Brown receives Walmart Community Grant

DMS Prinicpal Brandon Kiser present DMS band director Adam Brown with a Walmart Community Grant check for $2500.

The Demopolis Middle School band room will see improvements after it received a $2500 grant from the Walmart Community Grant program. Grants from the program are between $250 and $2500 and given to companies and programs that benefit the community in which they serve. DMS Band Director Adam Brown applied for the grant because of the need for instruments and equipment at the Middle School band room. The check was presented to Mr. Brown on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Non-resident students continuing to prop up Demopolis enrollment numbers

Much of west Alabama has been abuzz in recent weeks following the announced closing of AISA mainstay Sumter Academy. The end of the York-based private K-12 institution triggered some ripples in other nearby schools as parents scrambled to find their children new educational homes. As of Thursday morning, some 20 percent of the new non-resident student population set to enter Demopolis City Schools in August will transfer from Sumter Academy.

“It has had an impact. Within those numbers, I would say anywhere between 15 and 20 of those 75 (new non-resident students) are coming from Sumter Academy,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said. “It appears that most of the children we’re getting from Sumter Academy are second, third, fourth, and fifth (graders). There’s a couple of them in the high school, maybe four or five in the middle school. But the majority seems like it is in that second through fifth span.”

Kallhoff presented the Demopolis City Schools Board of Education members with updated information pertaining to non-resident students during Thursday’s meeting. In particular, the superintendent noted the the school has 75 new students from outside the district with half of those registered for Kindergarten.

K 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
37 8 4 6 5 4 3 1 4 3 0 0 1

“Our kindergarten class has been around 150, sometimes a little lower. We really need it to be a little bit higher than that. We really need it to be anywhere from 185 to 200 per class to get our big number close to 2,300. When we have a couple of classes at 140, that’s not good. Most of your funding is coming off of your elementary,” Kallhoff said. “As they get to middle and high, the divisor is higher so you get fewer dollars. You want your classes to be at capacity in elementary so you get funding dollars the following year.”

While the Kindergarten influx is beneficial for the city school system’s foundational population, Kallhoff attributed the enrollment phenomenon to the reputation of Westside Elementary School.

“Westside is known around this area as a great school, a great K-2 school. The teachers at Westside, the nurturing, the loving, (WES Principal Rashida) Jackson, some of the programs we’ve had there and some that are coming,” Kallhoff said of the facets of WES that have garnered a strong reputation for the school. “What we do at Westside and what the tradition is at Westside is why you see 37 kindergartners there.”

With the incoming enrollees noted in Kallhoff’s report, some 35 percent of the school system’s overall student body is of the non-resident variety with Greensboro, York, Livingston and Eutaw among the most prevalent home bases among that group.

“They’re all over the place. That’s what you want. You want to make sure your school is a place people want to attend,” Kallhoff said. “But, at the same time, we watch these numbers closely because we want to make sure we’re providing the best education we can for the citizens of Demopolis.”

The influx of non-resident students comes less than four months after the school system evaluated whether or not to create a tuition charge for out-of-district pupils. While there are no plans to revisit the topic in the immediate future, the prospect of non-resident tuition remains plausible for the system.

“I think it will be revisited. I had a committee come together. On that committee were parents who do not live in Demopolis, although they all work here. Some were business owners. We tabled it,” Kallhoff said, recounting the exploration that preceded a March report that indicated the system’s administrators’ awareness of the need for non-resident tuition. “If we do it, we’re going to have to find the fair way. I think the fair way is to find the tax payer in Demopolis and how much of their property taxes go toward our schools. Find that number, and that’s what it should be. You would have to find the average because what you pay in taxes and what I pay may be different based on the values of our properties. But you find that average. If $327 is the average per household, that should be what you pay.

“In other words, if you have seven kids and you live in Sumter, you’re still coming from that one house. That’s only fair to the folks who pay taxes in Demopolis is that those who are coming in are paying the same that we pay for the same quality education.”

Should the system implement a non-resident tuition, the expectation is that existing students within the system would already be grandfathered in.

“I think that would be the fair thing to do. That would be something the board would have to agree on. But I, personally, think it’s the fair thing. You came under the assumption there’s no tuition,” Kallhoff said. “That number would start small, but as those kids grow, you’re going to collect more. I think that would be the fair thing. To me, that would be fair. It’s going to call for some work. I just don’t know when.”

