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.”

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.

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).

Demopolis BOE holds first meeting of new academic year

Praising Demopolis City Schools for an “extremely smooth start,” School Supt. Kyle Kallhoff said it was the best he has experienced in his 20 years in education.

At the Board of Education meeting Monday, Kallhoff said the work on the buildings and the efforts by the teachers and administrators were reflected in the ease back into the school year for the system’s 2,300 students.

He showed the board a three-minute video of the first day of school at all four campuses.

The superintendent told board members the system is fully staffed with the exception of a nine-month custodian at Demopolis High School.

That said, the board still had work to do to complete the start-up for the 2017-2018 year, beginning with the need to advertise for a part-tiime LPN for Demopolis Middle School.

The 20-hour per week position is needed, Kallhoff said, because the health needs of the students have grown. The RN at the high school cannot divide her time among schools because of the increased number of students with diabetes at DHS.

Evelyn James, the CFO of the school system, said revenues are up by $883,000 over the same time in 2016, while expenses have decreased by $29,000. She said the system has 3.11 months of revenue in reserve. The state Board of Education requires a minimum of one month.

Her report was followed by the state auditor, Emily Tyler, reporting no problems found in the audit done for the 2015-2016 year.

To keep revenue flowing into the school system, the board approved a resolution presented by Kallhoff to petition the Marengo County Commission to consider a renewal of a three mill tax for District 2, which includes the city of Demopolis. The tax requires voter approval for renewal every 10 years. He asked members of the board to attend the Sept. 12 meeting of the Commission when he presents the request for the tax renewal.

First readings were held for two board policy changes, both required by the Alabama legislature. The first, the Jason Flatt Act, involves youth suicide awareness and prevention. It calls for employees to receive annual training to identify characteristics of students who may be considering suicide.

The Religious Liberties policy requires that there will be no discrimination of students or their parents for religious beliefs. A public hearing for both policies will be held Thursday, Sept. 7, beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Also approved by the board was a lease agreement with TEQlease for Impero Computer Monitoring Software. Kallhoff said the five-year lease, at $5,000 per year, would serve the school system in three ways:

First, it would allow the monitoring computers to restrict use to certain websites, preventing users from visiting inappropriate sites. Second would be a time-saving feature, allowing IT to install programs in multiple computers from one base unit instead of having to install programs individually.

The third feature allows those monitoring the use of school computers to flag any words or searches that could pose any dangers.

In other action the board approved:

  • The Equipment Financing Agreement with Government Capital Corporation for the Active Panel Promethian installation project.
  • Renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Demopolis Police Department for two School Resource Officers. The school system will pay half their salaries.
  • A hold harmless agreement with the DPD for the use of the DMS football field for National Night Out on Sept. 12.
  • Contract for Susan Hollinger to provide psychometrist services to administer testing for special education and gifted students.
  • Overnight and/or out-of-state trips for the DHS cross country team Sept. 16 and Sept. 30 to Meridian, Miss., and Nov. 10-11 to Moulton.

Personnel matters included:

  • Hiring Rebecca Hasty as bookkeeper at DMS.
  • Substitute hiring of Annie Collins and Betsy Stephens.
  • Head tennis coach changed from Sam Mosley to Dana Hill.
  • Maternity leave request for Whitney Mosley, USJ, to begin Feb. 18, 2018.
  • Maternity leave request for Kristi Stokes, USJ, to begin Jan. 3, 2018.
  • Family medical leave request for Tammi Western-Scott, DMS teacher.
  • Katrina Sprinkle as long-term substitute for Western-Scott.
  • Rodney Lewis as DMS assistant football coach for supplement of $1,189.
  • Norvie Womack as DMS athletic director for supplement of $1,400.
  • Name correction from Aug. 2 personnel report from Javalynn Williams to Javalynn Wilson Henderson.
  • In a special called meeting Wednesday, Aug. 2, the board accepted the resignation of Annette Gwin, the DHS culinary arts instructor. Gwin had been a teacher in the system for 16 years.

The superintendent set public hearings for the 2017-2018 budget For Sept. 7 at 10 a.m. and Sept. 11 at 4:30 p.m., followed by a called meeting at 5 p.m. to approve the budget.

He also invited board members to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 15 at 9 a.m. for the new Pre-K program at Westside Elementary School.

At the same time there will be dedication of wooden planter boxes. The brainchild of a UWA student, the boxes were constructed by Cemex employees. Three have been placed at all four campuses.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be Monday, Sept. 18, at 5:15 p.m.

