DCS board makes last-minute moves before 17-18 school year

In a flurry of votes Wednesday morning, the Demopolis City Board of Education approved personnel changes and several contracts before the new school year begins.

Conditional employment approval was granted to:

  • Kelly Easter, U.S. Jones Elementary.
  • Rodney Lewis, JROTC NCO at Demopolis High School.
  • Javalynn Williams, Demopolis Middle School.
  • Timothy “Cain” Sutton, DMS.
  • Traci Spiller, Central Office administrative assistant.

The board accepted resignations from Nicole Jensen at DMS and Nicole Greene at USJ.

Substitute teachers approved were Tamyla James, Carrie Williams and Sherri Peterson.

Miscellaneous personnel changes included:

  • Michael McClain, Family Medical Leave.
  • George Mullens, substitute in the USJ lunchroom for McClain.
  • Carrie Williams as a long-term sub at DHS.
  • Andrea Turberville from adjunct teacher to part-time teacher at DHS.
  • Jesse Bell, DMS assistant football coaching supplement: $1,189, and DMS head basketball coaching supplement, $1,901, was approved on a 4-1 vote with Jim Stanford voting no.

Remington Keene received a one-year contract as an adjunct teacher at DHS to teach three Spanish classes per day. The board renewed Susan Clark’s one-year contract for speech services and that of Genesis Rehabilitation to provide physical and occupational therapy.

In other action, the board approved:

  • An agreement with the website management company “edlio” to provide services for the school system. Supt. Kyle Kallhoff explained the current website is much better than several years ago, but there is a push to have it more user friendly for teachers. The initial start-up cost will be higher, but the annual cost will be about $500 less than the company now being used.
  • An agreement with WSLY-FM radio to provide live coverage of the DHS football games.
  • A contract with Centerplate of the University of Alabama and the DHS Band to allow band members to work the concession stands at UA home football games as a fundraiser.
  • Advertising for a 12-month bookkeeper position at DMS.
  • A finance agreement with John Deere and DHS to make two annual payments on a new Gator, a general utility vehicle. Board member Olen Kerby said the vehicle that is being replaced should have lasted longer. He asked that someone be put in charge of the new vehicle’s maintenance.

Kalhoff said budget hearings will be scheduled between now and the deadline for approval on Sept. 15. The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Monday, Aug. 21, at 5:15 p.mn.

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 eyes future with administrative changes

Administrative changes headlined an eventful agenda at Monday’s Demopolis City Schools Board of Education meeting, leaving system leadership with renewed optimism about the future.

“The trajectory of our school system just may have been shifted tonight and I’m excited about that,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said, making note of the bevy of changes that also included the commissioning of a plan to purchase cutting edge smart board technology in the coming years.

The administrative shuffle includes the redefining of Stacy Luker’s role with the system. Luker, who will still coach football and oversee the sport’s operations while also teaching two classes, officially retired from full-time work and vacated his athletic director post in the process. Luker proceeded to sign a 12-month contract with the system to stay on in his role as football coach and part-time teacher.

“I see this as an opportunity to extend our time with him. He’s at the point in his career where he can retire if he wants. I think this is an unique situation that we’re in to extend his career with us,” Kallhoff said of the three-year contract the system has with Luker. “I really think our kids and this community benefit from his leadership, not just as a football coach. He’s a Christian guy and he’s a good role model. I’m excited. I think it’s pretty unique that we get to do this. For about a third of the money, we get the same quality person.”

Luker’s departure from the athletic director position created a vacancy the board opted to fill internally. Current Westside Elementary School principal Tony Pittman will move to Demopolis High School to serve as an assistant principal and athletic director.

“He is not losing pay. That’s very important. His pay is going to remain the same. He’s just going to be serving kids at the high school instead of Westside,” Kallhoff said. “I’ve got to constantly look a people’s skill sets and see how they can best serve our community. I cannot think of anyone better than Tony Pittman to fill that job as athletic director at the high school. He is very good at working with adolescents. He knows the kids. He’s one of the only employees we’ve had that has worked at every single school in our system. With Mr. Tangle at the high school, I think he can do a lot to complement there as well as do a lot with our athletics.”

The shifting of Pittman to the high school creates a void atop Westside Elementary School and the board approved the posting of that position Monday.

“I hope to fill that vacancy in our regular meeting in May. That’s only fair to that school and our regular teachers that we do that,” Kallhoff said.

Perhaps the most impactful change to come out of Monday’s meeting is the shifting of each of the school system’s counselors.

The transfers will see Valtina Bowden move from Westside Elementary to U.S. Jones Elementary. Leslie May will move from Demopolis High School to Westside Elementary School. Laura Holley shifts from U.S. Jones Elementary School to Demopolis Middle School. Traci Pearson goes from Demopolis Middle School to Demopolis High School. Bill Barley, who is currently at Demopolis High will spend approximately 60 percent of his time there and the remainder of it at Demopolis Middle School.

“We have five counselors and they’re a very strong group. I want to make sure that we’re all used to and familiar with the testing process. We don’t do state testing at Westside. By putting Valtina Bowden at U.S. Jones, it’s going to make her more familiar with testing,” Kallhoff said before noting the advantages to other the system’s other counselors. “They all have skill sets. They’re doing great where they are, but as we’re moving different shifts I thought this would be a great time to move our counselors around as well.”

The other significant transfer to take place Monday was the decision to move computer lab teacher Penny Stanford from U.S. Jones Elementary to Westside Elementary and move one of the WES computer lab aides to USJ.

“U.S. Jones has an outstanding computer lab situation. Amelia Mackey and Penny Stanford do a great job. The only way we can duplicate that at Westside is to move one of those teachers,” Kallhoff said.

Westside Kindergarten pre-registration set for Feb. 22-26

Westside Elementary School Kindergarten pre-registration is set to take place from Monday, Feb. 22 through Friday, Feb. 26 from 8 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.

Children do not have to be present for pre-registration, but will need to accompany parents to Kindergarten registration set for March 16 and March 17.

Children eligible for WES Kindergarten must be five years old on or before Sept. 2, 2016. Each child will need a certified birth certificate, original social security card, original blue immunization form and two proofs of residency in order to be eligible to apply.

All information packets must be filled out on campus and no packets will be allowed off campus.


Westside Elementary celebrates 100th day of school

IMG_5771Westside Elementary School celebrated the 100th day of school on Friday, Jan. 24. WES celebrated by wearing pajamas to school and had fun with the number 100.

Students enjoyed the 100th day activities such as counting out 100 snacks, making 100-day hats, and playing number games to 100. Pictured are the first grade of Mrs. Holley, Mrs. Meadows, and Mrs. Spruell.

Westside Elementary collecting box tops

During the month of February Westside Elementary School will be trying to collect as many Box Tops as possible. Each Box Top earns 10 cents for our school. In the last 6 months we have earned $2,073 by collecting Box Tops.

WES is currently ranked No. 34 in Alabama for Box Tops collections. Please help WES reach its goal by asking friends, family, and neighbors to save their Box Tops. Children that return a completed Box Top sheet also get a small prize for all of their hard work. Box tops may be sent to the school in a zip-lock. Box tops may dropped any saved off at the front office.

WES is able to send in Box Tops twice each year and collect money for the school. The next deadline is Feb. 25. All Box Tops will be sent off Feb. 27.