In addition to consideration of a non-resident tuition in the future is also the reality that any set fee would have to alter along with property tax shifts should they ever occur.

“If we ever ask for an increase in property tax, it’s a no-brainer. That same increase has to go to the 35 percent (of non-resident students). With that being said, we do have a 3 mill renewal that’s coming up that needs to be renewed next year,” Kallhoff said. “We’re working now to get a vote lined up, maybe by the end of this year. This is not for new taxes. This is a renewal, a renewal of 3 mill. This is a county levied tax that is voted for by the citizens of Demopolis.”

For now, the superintendent is tasked more with helping to introduce and acclimate students to the school system rather than focusing on any of the financial implications of taking on non-resident pupils.

“Something I started last year, I meet with every parent of every child that’s new to our system that does not live in Demopolis. I did that when I was in Chickasaw and I do it here. I sit down with them and I explain what our non-resident policy is,” Kallhoff said. “The things I make sure they understand are we do reserve the rights to remove non-residents but not very frequently does that happen. The criteria in which that would happen is if attendance becomes an issue and behavior. With grades, if you’re coming to school and you stay out of trouble, then we’ll work with the grades. I make sure they understand that and I make sure they understand we do not provide transportation. I tell them to get involved in the PTO. If it is an older child, get involved in the band boosters, athletics. Whatever your child does, get involved because that’s what is going to make that transition smooth.”

Demopolis BOE hires five in Thursday meeting

The Demopolis City Schools Board of Education made five hires Thursday morning during a brief called meeting. The personnel moves are as follows:

  • Hired Rachel White as English/Language Arts Teacher at Demopolis High School
  • Hired Brandi Dannelly as girls Physical Education Teacher at Demopolis High School
  • Hired Aubrey McElroy as Science Teacher at Demopolis Middle School
  • Hired Ieasha Morris as Lunchroom Worker at Westside Elementary School
  • Hired Norvie Womack as Career Prep Teacher at Demopolis Middle School.

Womack will assume varsity boys basketball head coaching duties. Additionally, the board voted to move Virginia Goodlett to a 12-month assistant principals position at Demopolis High School. Goodlett spent the previous academic year as an assistant principal at both Westside and U.S. Jones.

“She can hit the ground running. She has been in the high school. She knows the high school,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said of the logical fit that places Goodlett under the direction of DHS Principal Blaine Hathcock. “That’s what Mr. Hathcock needs. He needs someone to come in and hit the ground running. She is going to work with instruction. She’s going to work with the upperclassmen and do more with instruction. She knows the teachers there. She knows the staff. She is just going to compliment Mr. Hathcock and Mr. Pittman well.”

Goodlett’s return to DHS also puts the school back near its full administrative strength after it carried only one assistant principals for the 2016-2017 school year.

“Traditionally (the second assistant principal position at DHS) has been there. We did not have it there last year, but we are putting it back this year. Our numbers are going to be up a little bit,” Kallhoff said. “You know, 750 is that magic number where you want to have that second administrator. I don’t know that we’ll get to 750, but we’re going to be very close to 750 at the high school. We lost a small senior class and I think there’s a 50 student difference in our freshman class that’s coming up.”

In a corresponding move, the board will post the split assistant principal spot that Goodlett is vacating in her return to the high school. The elementary assistant principal position will be posted for 14 days and should be filled at the July 17 board meeting.

“I feel very good. The principals know what their needs are at their schools. We’re still lucky to have quite a few applicants, especially at our elementary level. It’s difficult to fill some of the math and science openings or special ed, but we haven’t had many of those this summer,” Kallhoff said of where the system stands with only six weeks until teachers report for Institute. “I feel good. We’re bringing our staffs together. There’s just a few small little openings that are left, but we’ve got another month where I think we can get those gaps filled.”

The board also approved the school system’s Foster Care Plan, a protocol that satisfies the state mandate of accommodating students in foster homes.

