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.

Valiant truck driver receives medal, key to city

Barry Williams (center) along with his wife Kala and children Kennedy and Kendall were at the Demopolis City Council meeting Thursday evening. Barry Williams received the Key to the City from Mayor John Laney and the Medal of Valor from the Demopolis Police Department.

The Wagstaff family will forever remember Aug. 1, 2017. That was the day they nearly lost Octavia Wagstaff. While driving on U.S. Highway 80 near French Creek at 1:48 p.m., her vehicle left roadway, missed the guard rail, and quickly began submerging in water.

“As I was driving down the highway, I’m in the right lane. She probably was maybe a good truck and a half in front of me. So, when the truck passed by me in the left lane, he cleared me at least by a truck and a half. He come straight over on her. As he hit her, he caught her back bumper, kind of went down her driver’s door and she spun around,” Barry Williams, a truck driver for New Line Transport/Cemex, said of how the scene played out. “She went around the guard rail. She missed the guard rail, but she went airborne. As she went airborne, she went straight down and the car twisted around.”

Her brother, Robert, believes it was by the providence of God Williams was in the area. To the great appreciation of the Wagstaff family, Williams wasted little time responding to the situation.

“As I pulled over, I kind of stopped in the middle of the road a little bit. I ran to the side and looked. I stood there probably about 15, 20 seconds trying to see if she was going to come out of the car,” Williams said. “As I saw that she wasn’t coming out, it looked like she was taking her last breath. So, it was either me taking a chance and running way back around the other side or jumping. So, I just jumped in. I wasn’t scared of the water because I knew how to swim.”

“If he had had to go around the side of the bridge and come down, she’d have never made it, so he jumped over,” Robert relayed. “We are grateful. Most people would pass by, look, and keep driving.”

Once Williams was into the water, the job got especially difficult as the task of freeing the driver from the vehicle was still at hand. Through the anxiety of the moment, Williams found himself with the presence of mind to take the appropriate tact.

“It was kind of hard getting the door open because I was kind of panicking at the same time and wasn’t thinking straight. As I thought about it, I grabbed the door with both hands and I used my feet to pry the car and I pulled the door open,” Williams said. “During that time, I was pulling trying to get her out and I realized she had her seatbelt on. So I had to go back underwater to take her seatbelt off. At that time, that’s when the other guy jumped in to help. We got her to the bank and the rescue took over from there.”

Octavia is still recovering from her injuries, which include two broken ribs, a broken sternum, a right ankle injury, deep lacerations on both sides of pelvic area, and a deep laceration on her right elbow.

“When you look at social media today and where we are in society, so many people want to pull their phone out and record stuff, but not want to help. I think what Mr. Williams has done was admirable. He was heroic,” Demopolis Police Department Chief Tommie Reese said. “He took his time. He stopped his truck, went down a hill to an unknown area, and he risked his own life to save another life.”

Williams, who resides in Moundville, attended Thursday’s meeting of the Demopolis City Council as an invited guest along with his wife, Kala, and two of his three children: Kennedy (3 years old) and Kendall (four months old).

Williams received the Medal of Valor from the Demopolis Police Department as well as the Key to the City from Mayor John Laney in recognition of his unhesitant heroic actions. Robert Wagstaff presented the family with an undisclosed monetary gift as a token of their appreciation.

Barry’s wife, Kala, laughed Thursday while taking the adulation her husband received for his willingness to help.

“He called me. I guess he was still freaked out,” she said, recalling the afternoon of Aug. 1. “He acted like it didn’t happen for a while. I guess it took a while for him to process what had happened. The biggest thing he said was, ‘I didn’t get my load. I missed my load.’”

“I just went back like it was a normal day. It was all in a day’s work. Being out there on the highway, I see a lot of stuff and it’s scary. I just take it day by day,” Barry added.

Demopolis High volleyball schedule

Demopolis High School Volleyball Schedule

Sept. 2 – Sweet Water Tournament – TBA

Sept. 5 – vs. Jackson – 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 7 – @ Clarke County Tri-Match – 4:30 – p.m.

Sept. 11 – @ Greensboro Tri-Match – 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 12 – @ Sumter Central – 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 13 – vs. Greensboro – 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 – vs. Central-Tuscaloosa – 6 p.m.

Sept. 19 – vs. Thomasville – 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 – vs. Sweet Water – 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 – Thomasville Tourney – TBA

Sept. 28 – @ Linden Tri-Match – TBA

Oct. 3 – @ Central-Tuscaloosa – 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 – @ Jackson – 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 10 – @ Thomasville Tri-Match – TBA

Oct. 12 – vs. Sumter Central – 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 14 – @ Selma Dig Pink Tournament – TBA

Oct. 19 – vs. Linden – 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 24 – Area Tournament – TBA

Oct. 26 – Super Regional – TBA

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.

Business Spotlight: Shirts and More

 

Mike Evans and his team at Shirts and More are committed to fast and accurate customer service, no matter the volume.

