DCSF doles out $31,000 in grants

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

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

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

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

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

The grants are as follows:

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

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

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

Major donors recognized by the DCSF are:

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

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

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

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

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

Two Demopolis seniors sign to play collegiate soccer

Julia Singleton readies to sign with Judson College. Pictured are (seated) Judson coach Justin Pino along with (standing) DHS soccer coach Gabrielle McVay, Mitch Singleton, Stephanie Singleton and Charity Singleton.

A pair of Demopolis High School seniors are on their way to collegiate soccer careers after signing letters of intent last week. Julia Singleton inked her NLI from Judson College last Tuesday, becoming the first DHS female player to sign since Rachel Walker did it in April 2010. Walker, who was the goalie of the DHS boys team for lack of the existence of a girls program at the time, also signed with Judson.

Singleton’s connection with Judson College actually predicated through her efforts at a camp at another local school.

Julia Singleton readies to sign with Judson College. Pictured are (seated) Judson coach Justin Pino along with (standing) DHS soccer coach Gabrielle McVay, Mitch Singleton, Stephanie Singleton and Charity Singleton.

“I actually attended a camp at West Alabama this summer where I met Coach Pino and he asked me to try out for their team,” Singleton explained of her introduction to Judson coach Justin Pino.

“I really liked her work ethic. I thought her work ethic was good and I thought she wanted to improve and get better. I kind of look at that and kind of see where someone is and what their potential is as well,” Pino said.

Singleton’s tryout proved her first visit to the Judson campus and she quickly realized it might not be her last.

“It was actually my first time on campus. I got to meet a bunch of the girls and then I tried out with them. He invited me to come back to the next weekend to their preview day where I could take a scholarship test. I got to do that and have a campus tour, so it was really nice,” she said.

“Coach was real cool about it. He said, ‘Go home. Think about it. Pray about it. Come back to me later.’ That’s what we did,” her father, Mitch Singleton, said. “She loved it. We’re happy for her. We’ve been to the school and we really like it. It’s kind of a smaller venue, but everybody is real close knit. It’s got a great atmosphere.”

Pino, whose squad finished at 8-6 a season ago after suffering some narrow defeats, will look to deploy Singleton in a suitable position in the Fall. Pino did indicate Singleton likely profiles as a midfielder at this juncture.

“Julia has been a leader from the very beginning,” Gabrielle McVay, Demopolis High girls soccer head coach, said. “With a new program, we had a lot of kids come in that really have never even played soccer. She already had a good background in soccer, so she was a really good leader for all of her teammates. She always has been. She also has a lot of experience in both offense and defense, so I’ve been able to use her as a very versatile player. She can kind of play wherever I need her in some spots, so it has been nice to have.”

Zachary Chu along with his mother Lucy Chu, father Dr. Ronnie Chu, brother Jeremy Chu, as well as coaches Hayden Mitchell and Jon Kresena.

While Singleton is headed to a program that is very new to her, classmate Zachary Chu will don the familiar red and white of a program with which he has tremendous familiarity. Chu, who is foregoing his senior season of high school soccer due to commitments with his club team Birmingham United Soccer Association (BUSA), has long attended camps and been around the University of West Alabama program headed by Matthew Thorn.

“The way they play is very attractive. I just want to learn from them because they demand perfection every touch, every dribble, everything they do is perfection. That’s all I’m looking for,” Chu, who has 44 goals and 17 assists during his BUSA career, said.

Zachary Chu along with his mother Lucy Chu, father Dr. Ronnie Chu, brother Jeremy Chu, grandparents Lee and Meegam Ching, and Chris and Mary Lou Doyle.

Chu signed his NLI Friday after having received the offer from UWA back in September 2017 as the NCAA Division II program was just embarking upon the best season in school history.

“I have known Zach for many years now, he is a great talent and he has a brilliant work ethic,” said Thorn of Chu, who is also a member of the Olympic Development Program. “He will be a perfect fit for UWA.”