“It is due during the summer. They want to know what your plan is and how you’re going to accommodate foster care students within your system. Last year we had seven. This year we anticipate nine. You want to make sure you remove any barriers,” Kallhoff explained. “Of course you want to remove barriers for any student, but you certainly want to remove barriers for foster care students who have had challenges they’ve had to go through already in their young lives. You want to make sure their school life is as smooth as it can be.”

As part of that plan, Demopolis High will partner with the Marengo County office of the Department of Human Resources to afford students in foster care every possible resource.

“It talks about the partnership with DHR, removing any barriers as far as lunch status, and just make sure they’re comfortable and things are going well in school,” Kallhoff said. “Dawn Hewitt is our go-to person. It’s communication. It’s her knowing that she has a direct line to Gina Johnston, our principals, our counselors, me. When they have a student they’re having to deal with for whatever reason, they’re not having to go through red tape and we’re making sure we can identify that child that particular school day and just make things as smooth as possible for that child.”

Kiser prepared to lead Demopolis Middle School

Brandon Kiser did not grow up with the intention of entering education but he has since done a lot of his growing up in education. The new Demopolis Middle School principal, Kiser has spent five years in administrative roles despite only being in his early 30s.

“Initially it was, there is a scholarship available,” Kiser, who is nearing his fourth degree in education, said of the decision to pursue the field. “In high school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. There was a scholarship available for education at Auburn. I took it and went with it. I really enjoyed getting the know the students and developing those relationships. It really started to take off when I was getting my master’s. I was really enjoying what I was doing and making a difference in people’s lives.”

Kiser got his Bachelor’s in General Science Education from Auburn before obtaining a Master’s in Instructional Leadership from Troy-Phenix City. He went on to get his Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Auburn and is now only a dissertation away from completing his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership.

He spent two years as an assistant principal at the middle school level in Russell County before working for two years as the principal at Oliver Elementary in Seale, Alabama. Kiser spent last year as a science teacher while also filling administrative duties at Eufaula.

“Any experience that you can get is going to help you regardless of the level. Definitely there were some things being a secondary teacher I didn’t have a lot of experience with. Some of those things at the elementary and middle school levels help you with the way you look at things,” Kiser said of his varied experiences. “I definitely saw those things that are unique things to the middle school, the challenges they face and the things they need.”

“Mr. Brandon Kiser will be a good fit for the students and staff at DMS as well as the Demopolis community,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said. “he has administrative experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels and understands the importance of instructional leadership.”

As he readies to take over his new post, Kiser is keenly aware of some of the interpersonal challenges that accompany the middle school level, particularly as they relate to students.

“Those interpersonal relationships. Students are learning how to interact with each other. I think that’s one of the things that’s important as a leader is to have things in place so that students can learn how to interact with each other,” Kiser said. “That’s definitely one of the things I noticed as an assistant principal is that it’s good to have something like that in place.”

Kiser takes over Demopolis Middle School after Rollie McCall served as interim principal during the spring semester. McCall, who was filling in after Blaine Hathcock departed the role for the same seat at Demopolis High School, will return to his assistant principal duties for the coming school year.

“He is inheriting a staff who are tight knit and will work hard to provide the best education possible for the 500 students we serve at the middle school,” Kallhoff said. “I look forward to great things that will take place at DMS under Mr. Kiser’s leadership.”

A native of Abilene, Texas, Kiser ultimately graduated from Athens High School and will relocate to Demopolis with his family, which includes his wife Lauren, daughter Ella Kate (7) and son Evan (3). A meet-and-greet with Kiser is set for Wednesday, June 14.

Hathcock drops interim tag, takes over Demopolis High School

Demopolis High School has a new principal following Friday’s called meeting of the Demopolis City Schools Board of Education. The board voted to remove the interim tag from Blaine Hathcock, promoting him to the DHS principal job after nearly five months filling in the role.

“There has been structure at the high school. It has been a relatively quiet winter and spring. Things are getting handled at the school level the way they should be handled. He has been very active instructionally,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said of Hathcock’s performance at DHS. “The teachers and the students at that school deserve consistency. They haven’t had consistency in about five years and Mr. Hathcock is brining that. I know that with Mr. Hathcock there and the teachers we have, we can get that high school back on track.”

