Demopolis leaders move to put officers in all city schools

Sgt. Monica Oliver directs traffic at Westside Elementary.

In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last week, education leaders nationally have reprised the conversation surrounding student safety. Demopolis leaders, Thursday, took the formative steps of a rethinking of school security when they committed to putting school resource officers on each campus for the duration of the academic year.

“The mayor called me last week and asked if I would be opposed to having a school resource officer on each campus. Of course I said, ‘no’. ‘How much is this going to cost us’ was my question. He said, ‘It’s not. The city council, the mayor, and the chief of police are going to do this.’ So, Monday morning, we will have SROs and they will be there the rest of the school year,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said. “I’m sure we’ll meet this summer and try to figure out how we can do this moving forward. It’s exciting but that is Demopolis for you. That’s proactive thinking from the city and the mayor, which makes us feel good as a school system that we have such a supportive community.”

(Photo courtesy Roshonda Jackson/Facebook)
Demopolis Sgt. Monica Oliver ties a student’s shoe. Oliver is one of two school resource officers that has been assigned to Demopolis City Schools.

“This is extremely important because, to me, there’s nothing more precious in our community than our children,” Demopolis Mayor John Laney said of the urgency with which city officials made the move to implement the new measures.

The Demopolis Police Department has provided two school resource officers to the system’s four campuses for the past few years. Officers Tyrennza Washington has split his day between Demopolis High and Demopolis Middle while Sgt. Monica Oliver has floated between Westside Elementary and U.S. Jones Elementary. The new model will allow each of those officers to remain at a single campus during the course of a school day. Officers not scheduled for regular patrol on a given day will fill in the gaps and man the other two campuses. Those officers will be compensated within the framework of the Demopolis Police Department’s overtime budget.

“When I came here as chief in 2009, I assigned the first SRO to the schools. They had never had one here in the city of Demopolis. I knew that was very important to take care of our schools. If something happens at our schools, we respond regardless. I felt it was a measure to avert some problems that could potentially happen,” Demopolis Public Safety Director Tommie Reese, who has long advanced the idea of having officers on each campus, said. ““When we were able to get the second officer in our schools, that really made it better. I kept pushing to try to get other officers in schools, but the resources were never there. Really and truly, they’re not there now. But we’re going to make it happen off my overtime budget. It is probably going to exhaust my overtime budget to have officers to cover the schools, but those kids are very important to us. I don’t want any of our kids to be hurt in this city.”

“Officer Washington and Sgt. Oliver have been great and we’re just tickled pink to know that we have two more to have one officer on all four campuses,” Kallhoff said.

The step is substantial for school safety within the city but it is far from comprehensive and offers only a temporary solution. City and school leaders will reconvene in their efforts to develop a long-term plan for the upcoming academic year.

“It is our full intentions to work along with the mayor’s office along with the city council and the school board to find some funding for the upcoming year to have officers in all four of our schools,” Reese said.

“At the last city council meeting, the public safety committee was directed to prepare a plan and recommendations for the city council for the future. These are actions that we took to take care of today. They will give us the solution for tomorrow,” Laney said.

The school system will also continue to take necessary and reasonable steps for increased security that fit within the current budget.

“One thing we can do right off the bat is make sure our exterior doors are locked. Sometimes kids or adults tend to put rocks or something in them to keep them open. We need to keep them locked to where there are minimal access points into our building. Wherever those access points are, we’ve got them monitored. That costs no money right off the bat,” Kallhoff said.

School leaders are also exploring other avenues such as routine maintenance on existing camera systems, evacuation point creation at the high school, and fencing at the middle school.

“Our schools were not built for the time that we are in now. They are spread out so far apart. We in Demopolis, like other places, are kind of complacent. We’ve got to be realistic that things can happen,” Reese reminded.

Demopolis BOE discusses school safety, posts USJ principal position

Demopolis City Schools Supt. Kyle Kallhoff spoke Tuesday on the growing concern of school safety in wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. last week.

Addressing the Board of Education meeting he said the school system will revisit its crisis plans at each of the four campuses and set up additional measures to make sure Demopolis students are safe.

