School Board discusses strategy

Published 7:11 pm Wednesday, October 24, 2018

LaFAYETTE — The Chambers County School District adopted a strategic plan in 2010, extended it in 2015 and now is in the planning stages to have it renewed in 2020. Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge reviewed the existing plan to board members Wednesday afternoon, suggesting some possible enhancements before a new one is voted on two years from now. She gave copies of the plan to members of the school board, asked them to read it and to have suggestions for improvements for the Nov. 28 meeting.

It’s a good idea for board members to be up-to-date on the district’s strategic plan prior to the upcoming AdvancED review, which will be taking place this coming February. Formerly known as SACS, AdvancED will have a committee in Chambers County in Feb. 2019 for a routine review of the system. Members of that committee will likely ask questions about the district’s strategic plan.

“We are constantly evaluating our strategic plan and making changes as we go along,” said Dr. Hodge. “We are working toward improved student achievement and to have the best graduation rate realistically possible. We also have a goal of having highly-qualified personnel. We’d like to be doing better in terms of having nationally board-certified personnel.”

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Dr. Hodge added that the school district does a good job in recognizing outstanding teachers but could do a better job of recognizing outstanding leaders in the system. The district is working hard to overcome a perception that the grass in greener on the other side.

“Some people in Valley feel that LaFayette gets more, and some people in LaFayette believed that Valley gets more,” Hodge said.

She said that the school district is doing good work in maintaining safe and secure learning areas. She singled out a committee headed by Casey Chambley for its leadership.

“An area where we have really grown in the last three years is technology,” she said, noting that individual schools had some flexibility here.

Some emphasize iPads and others Chromebooks.

“We’ll always be working on improving relationships,” she said. “We’ve added some things but not everyone is taking advantage of it. We need to keep promoting parent portals, where parents can log on at any time to see how their children are doing. Less than 25 percent of parents are doing this.”

The school district is also doing great things in the way of energy efficiency, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars over what could have been spent on utility bills.

“I know this is kind of overwhelming. It’s 14 pages,” Hodge said. “I’d like for you to take it home, read through it and ask questions about it in our November meeting.”

The district got some good news in closing out the 2017-18 fiscal year – they had a bigger ending balance than expected. A balance of around $3.1 million was expected but came in at $3.7 million.

“It added $634,000 to our ending balance,” Hodge said.

School board members Chris Busby and Vicki Leak were recognized for their diligence in taking courses in the Alabama School Board Member Academy. Busby has attained just under 53 hours. This puts him at Level II. Leak has attained 25 hours and should be up to Level II in 2019. Jeffrey Finch has consistently been on the academy’s honor roll since 2011.

The board also approved a new policy in regard to transfer students. The problem is that some systems don’t have a numerical method for grading, giving only letter grades (A-F). 

Four local banks were approved as the depositories for school funds in the 2018-19 fiscal year. They are Farmers & Merchants Bank, LaFayette; CenterState Bank (formerly CharterBank), Valley; Regions Bank, Birmingham and Renasant Bank, Valley.

The term and bond for the system’s chief financial officer was set at four years and $100,000.