“I don’t know that it is as much as what I’ve accomplished. I think it’s just giving some structure to what we were doing. I think, organizationally, we’ve made some things better that needed to be better. I think the biggest thing is just giving some vision for how we were going to get to where we need to get. The transition was smooth and I think a lot of the credit, to be honest with you, goes to those teachers over there. They’ve been through a lot of change. The biggest thing is that the teachers have made it easy,” Hathcock said of his time at the high school thus far. I think we were able to paint a vision of Demopolis High School in the first faculty meeting. Demopolis High School is bigger than one person. It’s bigger than the principal. Demopolis High School is a share responsibility. This senior class of kids was the first eighth grade group I had at the middle school. I know them all. I’ve had them all, for the most part.”

Hathcock first came to the Demopolis system from Haleyville in June 2012. Having previously served three years as an assistant principal, Hathcock helped stabilize the middle school, an institution that had seen three principals in three years prior to his arrival.

Hathcock moved to the high school post in December 2016 after the resignation of former principal Chris Tangle. Rollie McCall has served as interim principal of Demopolis Middle School since that time while Tracy Stewart has served as interim assistant principal at DMS.

In an adjoining move, the board approved the posting of the principal job at Demopolis Middle School.

“We’re going to advertise it for a month from the 24th of April through May 22. That’s four weeks,” Kallhoff said. “We’re always looking for an instructional leader. The middle school is in good shape. Mr. Hathcock is leaving it in good shape. We need to make sure we can find a principal that can take it where it is and keep on moving. Of course, we want someone with administrative experience. We hope to make a recommendation by, if not the end of May, definitely some time in early June to bring closure there also.”

Hathcock indicated that the decision to leave the middle school proved a difficult one.

“It’s the people in the school. That was difficult for me. It’s just because of how good they’ve been to me. Some of them have been there the whole time I’ve been there, some of them I hired after I got there. They’re a special group. You feel it when you walk on campus,” Hathcock said. “They care about those kids and they care about that school. You can’t deny that when you walk on campus. I can’t tell you how much that place means to me. When I went there five years ago, I said I wanted us to be the best middle school in Alabama. And they believed it.”

The move will also see Hathcock walk away from coaching after two decades of serving in various capacities as a football coach, basketball coach and athletic director.

“Sometimes you need a change. I think, sometimes, a change is good. You get new goals and you get new perspective on things. Even though I’m moving out of that realm, hopefully I can have an impact on not just one area, but a lot of areas,” he said, noting the high school’s array of offerings in athletics, fine arts, career tech and numerous fields. “My goal is to be in Demopolis. Our family is here. Our children are in schools here. At the high school, we have good people in place, but they need some consistency here and leadership. My goal is to be able to provide that. I think the expectation will be the same. We want to be the best. Period.”

Demopolis Middle readying for Hoops for Heart event

Demopolis Middle School will be hosting its annual Hoops for Heart Event Friday at 9 a.m. in the DMS gymnasium. Hoops for Heart is a community service learning program of the American Heart Association that teaches students the importance of developing heart-healthy habits.

The program seeks to help students gain a deeper understanding of cardiovascular health, including basic knowledge such as the value of physical activity.

“Raising funds to support cardiovascular research and education helps save lives in (the students’) community and across the nation,” Jesse Bell, head of the DMS Hoops for Heart initiative, said. “Heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 killer. Our children are developing significant health issues that can shorten their life expectancy. Almost a third of U.S. children and adolescents from age two to 19 are overweight or obese. Children who are obese are more than twice as likely to die before age 55. Sixty-one percent of children from age nine to 13 aren’t physically active outside of school.”

The program sends students into the community to raise donations for the American Heart Association. Students who participate in the event are afforded the opportunity to participate in an array of basketball competitions in the DMS gymnasium the Friday before spring break.

“Our goals are to increase students’ knowledge of practices and methods to care for the heart. We also desire to honor those in our community who have been affected by heart disease and raise funds to support the American Heart Association’s efforts to build healthier lives,” Bell said. “We would like to thank our community and citizens across the country for the support for this important event. If you have any questions concerning this event, please contact our Hoops for Heart coordinators at 334-289-4242.”

Kallhoff issues statement on non-resident tuition for Demopolis City Schools

A committee appointed in February has made a recommendation regarding tuition for non-resident students attending Demopolis City Schools according to a letter issued from DCS Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff Friday.