“I think it’s a long coming because he didn’t really get into the sport until he was 10 years old. I told him, ‘Hey, listen, you’re a little too old to play soccer.’ I told him that if he sleeps, eats and poops soccer that he would be able to do something. And he did. He and his brother basically eat, sleep and poop soccer for all those years. And I’m so happy for him because of his hard work,” his father, Dr. Ronnie Chu, said. “His next phase is to continue. We’re just happy that he’s playing under Matte because he’s a great coach and it shows because they were ranked as high as number nine in the nation last year at one point. UWA has a very good program in terms of soccer and, also, they have a very good business program. His idea is to be a corporate lawyer. First things first, get a degree and perhaps MBA and then, after that, law school. Everything is falling into place for him.”

The younger Chu will likely tackle the next phase of his athletic and academic careers with the same fervor his father taught him some eight years ago when he first took up the game.

“My dad always taught me to just immerse yourself in what you’re doing and you’ll be fine,” he said.

Demopolis students commemorate FBLA week

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kallhoff: Changing standards jeopardize validity of first state report cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UWA welcomes Japan Consul General Shinozuka to campus

Pictured left to right are International Admissions Counselor Meng Xu, Special Assistant to the President Johnnie Aycock, UWA senior Jade Montgomery (Study Abroad), UWA senior Bailee Tindol (Study Abroad), Honorary Consul General of Japan Mark B. Jackson, Consul General of Japan Takashi Shinozuka, UWA President Dr. Ken Tucker, Communications Assistant Kaitlynn Beaird (Study Abroad), UWA Provost Dr. Tim Edwards, SGA President Jonathan Knox, Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dr. Chris Thomason, Professor of English Dr. Stephen Slimp, and College of Liberal Arts Dean and International Programs Director Dr. Mark Davis.

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—The University of West Alabama hosted Consul General of Japan Takashi Shinozuka and Honorary Consul General of Japan Mark B. Jackson on campus on Wednesday. Their visit included a campus tour and visits across campus, including the College of Business and Technology, International Programs, Integrated Marketing & Communications. During the visit they had a roundtable discussion with a group of campus leaders and UWA students who have participated in the Tigers International Study Abroad program.

Pictured left to right are UWA Provost Dr. Tim Edwards, Honorary Consul General of Japan Mark B. Jackson, Consul General of Japan Takashi Shinozuka, UWA President Dr. Ken Tucker, and College of Liberal Arts Dean and International Programs Director Dr. Mark Davis.

UWA announces Fall 2017 President’s and Dean’s Lists honors

LIVINGSTON, Ala.–The University of West Alabama has announced more than 500 outstanding undergraduate students named to the President’s List and the Dean’s List for the Fall 2017 academic semester.

To reach the President’s List, students must earn at least a 3.80 grade point average while attempting at least twelve semester hours.

To be named to the Dean’s List, students must obtain at least a 3.25 grade point average while attempting at least twelve semester hours.

Honorees are listed by state, then county, then city. Local honorees include:

Marengo Jennifer Belcher Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Alexis Benderson Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Keyonia Bowden Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Joseph Browder Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Melanie Campbell Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Tristen Fitz-Gerald Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Shanice Gracie Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Kathleen Jackson Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Mark Johnson Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Riley King Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Jason Low Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Cheyenne Martin Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Fallon Martin Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Clayton McVay Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Sara McVay Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Jackson Morrison Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Sydney Pettis Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Jarius Rembert Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Brittany Scott Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Luana Scott Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Cora Smith Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Heath Stanford Demopolis AL Dean’s List
Marengo Alyssa Wrensted Demopolis AL President’s List
Marengo Ethan Glass Dixons Mills AL President’s List
Marengo Ellen Alexander Gallion AL Dean’s List
Marengo Adriauna Alston Gallion AL Dean’s List
Marengo Luke McCray Gallion AL President’s List
Marengo Caitlin Thrash Gallion AL President’s List
Marengo Brandon Thrasher Gallion AL President’s List
Marengo Weldon Aydelott Linden AL Dean’s List
Marengo Devin Burrell Linden AL Dean’s List
Marengo Mary Moore Linden AL Dean’s List
Marengo Macy Morgan Linden AL Dean’s List
Marengo Kimberly Parker Linden AL President’s List
Marengo Daniel Ratcliff Linden AL President’s List
Marengo Maverick Ratcliff Linden AL Dean’s List
Marengo Joseph Sammons Linden AL Dean’s List
Marengo Blakley Tartt Linden AL Dean’s List
Marengo Hunter Webb Myrtlewood AL Dean’s List
Marengo Desha Anderson Sweet Water AL Dean’s List
Marengo Kennesha Curtis Sweet Water AL President’s List
Marengo Christopher Dunn Sweet Water AL President’s List
Marengo Chynna Ernest Sweet Water AL President’s List
Marengo Riley Overton Sweet Water AL Dean’s List
Marengo Bria Robinson Sweet Water AL Dean’s List
Marengo Curtis Witherington Sweet Water AL Dean’s List
Marengo Destany Jones Thomaston AL Dean’s List
Marengo Amber McDaniel Thomaston AL President’s List
Marengo Karlton Nathan Thomaston AL Dean’s List
Marengo Mary Rivers Thomaston AL Dean’s List
Marengo Preston Traywick Thomaston AL Dean’s List


Sumter Brooklyn Bryan Cuba AL Dean’s List
Sumter Valerie Larkin Cuba AL Dean’s List
Sumter Payton McElroy Cuba AL President’s List
Sumter David Castleberry Emelle AL President’s List
Sumter Ebone Newton Emelle AL Dean’s List
Sumter Elizabeth Waddell Emelle AL President’s List
Sumter Lathia Adams Epes AL Dean’s List
Sumter Deanna Clark Epes AL Dean’s List
Sumter Tajah Bell Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Michelle Campbell Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Laurel Carrier Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter McKenzie Dawson Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter Holli Gandy Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Victoria Gandy Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Nikki Giles Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter Langdon Griffith Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Christopher Hester Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter Anna Holycross Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Rebekah Horton Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Shanice Jones Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Kathryn Kelley Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter William McDaniel Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter Guadalupe Meza Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter Jade Montgomery Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter John Morgan Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Brittney Pratt Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Hunter Ray Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Jordan Robinson Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter Tyesha Ruffin Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter Laprease Sparks Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Christopher Spencer Livingston AL President’s List
Sumter Ashley Thorne Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter Felix Woods Livingston AL Dean’s List
Sumter Devante Giles York AL President’s List
Sumter Ja’roderick Parker York AL President’s List
Sumter Denetria Ruffin York AL Dean’s List
Sumter Be’ana Wade York AL President’s List
Sumter Alexis Watkins York AL Dean’s List
Sumter Dandre Watson York AL Dean’s List
Greene Debora Henderson Boligee AL Dean’s List
Greene Tyreice Mack Boligee AL President’s List
Greene Curtis Davidson Eutaw AL Dean’s List
Greene Summer Earle Eutaw AL President’s List
Greene Rosemary Horton Eutaw AL Dean’s List
Greene Nicole Aledo Forkland AL Dean’s List
Greene Kanigia Pelt Forkland AL Dean’s List
Perry Kiara Payton Marion AL President’s List
Perry Karsyn Roye Uniontown AL Dean’s List

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’s Mullen one of two state students to receive national honor

Demopolis High School’s Tristan Mullen

Demopolis High School senior Tristan Mullen is set to receive a substantial scholarship along with a very unique opportunity courtesy of the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Mullen will join Senator Richard Shelby and Senator Doug Jones in representing Alabama in the nation’s capital during the 56th annual USSYP Washington Week to be held March 3-10.

Mullen and Trussville’s Logan Cobb are the only two students in the state of Alabama to receive the honor, which includes a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study. Mullen was selected from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the 104-member delegation comprised of students from across the country.

The USSYP was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962 and has been sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by The Hearst Foundations since inception. Originally proposed by Senators Kuchel, Mansfield, Dirksen, and Humphrey, the impetus for the program as stated in Senate testimony is “to increase young Americans’ understanding of the interrelationships of the three branches of government, learn the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and emphasize the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world.

