of County Roads 19 and 28, Advanced Disposal site manager Tammy Donald said the company would put a dumpster at the site if the county requests it. She also said new trucks have been purchased to better serve the county.

Commissioner Armstead asked if the county roads could be restriped. He said the lack of lane definition is dangerous, especially at night and during rainstorms.

County Engineer Ken Atkins said he was holding on to the $300,000 set aside to use after resurfacing on some of the roads is completed. He said there also may be some money left after the paving of the Gandy Ferry road in Demopolis, set to begin next month.

The Commission voted to have Atkins prepare a plan for striping and present it at the March meeting.

The issue of security at Rangeline Road and County Road 28 prompted an offer by Commissioner John Crawford, an employee of Black Warrior Electric, to install a security light. The county would pay the installation fee and $9 per month in charges.

Marengo County Economic Development Authority director Chris Bontrager reported the county unemployment rate is the lowest in history at 4.16 percent. Since the rate is close to full employment of 3 to 3.5 percent, he said the emphasis now will be on underemployment.

The momentum with Shelton State Community College in Demopolis now will provide training for individuals and companies looking for expanded training.

Bontrager said interest from businesses looking for a location has increased thanks to two developments. The first is the announcement by AT&T to provide fiber optic service at the three industrial parks in the county. The second is the updated website that provides more complete information for companies searching a location.

He said three active ongoing projects started last year are continuing to develop. Each would bring in 15-25 jobs if brought to fruition.

Dr. Bill Ashley, chairman of Board of Directors for Shelton State, spoke of the continuing growth in the number of students enrolled at and courses provided by the Demopolis campus.

Since his background is rural community colleges, Ashley said he is actively engaged in expanding Shelton State’s presence in rural areas such as Marengo County.

“We know we can do good if we work regionally,” he said.

Commission Chairman Calvin Martin announced the county had received a $24,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant for the Sheriff’s Department to purchase a new vehicle.

In other action, the Commission approved:

  • Renewal of a tax agreement with Revenue Discover Systems.
  • County levies for alcohol licensing
  • Favorable Grand Jury report, especially, quipped Armstead, “they’re not asking for anything.”
  • EMA and Tobacco Tax CD renewal at Sweet Water State Bank.
  • A resolution to approve a rebid of a water project for Thomaston

Demopolis students commemorate FBLA week

Demopolis High School FBLA members along with thousands of FBLA-PBL members across the nation participated in the FBLA-PBL week activities. The idea of FBLA can be traced back to 1937 when Hamden L. Forkner proposed to business teachers across the country that a national organization was needed for high school and collegiate business students across the nation.

Then, in 1940 the National Council for Business Education (NBEA) sponsors the proposed student organization. Finally, on February 3, 1942 an experimental chapter is chartered at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tennessee. Marking the beginning of the Future Business Leaders of America. Since then, FBLA has grown to be the largest business student organization in the world. The same spark Hamdem L. Forkner had over 70 plus years ago, still lives with the members and advisers across the globe today. Demopolis FBLA planned and participated in the following activities last week.


Funday Sunday – Posted picture on social media of a FUN time in FBLA with #fblapblweek

Member Monday – Members received candy pop rocks and and were told how much they are appreciated and how they “rock”. Taylor Vail was recognized as the January Member of the Month.

T-Shirt Tuesday – Students wore their favorite FBLA shirt.

Wonderful Wednesday – Members hosted a brunch for all the wonderful teachers at DHS and recognized their club advisor, Kelly Gandy with flowers and a gift. FBLA also served biscuits and special treats at the principal’s meeting with Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff.

Think to the Future Thursday – DHS career tech student organizations and advisors dressed up as their potential profession.

Field Day Friday – Postponed due to a high number of students with the flu. The club will make the event up in early March.

As a reward for their hard work all previous “Members of the Month” will travel to Birmingham as they tour a Innovation Depot, an affiliation of UAB, and then participate in a “Break Out” team building experience. They will be given a 60-minute life-sized game of twist and turns to escape a room by cracking codes, solving puzzles, and following clues.

Service Saturday – Members received a list from the Demopolis Food Pantry of items requested each month. For the month of January, FBLA collected grits to be donated.

Three men qualify for Marengo County sheriff’s race

As qualifying for primary season closed Friday it became apparent that Marengo County would have a handful of local races culminating in June.

The June ballot will be highlighted by a three-man race for Marengo County sheriff. Incumbent Richard “Ben” Bates of Linden qualified to run again. He will be opposed by James Rick Jones of Sweet Water and Clint Sumlin of Demopolis.