The seven member committee, who has requested to remain anonymous, is comprised of Kallhoff, a DCS Board of Education member, a city schools administrative representative, a Demopolis City Council member, and three parents of non-resident students.

“After meeting with the committee and analyzing the data, the financial numbers certainly indicate that there is a need for a reasonable annual tuition or fee for non-resident students,” Kallhoff said. “However, the timing is not right. With the push for charter schools in West Alabama and the questioning of the quality of public education from state leaders, we do not want to risk losing any of our students.”

Kallhoff first broached the subject of non-resident tuition in the board’s Feb. 20 meeting, as previously reported by The West Alabama Watchman.

In that meeting, Kallhoff announced his intentions to appoint a committee to begin exploring the possibility of charging a reasonable tuition for those students living outside of the 36732 ZIP code.

“We receive funding for all students through the state, but of course that does not cover all services we provide,” Kallhoff told The Watchman on Friday. “We use revenue generated by county and city taxes to cover those additional services such as speech classes, special education testing, as well as transportation and maintenance.”

Of the system’s approximately 2,300 students, Kallhoff said 38 percent, roughly 874 students, are considered out of district.

While the committee opted to not move on the issue immediately, Kallhoff said that a per-household rate of $300-$500 was discussed by the committee, rather than a per-student rate.

“While there is a demonstrated need there, we felt it best to not make any changes at this time,” said Kallhoff. “We want to continue to attract and maintain excellent students from around the entire area and ensure the high quality education we provide is not impacted.”

For Kallhoff’s letter in its entirety, click here.

DMS broadcast class wins statewide contest

img_6172The Demopolis Middle School received first place honors in a statewide video contest, beating several high school programs in the process. The DMS broadcast class produced a video in April 2016 and submitted it to the Alabama School Board Association Video Contest. The contest focused on “what makes your school excellent.”

Students worked on the project beginning in January. Although this is a team competition, there is a lead group that makes sure the video is just right. The DMS leaders for this project, were Owen Pruett, Graham Parker and Joseph Barnes, while Abbie Hathcock, Will Cork and TJ Upchurch were understudies. This project is a good way for the eighth grade team members to mentor the seventh grade members before they move on to the high school, passing the torch for next year.

“We also pull students from all grades and other classes to participate in the video,” DMS broadcasting teacher Meggin Mayben said.

December 10, students from the current 2016-17 Broadcasting team, Avery Schumacher, Mary Creigh Smith, Buckley Nettles, Abbie Hathcock, Sara Jordan, Mayben, Principal Blaine Hathcock, Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff and board members Carolyn Moore and Floy Mayberry were on hand to accept the first place award of $1,500. Demopolis City Schools is proud of this team and all it has accomplished.

“My students are amazing. I give them a job to do and they get it done,” Mayben said. “They have all accomplished so much and I am so blessed to be the one who gets to guide them in this class.”

Hathcock to move to DHS principal spot on interim basis

Blaine Hathcock (left) receives a check from Windham Motor Company's Tyler Windham. Chris Tangle (right) tendered his resignation effective Dec. 31. Hathcock will move from his post as principal of Demopolis Middle School to the interim DHS principal position.

Blaine Hathcock (left) receives a check from Windham Motor Company’s Tyler Windham. Chris Tangle (right) tendered his resignation effective Dec. 31. Hathcock will move from his post as principal of Demopolis Middle School to the interim DHS principal position.

A personnel shuffle took place Monday morning at a called meeting of the Demopolis City Board of Education.

Triggering the shift in administrators was the resignation of Chris Tangle as Demopolis High School principal effective Dec. 31. Supt. Kyle Kallhoff stressed the interim positions will be for no longer than six months.

Demopolis Middle School principal Blaine Hathcock will serve as interim principal at DHS. DMS assistant principal Rollie McCall will assume the interim principal post.

Tracy Stewart, now a teacher at U.S. Jones Elementary School, will transfer to DMS as interim assistant principal.

The board then agreed to advertise for a DHS principal position and DHS head football coach position with the resignation of Stacy Luker.

Other positions being advertised include a Child Nutrition Program worker and an elementary school teacher to fill Stewart’s post at WES.