Each year this extremely competitive merit-based program brings 104 of the most outstanding high school students – two form each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity – to Washington, D.C. for an intensive week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service.

In addition to the program week, The Hearst Foundations provide each student with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history, and public affairs. Transportation and all expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations; as stipulated in S.Res.324, no government funds are utilized.

Mullen attends Demopolis High School and has served on the Student Council since his freshman year. Other leadership positions that he has held while at Demopolis High include service as the Student Council historian, co-captain of the Scholars Bowl team, president of Tiger Arts Guild and drum major the River City Blue Marching Band. He has also served as a class representative for YOUth Lead Demopolis, a youth leadership program located within Marengo County. He plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in political science and then attend law school to become a civil rights attorney.

Delegates and alternates are selected by the state departments of education nationwide and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense Education Activity, after nomination by teachers and principals. The chief state school officer for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection. This year’s Alabama delegates and alternates were designated by Mr. Ed Richardson, Interim State Superintendent of Education.

While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with senators members of the House of Representatives, Congressional staff, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an ambassador to the United State and senior members of the national media. The students will also tour many of the national monuments and several museums and they will stay at the historic Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

Marengo, Linden, Demopolis schools closed Wednesday

With a winter storm system settling in over much of the state Tuesday afternoon and an expectation of icy roads and frigid temperatures well into Wednesday, school systems are again facing decisions regarding hours of operation. The first local system to declare its schedule for Wednesday is Marengo County, which will be closed.

“Due to high probability of bad weather for Marengo County, which includes icy roads and temperatures in the teens along with Governor Ivey’s declaration for a State of Emergency, there will be no school Wednesday for the Marengo County School system,” Superintendent Luke Hallmark told The Watchman via text message. “The school system will be open on Thursday.”

The decision follows suit with the Marengo County Courthouse, which will be also be closed Wednesday. Demopolis City Schools and Linden City Schools each confirmed their Wednesday closures as well at 3:05 p.m. Tuesday.

The West Alabama Watchman will update closings on its website, Twitter, and Facebook page as more information becomes available.

U.S. Jones coding program earns CLAS Banner School distinction

U.S. Jones Elementary School now is recognized as ranking among the leaders in Alabama education.

The school has been named a CLAS Banner School by the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools. Through a rigorous application process, USJ was one of 24 schools out of 107 applicants to receive the honor.  Three schools from each district were named. The other two from District 5 are Pike County High School and Booker T. Washington High School in Macon County.

“We’re out there as one of the leading schools in this age group,” said Leon Clark,principal. The program USJ submitted began as a desire to have students understand technology and give them a chance to become creators instead of consumers, said Amelia Mackey, the teacher who spearheaded the project.

It first was offered to extended day students, but seeing how quickly they caught on, administrators wanted to offer all USJ students the opportunity to learn coding.

Mackey attended a workshop in the summer of 2016 to be trained to code using robots and STEM activities.

With grant support from the Demopolis City Schools Foundation, USJ began a weekly Coding and Robotics class for all its students.

With further DCSF funding in January 2017, USJ was able to purchase ministries for fifth grade students.

“We could not be where we are without our school Foundation,” said Clark.

“It did not take long to see that our students were very motivated and catching on quickly and that there was a need to have a more scaffold program,” said Mackey.

At first the coding curriculum was the same for all grades. It now employs a model with fourth and fifth graders building on what they have learned.

“The atmosphere has changed for all of our students,” Mackey continued. “There is no pressure to perform or memorize a lot of information. This is a learning experience where the students are excited, motivated and eager to try new things.”

Mackey added that other results have been seen.

“Sensory learning, improved socialization, hands-on innovations and the level of rigor have all increased due to the introduction of the curriculum.”

On Feb. 26 the school will be making a presentation before educators using a one-minute video of the school and its project. USJ students will do the filming and provide the narration, said Clark. But the video also will highlight other activities, he said.

“We’ll be showing off all the good things going on.”