There will also be a pair of races for seats on the Marengo County Commission. Freddie Armstead is the lone qualifier in District 1. Linden’s Terry Hinton Sr. will oppose John Crawford Jr. of Gallion in District 3. Incumbent Michael Thompson of District 5 will face Pettis Lockett, Mark Davis and Thomas Rodgers – all of Sweet Water – in the county’s largest race.

Freddie Charleston of Demopolis and Mike McAlpine of Gallion each qualified for Marengo County Board of Education seats. John T. Scott of Demopolis will return to his role as Marengo County Coroner as he is the lone qualifier in that race. Laurie S. Hall of Demopolis is again the lone qualifier for probate judge.

Demopolis PD arrests woman in Walmart theft case

On Jan. 30, the Demopolis Police Department arrested Telisa Sheqeater Coleman, age 25, for one (1) count of Theft of Property in the Fourth Degree and one (1) count of Giving False Indentification to a Law Enforcement Officer. Her arrest came after officers responded to a shoplifting call at Walmart about a female stealing several items from the store. The female was reported to have left the store after putting numerous items in a large plastic tote without paying for them.

Officers made contact with Coleman and three (3) other females along with a juvenile in the parking lot. All were charged with theft. The juvenile case was refferred to Marengo County Juvenile Office.

All were processed at the police department, but Coleman was later transported to the Marengo County Detention Center for a bond hearing.

Demopolis teen arrested for rape, burglary

On Jan. 30, the Demopolis Police Department arrested Colby De’Wayne Daniels Lewis, age 19 of Demopolis, on warrants from the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested on the following charges:

One (1) Count of Rape

One (1) Count of Sodomy 1st

One (1) Count of Burglary

He was transported to the Marengo County Detention Center to await the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office.

Gallion woman killed in Friday crash

A single-vehicle crash at 9:35 a.m. today, Feb. 9, claimed the life of a Gallion woman. Dawn Roberta Cressler Gates, 33, was killed when the 2001 Dodge Durango she was driving left the roadway and overturned. Gates, who was not using a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene. The crash occurred on Hale County 62 in the city limits of Gallion. Nothing further is available as Alabama State Troopers continue to investigate.

University Charter School welcomes John W. Cameron as founding principal

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—The Board of Directors for Sumter County’s new University Charter School has announced the hiring of its founding principal, John W. Cameron, Jr. His career in education has included all levels of public education from pre-k through 12th grade.

Before being named principal at University Charter School, Cameron has served the past three years as assistant director of the Hale County College & Career Academy. In this role, Cameron has been thoroughly involved with the Region 3 Workforce Development Committee, the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, the Alabama Simulated Workplace, and the Ready to Work program for high school students.

Cameron was named principal at the UCS Board of Directors meeting on Monday, Feb. 5. According to Board President Micky Smith, UCS received 109 applications for the position, selecting Cameron as the best person to help the school achieve its goals and fulfill its mission. His background is a blend of professional achievements that complement the UCS vision for education and student development.

“I have always believed that we have to start early in elementary school to teach students soft skills that they need to grow and learn,” Cameron said. “Ultimately, we have to make sure that even as young children they are learning to talk to people, present themselves, and be able to compete fairly for their achievements. As educators, we provide the tools and a path for them to succeed.”

Cameron earned an associate of science in 1992 from Shelton State Community College, where he played baseball on scholarship. He then earned a bachelor of science in physical education from Livingston University (now UWA) in 1995 and was named one of two outstanding graduating seniors by the University’s College of Education. In 2005, he earned a master’s in education administration from UWA.

From 2006 until 2013, Cameron served as assistant principal at Hale County High School and was also head coach of baseball and athletic director there. He was then named principal of the school in 2013, serving two years in that position until being transferred to the Hale County College & Career Academy to serve as assistant director.

Cameron’s wife, Alesia, is also an educator, a special education teacher. They have two daughters, Liz (17) and Baylee (14). He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys hiking and fly fishing. He’s a former power lifter competitor and says he still enjoys fitness but no longer lifts competitively.

A Tuscaloosa native, Cameron brings a track record of success in education, including teaching, coaching, and administration. He began his career as a physical education teacher and baseball coach. He has both taught and coached throughout Tuscaloosa City Schools, from elementary to high school at Skyland Elementary, Stillman Heights Elementary, Eastwood Middle, and Northington Elementary schools. Additional coaching positions include Tuscaloosa Middle School, Tuscaloosa Academy, Central High School, Hillcrest High School, and Paul W. Bryant High School, all in Tuscaloosa.

Over the course of his coaching career, he coached nine players who went on to play professional baseball, eight of which played in the major leagues.

“To me, coaching is teaching,” Cameron explained. “It’s providing leadership and instruction that allows everyone to succeed.”