Robertson Bank gives surprise gift to four DCS employees

Robertson Banking Company’s Katie Windham and Allen Bishop were on hand at Demopolis City Schools’ Institute Friday to present a $100 to a staff member of each of the four DCS campuses.

Demopolis test scores trend positive though ACT Aspire results questioned by state

Test scores taken last spring in Demopolis City Schools show terrific gains in some areas and challenges in others.

Results of the ACT Aspire, ACT and AP course tests were to be shared at the Teacher Institute Friday prior to the start of the new school year.

“There hasn’t been a lot of bragging in the past few years,” said Supt. Kyle Kallhoff, but after the results of the tests in the spring, “I immediately went out and bought five pizzas” to celebrate with students and teachers.

However, the ACT Aspire scores are being called into question by several school systems in the state who reported large flaws in the details of the test results. Kallhoff attended a meeting in Montgomery August 4 in which concerns about the test were aired with DOE officials. The DOE will be reviewing the results – including those in Demopolis – within the next several weeks.

Kallhoff said the ACT Aspire test, administered to students in grades 3-8, will be replaced for the 2017-2018 year with Scantron while the state Board of Education decides on another standardized test to monitor progress.

So far the DOE hasn’t given superintendents a lot of input on the interim test and has yet to issue guidelines for using it, leaving school systems scrambling to determine how to administer it this fall and evaluate the results.

The new test is supposed to show teachers the readiness data of their students so they can adjust instruction accordingly.

“If it were up to me, I would use (ACT Aspire) one more year,” said Kallhoff, even though he feels the test “is not good for everybody.”

ACT Aspire aligns with the ACT test given to every junior in Alabama. The test assesses a student’s progress to be ready for college and covers reading, English, math, science and writing.

The problem, said Kallhoff, is that not every student will go on to college or technical training after high school.

Still, Kallhoff was pleased with several results, which also was a reflection of the emphasis placed on different subjects. For instance, he said, 19 percent of the DHS juniors tested at or above the benchmark score for mathematics on the ACT, an indication they would make an A or B in a college algebra course. That is the highest percentage ever for DHS.

Scores showed professional development for teachers have a great impact on students taking the ACT Aspire. A full 69 percent of students in 6th grade scored proficiently on writing, a jump from only 5 percent when those students were in fifth grade.

A similar, although less dramatic increase, was shown in 5th grade students over their scores in 4th grade, from 9 to 40 percent.

The 6th grade math scores rose three points to 57 percent. All other grades stayed the same or showed a decrease over the previous year of anywhere between 5 and 22 percentage points.

Middle school math is always a challenge, said Kallhoff.

Fifth grade reading scores on the ACT Aspire jumped to 44 percent of students ready or exceeding the benchmark, reflecting the professional development teachers received. The scores have risen over the last three years.

Eighth grade reading scores also rose to 38 percent, a rise of 8 points. The other grades slipped slightly or stayed the same over the previous years.

In reading, science and English, classes mostly held their own from one year to the next. The biggest decline was 4th grade English which slipped by 16 percentage points, and the biggest gain was in 8th grade science scores that jumped by 6 percent.

The ACT test is given to all high school juniors in the fall. Those who want to improve their scores can opt to take it again on their own.

The ACT test sets benchmark scores in four subjects: English, math, reading and science. After a dip last year, DHS juniors came roaring back last spring with some of the best scores ever, including the aforementioned math.

In English, 53 percent taking the test met or exceeded the benchmark, a jump from 40 percent the previous year. Math was up from 12 percent; reading climbed to 28 from 22 percent, and science showed the biggest gain to 20 percent from 8 percent in 2015-2016.

What pleased Kallhoff is that 11 percent of the juniors who took the test met the benchmark scores in all four subject areas, an increase over 3 percent the previous year.

Advanced Placement courses are offered at DHS for students who need extra challenge in certain subjects or who want to receive college credit before enrolling.

Each student can take more than one AP exam at the end of the year, depending on how many AP courses he is taking. This year 328 tests were administered. Of those, 58 percent ranked in the extremely well qualified level, which almost ensures students of receiving college credit. Another 38 percent ranked well qualified, which usually is considered credit-worthy by colleges, and 19 percent scored on the qualified level, which may or may not be accepted.

The superintendent, now beginning his third year, said he is excited “where we are with our principals.” With the addition of Brandon Kiser at DMS and Blaine Hathcock moving to DHS, he believes the school system is building a solid foundation for the future.

“Things are right now where they need to be.”