“We ask for two weeks, but 99.9 percent of the time, we turn it around a lot quicker than that. A lot quicker,” Evans, owner of Shirts and More, said of how fast his crew can process an order. “We haven’t turned any (order) away yet. We haven’t turned any away yet and will not turn any away. We’ll find a way to accommodate the customer whether it’s one shirt or 10,000.”

Located next to Smokin’ Jack’s on Highway 80 West in Demopolis, Shirts and More can handle any printing need ranging from vinyl banners to embroidery to promotional products to sports uniforms. They’ve take care of individual orders as well as family reunions, church groups, social clubs, sports leagues and many more.

Mike and his wife, Beverly, have assembled a talented team including Michelle Etheridge, Crystal Beason and Morgan McPherson, which can meet all of your needs from idea to reality.

Call 334-289-8350 today and let the team at Shirts and More bring your ideas to life.

 

Band Boosters, QB Club hosting Cow Patty Bingo fundraiser

The Demopolis Quarterback Club and the Demopolis Band Boosters are pairing for a first-time event designed as both a fundraiser and a community meet-and-greet. Meet the Tigers Night is set for Friday, Aug. 18 beginning at 5 p.m. on the side lawn of Demopolis High School.

Billed as “fun for the whole family”, the event is set to feature concessions and bounce houses for kids while participants wait for the centerpiece attraction to be completed.

At the core of the event is Cow Patty Bingo, a fundraiser in which individuals who have purchased a ticket eagerly await for a cow to defecate in one of 225 sectioned squares.

Participants can purchase a ticket for $100. If the cow relieves itself in the square that corresponds to a given ticket, the individual holding the ticket wins one of four prizes.

The first “plop” is worth $250. The second “plop” is worth $500. The third “plop” is worth $1,000. The fourth “plop” is worth $5,000.

Only 225 tickets will be sold. Those seeking more information are encouraged to call 654-0831 or 287-1006.

River City Blue preview Thursday

The 2018 edition of the River City Blue, Demopolis High School’s marching band, will host a Preview Night on Thursday, Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. at the band practice field in the parking lot next to the stadium. The band has prepared a Motown themed show for the 2017 season. 

Demopolis Elite, UWA teams holding Soccer Fest Sunday

The University of West Alabama men’s and women’s soccer programs are teaming with Demopolis Elite for a special event. The entities will pair for Soccer Fest and a training session Sunday from 3-5 p.m. at the Demopolis Sports-Plex.

The event is open to children ages five and up and is free of charge.

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.”

Sweet Water standout Smith to sign with UAB

Jonah Smith

SWEET WATER – The Bulldog ace has picked a new home. Sweet Water High School senior Jonah Smith has parlayed his dominant junior campaign into a Division I scholarship after committing to sign with the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

“It’s just a great academic school and I really like their head coach, Coach (Brian) Shoop. He’s a Christian and I like that about him,” Smith said of the opportunity to take the mound for the Blazers when his high school career is complete.

Jonah Smith receives the Class 1A MVP trophy from Luke Hallmark.

Smith earned 2017 Class 1A Pitcher and Player of the Year honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association as well as Super 10 recognition after helping to lead the Bulldogs to the state championship.

“He’s a player of great character. He’s going to hustle. He’s a bulldog. He’s a team player. He’s not selfish and he’s going to work as hard as he can. UAB is getting a good one,” Sweet Water head coach John Gluschick said of the player UAB is getting. “The sky is the limit. UAB has a great coaching staff. There are a couple of things I know Jonah needs to work on and we’re going to touch that here. Probably his slide step, quicker to the plate, mixing up his moves. Coach Shoop, Coach (Perry) Roth, awesome, awesome coaches and Jonah is in great hands. The sky is the limit for him. He’s going to be a good one.”

Smith, who got the extra-inning walk-off hit that won the Bulldogs the state championship, made his reputation on the mound as one of the most dominant pitchers in the state at any level last season. He went 14-2 on the mound with three saves while posting a 1.11 ERA with 123 strikeouts over 88 innings of work. Smith allowed only 49 hits and 14 earned runs all season to boost a microscopic 0.78 WHIP.

“I don’t think it has set in yet because I’m still in high school and I’ve got to finish my senior year, but I’m expecting that to happen very soon,” Smith, who also garnered attention from programs at Auburn and East Central Community College, said of his new circumstances. “It’s a big relief because now I can worry about my senior year and just make the grades I have to make, then go to UAB.”

As Smith and his squad set their sights on repeating as Class 1A state champs, the hurler has a list of personal gains he would like to make in order to improve his game before facing collegiate competition.

“Just throw more strikes, try to stay in the strike zone more than I did last year, and try to cut off the walks,” he said.

“It’s huge because, now that Jonah has signed and we had some other guys sign with junior colleges,” Gluschick said of the impact such a signing has on a prep program. “These guys want to do the same thing. They love baseball. They love the game. And any way you can further your education through baseball, that always helps. That’s a goal for some of these kids now. They see that it’s attainable.”

Smith will likely autograph his National Letter of Intent during the early signing period in November.