Cameron said that he wants to act as a bridge that helps to build a school culture of inclusivity, fairness, and achievement.

“Issues usually are a result of divides, and divides are a matter of perception,” Cameron said. “We will establish a transparent path of communication for the school, families, and the community. We all share a common goal, and that is to get kids ready for whatever path they’ll choose, whether it’s academia, military, or absolutely any profession.”

Cameron said that he fully expects the challenges that will surely come with establishing a new school, and he sees his role as principal as an opportunity to set a high standard.

“The standard is excellence,” Cameron said. “It’s something that was instilled in me as a college athlete in Livingston. Our coaches held us to a standard and helped us do what we needed to do to succeed. The work is hard, but it’s rewarding. It’s where we gain the sense of investment that moves us forward.”

Kallhoff: Changing standards jeopardize validity of first state report cards

Every public school and school system across Alabama Wednesday learned their grade in the first release of annual report cards.

The controversial report was mandated by the 2012 Alabama legislature with the Legislative School Performance Recognition Program Act, better known as the State Report Card Act. It assigns each system and school a grade based on an A-F scale.

The Demopolis system received a solid B at 80%. The three Demopolis campuses each received a C: DHS, 78%; DMS, 74%, and U.S. Jones Elementary, 77%. Westside Elementary received no grade since scores were based on assessments that begin in grade 3.

Demopolis School Supt. Kyle Kallhoff said the majority of the grades assigned to the schools is based on academic achievement and academic growth.

“In normal situations, one can see where this would make sense; however, the past four years of high- stakes assessments in Alabama have been anything but a ‘normal situation’,” he said.

For almost five years, a variety of education advocates and practitioners met to develop a reader-friendly report that would capture the many factors that contribute to a successful school or system.

Problems developed, however, when, in 2013, the state moved away from the Alabama Reading and Math Test for grades 3-8 and adopted the ACT Aspire as the “state assessment.” The thinking was to use a more rigorous test that aligns with the ACT, which is used as a college entrance instrument throughout our state and nation.

“Unfortunately,” said Kallhoff, “four years later we now know that the ACT Aspire is not the best choice of assessment for the students of Alabama.”

ACT Aspire provides a system of assessments to monitor progress toward college and career readiness from grade 3 through early high school, alignment with the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, and capability for predicting outcomes on the ACT.

“This sounds attractive if all of your students are college bound,” Kallhoff continued.  Most school systems in Alabama aim to prepare students for college, careers or the military. Fewer than 50 percent of high school graduates in Alabama actually go to college. Many graduates move directly into the workforce or enlist in the military.

The ACT Aspire is meant to be used to predict how a student would perform on the ACT, not as the primary instrument used to determine the final score in school and school system report cards.

“Thankfully in June of 2017, the Alabama State School Board unanimously voted to end the contract with ACT Aspire and is currently working on a state-wide assessment that will better serve the students of Alabama,” Kallhoff said.

In January of 2017, further problems developed when the U.S. Department of Education in a letter to former state superintendent Michael Sentence questioned the alignment of the ACT Aspire to state standards. In addition to the alignment issues, several school systems reported data anomalies after the 2016 and 2017 testing.

“The State Report Card Act forces transparency in public education, and transparency is paramount when dealing with students and tax dollars,” said Kallhoff, but the data must be explained in assigning grades to schools and school systems.

The public “needs to know the recent history of Alabama’s assessment program, especially on the heels of a report card that will be based on questionable data derived from these state-wide assessments,” the superintendent continued.

Kallhoff said the administrators of Demopolis City School System “are not satisfied with this grade (of B) and refuse to fall victim to complacency.” He hopes future state report cards will use a better formula “that considers the robust make-up of our schools” and one that is more in line with the standards that schools are mandated to teach.

“Measuring the effectiveness of schools should include more than one score,” he said.

Demopolis High senior killed in Friday car accident

Demopolis High senior Joshua Burrell was killed in a car accident Friday evening. Burrell is pictured here in a photo from April 2017. (Facebook)

A three-vehicle crash Friday, Feb. 2, claimed the life of a Demopolis teen. Joshua Deshan Burrell, 18, was killed when the 2012 Honda Civic he was driving was struck by a 2006 Peterbilt Tractor Trailer driven by Michael Dewayne Fudge, 47, of Dallas, Texas. Burrell, who was not using a seatbelt, was pronounced dead at the scene. A 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera was involved after the initial collision. The crash occurred at 5:05 p.m. on U.S. 80 near the 28 mile marker, eight miles west of Demopolis. Nothing further is available as Alabama State Troopers continue to investigate.

Burrell was a senior at Demopolis High School and a beloved member of his class. The West Alabama Watchman extends its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Joshua Burrell as well as the entire Demopolis community.