He also said the school system will continue to work with the City of Demopolis and the Chief of Police to strengthen the School Resource Officer presence on each campus.

However, he added, there are issues that must be faced both before and after school hours. Parents, he said, must monitor children’s social media accounts, pay attention to any unusual behavior at home and get rid of violent video games.

“School safety is best implemented with the tri-pod approach: student, school, home,” he said.

U.S. Jones Elementary School principal Leon Clark will retire effective July 1, and the board approved advertising for his position.

In other personnel matters, the board approved:

  • Brad Daniels as Demopolis Middle School baseball assistant coach with a supplement of $724.
  • Transferring Trey Smith from DMS baseball head coach to Demopolis High School JV baseball head/assistant varsity coach and make adjustment in coaching supplement to $2,168.
  • Transferring Brian Bradley from DMS baseball assistant coach to DMS baseball head coach and make adjustment in coaching supplement to $1,901.
  • Kole Thrasher as a volunteer baseball coach at DMS.
  • Jennifer Williams as a substitute.
  • Veronica Long as a long-term sub at DMS for Tammi Western-Scott.
  • Family Medical Leave for Roger Locke.
  • Compensation for additional duties for David Vann, maintenance assistant, at the rate of $100 per week until Locke returns.
  • Increase maximum work hours for Michael Randall to 30 per week for grounds keeping until Locke returns.

Valerie Crawford with Gear Up and Demopolis site facilitator Andy Turberville gave an update on the program, now in the fourth year of the seven-year grant. The program works with students and parents to prepare for post-secondary success in college, career or the military.

The board approved the following:

  • 2018-2019 school calendar. Classes begin Aug. 13, 2018, and end May 23, 2019.
  • Facility usage agreement with Adam Brown, DMS and USJ band director, in his efforts to start a River City Community Band.
  • Agreement between WSLY and DHS.
  • Hold Harmless agreement between Plaza Golf Carts and DHS.
  • Approval of inventory dispositions.

The board approved out-of-state and/or overnight field trips for:

  • DHS baseball team to Montgomery.
  • DHS FBLA Club to Birmingham
  • One DHS band student to Montgomery
  • DHS Scholars Bowl to New Orleans
  • DHS DECA Club to Birmingham.

Teachers, staff and students from DHS and USJ were honored in keeping with the tradition of recognizing outstanding people at the city’s schools.

From DHS, teacher Allene Jones, receptionist Dorothy Bruno and senior Lula Boone were recognized. Representing USJ were teacher Etta Pope, staff member Ralph Mullen and third grader Lawson Boone.

The next meeting will be Monday, March 19.

LETTER: Demopolis superintendent addresses school safety with stakeholders

Demopolis City School System Parents and Stakeholders,

On the evening of February 14, 2018, I would imagine every school administrator in America was thinking about school safety plans and how can we be more proactive. Schools are supposed to be the safe place for children, a place where adults will love and cultivate children despite the circumstances, and a place where hungry children can get at least two good meals each day. Schools should also be a place that is well lit, cool during the hot months, and warm during the cold months, as well as a place where children can grow intellectually and socially with college, work, or military being the end in mind.

As a school system, Demopolis City Schools will revisit their crisis plans and put additional measures in place on all four campuses to ensure student safety. In an effort to be more proactive, extra safety procedures will be studied and implemented in the coming months. Furthermore, we will continue to work with the Mayor and Chief of Police to lay the foundation for strengthening our School Resource Officer presence on all four campuses. However, the tragedy that took place in Florida on Valentine’s Day should serve as a reminder that we live in a different world than the one in which you and I were raised. There are bigger issues that are impacting how today’s youth think and act. Issues that must be addressed before and after the seven hours children attend schools.

As parents, it is imperative to monitor children’s social media accounts and question them about posts or friends that are not appropriate. Most likely it is the parent or guardian that pays the cell phone bill in the first place. As parents, if our children are acting abnormal at home, we need to have the uncomfortable discussions with them. We cannot rely on the school or church to initiate the mental, spiritual or behavioral health assistance children may need. Parents are encouraged to go through text messages and check book bags daily. Do not be afraid to eliminate the violent video games. Ask yourself, do these games encourage kindness and respect for humanity, or do these games encourage aggression and viciousness.  Children may say that they need their space, but remember, it is your space in which they live.