Further personnel action included hiring Andrea Turberville as a substitute teacher; granting a medical leave of absence to Constance Cleveland; approving maternity leave for Cierica James, CNP worker at WES, and the resignation of Herbert Rice as the Boys Soccer coach and hiring Brad Daniels, DMS teacher to fill the position.

In other action, the board approved hiring Sara B. Odom of Vann-Ray LLC to evaluate the 21st Century grant program at WES, U.S. Jones Elementary and DMS. The cost of evaluating the Community Learning Centers at the schools annually is covered through the 21st Century grant.

Also approved was a data management contract with SchoolStatus of Hattiesburg, Miss. The two-year contract will cost $11,800 annually and will be paid for with federal funds.

Kallhoff said SchoolStatus will pull data from a variety of sources to generate immediate reports on the school system and its students when needed.

He applauded the DMS broadcasting team for taking first place at the Alabama School Board Association meeting for a video they produced. The middle school beat out all the high schools who submitted videos and came home with $1,500 for the broadcasting program.

The board set its next regular meeting for Jan. 23, 2017.

DCSF awards $35k in fall classroom grants to all Demopolis schools

DEMOPOLIS, Ala.—Every year, hundreds of private donors and businesses in West Alabama give to the Demopolis City Schools Foundation to invest in public education excellence. This year is no exception, and through those generous gifts and investments, the Demopolis City Schools Foundation has been able to award classroom grants totaling more than $1,100,000.

For fall 2016, the 33-member board of the Demopolis City Schools Foundation is excited to announce that $35,000 in classroom grants will be awarded. These grants will be put to immediate use at all schools in the Demopolis City School System – Westside Elementary, US Jones Elementary, Demopolis Middle School and Demopolis High School.

“Every year I am awed by the depth and breadth of classroom grant applications we receive,” said Sara Chandler Hallmark, board president. “Our teachers are invested in providing the best tools possible to educate our children and we are honored to assist them in their work.”

New this year, the Foundation will award a second set of grants in the spring of 2017.

“We have earmarked $25,000 in additional funds to meet the needs of teachers in the spring,” Hallmark said. “Our community has invested generously in the future of our students and the economic development of our area. We take very seriously our job to partner with our educators and school system leaders to ensure classroom needs are met year-round.”

2016 Fall Classroom Grant Recipients
Demopolis High School

$622 to Connie Boutwell for a buzzer system to start a scholar bowl team.

$2,000 to Cynthia Whitlock for the most current and/or most requested graphic novels, including both fiction and non-fiction, for the high school library.

$2,007 to Courtney Kerby for a teleprompter and Adobe Premier Pro software to provide students with professional quality products to prepare them for careers in broadcasting.

$2,020 to Brittany Dunson for equipment for physical education activities, including tennis, pickle ball, disc golf, and badminton.

$2,886 to Jody Tartt for materials and supplies to enhance instruction and student performance within the DHS Fine Arts curriculum.

$5,906 to Kim Browder for a set of 25 Chromebooks for the high school history department.

Demopolis Middle School

$500 to Susan Browder to support a middle school math team.

$3,000 to Ginger Godwin to purchase books and eBooks for the middle school library.
US Jones Elementary School.

$200 to Dana Hill to support the creation of a US Jones math team.

$495 to Dana Hill for chess sets for the gifted program.

$254 to Adrienne Etheridge for a set of six balance balls for students to use in the classroom.

$671 to Tanya Patterson for writing materials to be used daily in the classroom to produce effective 3rd grade writers.

$2,100 to Emily Windham for new books for the US Jones school library.

$6,100 to Amelia Mackey for materials to create a robotics and coding class for all students at US Jones Elementary.

Westside Elementary School

$2,613 to Mary Lilian Roberts for mini iPads and applications to enhance therapy sessions for speech/language students and improve their communication skills.

$508 to Gabrielle McVay for supplemental math and science materials for Kindergarten.

$1,179 to Sarah Chelsea Morgan for additional STEM kits to be used to teach science in 1st grade.

$1,191 to Lori Giles for library books to enhance the Westside reading curriculum.

For more information about how you can be a part of the Demopolis City Schools Foundation, visit Donate today!