As adults, often times we have to think for children and teens. It is important to remember what brain research tells us. The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently.  Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part of the brain. In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate.  That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.

As with all other facets of education, school safety is best implemented with the tri-pod approach (student, school, home). Let’s work together to be proactive in ensuring that our schools and community continue to be safe places to learn, work, and live.

 

Kyle Kallhoff

Superintendent of Education, Demopolis City School System

Demopolis BOE moves to fund STEAM initiatvies

In keeping with the focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education, the Demopolis Board of Education Monday voted to redeem two certificates of deposit at their maturity Feb. 1 to finance projects at Demopolis Middle and U.S. Jones Elementary Schools.

The funds, totaling about $268,000, will be used to repurpose the old shop building at DMS into a STEAM center and construct an outdoor classroom at USJ.

The board also okayed hiring McKee and Associates Architecture and Interior Designs to spearhead the work.

Once the funds are redeemed, some $2.6 million will be left in CDs, said Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff. The projects have been in development since October, he added. Local industry and educators were consulted on the projects.

The superintendent opened the meeting by recognizing board members during School Board Appreciation Month. Each of the five members received a gift from the Central Office or from one of the campuses.
In his remarks, Kallhoff said emphasis on ACT preparation at the high school is showing results.

This time last year, he said, five seniors had scored 25 or more on the ACT. This year the number has jumped to 29. Already, he said, four seniors and four juniors have scored 30 or more on the test.
In keeping with the Strategic Plan, Kallhoff has scheduled five community meetings in March to give a report on the state of the school system.

The board voted to transfer William Jackson from custodian at Westside Elementary to WES lunchroom as a CNP worker, and Mary Ellen McCrory from CNP worker to custodian at WES.

Jenna Morgan and Veronica Long were approved as substitutes, and Whitney Mosley and Pam Morgan were granted leaves of absence.

Consent was given for overnight travel for band students, DECA, HOSA and BETA clubs and the DHS track team.

DHS senior Tristan Mullen, one of two Alabama students selected to serve in the U.S. Senate youth program, asked to speak to the board at its March meeting to report on his experience. He will be in Washington, D.C. March 3-10.

The next meeting of the board will be Feb. 19.

Demopolis High FBLA enriches Christmas with Giving Tree project

Demopolis High School FBLA project, “The Giving Tree” was a huge success! FBLA students collected gifts for children in need this holiday season. Donations and gifts were provided by DMS and DHS students, as well as various student organizations who collaborated in order to provide a very special Christmas surprise for children. FBLA was able to collect more than 200 toys, books, games, and more for DHR’s Project Merry Christmas.

FBLA Sponsor, Kelly Gandy commended, “what better way to experience the joy of giving to others than providing a child in need with a Christmas surprise.” She said, “it was nice to see the joy these students experienced from giving to others.”

The Giving Tree was set up early November in the DHS lobby and outside Mrs. Laura Holley’s office at DMS. Students were encouraged to find a leaf containing a special gift that was wanted by a child in need.  FBLA students, Taylor Vail and Makayla Durden helped organize the project and collected toys until Dawn Hewitt, DHR representative, picked them up to be sorted and distributed this Christmas season.

Letter to the Editor: DCS superintendent thanks community

It is challenging to describe the amount of support the citizens of Demopolis have for their public school system. If it is a Friday night football game or Tuesday morning Christmas program, you will have parents and grandparents show up in bulk to support the students of the Demopolis City School System.

This overwhelming support was magnified on December 12th when the voters of Demopolis were asked to renew a 3 mill property tax that is earmarked specifically for the public school system in Demopolis. This property tax vote passed with a 76% approval.

The 5 person appointed board of education (Conrad Murdock, Carolyn Moore, Jim Stanford, Olen Kirby, and Floy Mayberry) would like to offer a huge thank you to the voting citizens for making it a point to vote in favor of this tax continuation.  On behalf of the school administrators, teachers, and staff, we too thank you for trusting us as good stewards with your hard earned money, but more importantly we thank you for giving us an opportunity to teach your children every day.

 

Kyle Kallhoff, Superintendent of Education

Demopolis City School System

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.”

Demopolis schools to invest in new ID system

The Demopolis City Schools Board of Education met in the newly-renovated Demopolis High School library Monday.

By the first of the new year all four Demopolis City schools will have a new identification system in place to better monitor visitors and volunteers.

The Board of Education approved the system Monday at its meeting held in the Demopolis High School library.

The initial cost of the scanning system from Alabama Card Systems, Inc., is $13,000. Thereafter, the school system will pay $250 annually to renew and update the federal sexual predator database.

Supt. Kyle Kallhoff said his office has been working for about six months on setting up a better way to supervise who will be working closely with individual students. Before the ID monitors are set up, he will meet with the schools’ principals to set up business rules and guidelines for those on campus.

Federal funding will be used to pay for the visitor management system.

Kallhoff said this is the first step in a more comprehensive monitoring system that he hopes to set up in the city’s schools.

The board gave approval to Kallhoff’s request that he and board attorney Alex Braswell continue “negotiations and execution” of the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights Resolution Agreement for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards at Demopolis Middle School.

The issue stems from a complaint filed with the school system in April of 2015.

Kallhoff said if the negotiations are not approved, it can jeopardize federal funding for Demopolis schools.

Along with the negotiation approval, the board gave the okay to hire Ward Scott Architecture to conduct an accessibility survey and plan and oversee bidding and construction work related to the ADA compliance at DMS.

The $50,000 cost for the work at DMS is included in the capital funding budget approved in September.

In other action, the board approved:

  • The Continuous Improvement Plans for all four schools and the school system.
  • Out-of-town travel for the DHS JROTC to Birmingham.
  • Second and final installment for A-Plus Software of $10,000. The initial $30,000 was paid in 2016. The school system now will only pay an annual licensing fee.
  • An agreement with the Blackbelt Community Foundation Head Start and U.S. Jones Elementary to prepare and provide lunches that Head Start will pay for.

Personnel action included:

  • Conditional employment of Major Walker as Transportation/Maintenance Assistant.
  • Madoline Huff and Geraldine Walker as substitutes, with Walker also as a nurse.
  • Transfer of Reginald Atkins from DMS to DHS.

Continuing the practice of recognizing outstanding teachers, students and support staff, the board honored from USJ: Anne Johnson, teacher; Sylvia Tate, support staff, and Fernando Mancilla-Otero, fifth grader.

Honored from DHS were Lisa Lawrence, teacher; Pam Morgan, support, and Xavier Jackson, senior.

The next meeting of the board will be held Nov. 13.

Sylvia Tate

U.S. Jones Elementary School fifth grader Fernando Mancilla-Otero

DHS librarian Lisa Lawrence

DHS paraprofessional Pam Morgan

Demopolis High senior Xavier Jackson

U.S. Jones Elementary Teacher Anne Jones

Demopolis, Linden schools, MA closed Monday due to weather threat

Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kalhoff decided just before 8:45 p.m. Sunday night to reverse an earlier decision regarding Monday classes. With systems around the state closely monitoring Hurricane Irma on its trek through Florida and Gov. Kay Ivey having declared a state of emergency, Demopolis City Schools will be closed.

“I’m reversing my decision from earlier,” Kalhoff said. “We will make a decision about Tuesday (classes) tomorrow.”

Superintendent Dr. Timothy Thurman notified The West Alabama Watchman at 9:05 p.m. Sunday that Linden City Schools will be closed Monday with a tentative plan to reopen Tuesday. Marengo Academy issued its notification a little after 9 p.m. that it will also be closed Monday.

Superintendent Luke Hallmark indicated that Marengo County Schools will be open Monday.

Other closings include West Alabama Christian, Bright Beginnings Daycare (Demopolis), First Baptist Church WEE School (Demopolis), Tender Years (Demopolis), and Shelton State Community College (Demopolis).