Riley calls out school system

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 11, 2020

VALLEY — Mayor Leonard Riley apologized to members of the Valley City Council Monday evening after going on a rant about the state of the Chambers County School System.

In the announcements section at the end of the meeting, Riley referenced some statistics he’d gotten on per pupil spending for Chambers County schools.

These numbers show that the highest per-pupil spending tends to be at the schools in the northern part of the county while the schools in Valley are at the bottom. According to this information, Five Points Elementary has the highest per pupil expenditure at $12,586. It also has the lowest enrollment of any school in the county. John P. Powell Middle School in LaFayette is second in per-pupil spending at $12,155, LaFayette High is third at $11,416 and Eastside Elementary in LaFayette is fifth at $10,092. It irked the mayor that the only school in Valley in the top five is Bob Harding-Shawmut, which is fourth at $10,180 per student.

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Rounding out the top ten are LaFayette Lanier Elementary, which is number six at $9,510; number seven Fairfax Elementary at $8,680 per student, number eight Huguley Elementary $8,445 per student, Valley High is in ninth place at $8,133 per student and W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley is on the bottom at $7,276.

It should be pointed out, though, that the schools in Valley tend to have higher enrollments. Those schools may be getting more money overall, but when it’s divided by the enrollment, the per-pupil expenditure is less, sometimes by big margins. Five Points Elementary, for example, is getting more than $5,000 per pupil than W.F. Burns, according to the numbers Riley presented.

“There have been times when Five Points had less than 100 students,” Riley said. “The schools in Valley are the lowest expenditure schools. The only one Valley has in the top five is Bob Harding-Shawmut. Every other school is in the bottom five. It is amazing to me that the expenditures per school is this far out of whack. It’s just not right for the City of Valley to have only one school in the top five.”

Riley said that a lack of funding had turned a school like Valley High into a “fundraising machine” and that local businesses were getting tired of constantly being hit by fundraising efforts.

They want to support local schools, but there are limits to everything.

“Our schools are being neglected, and it’s forcing the students to do all this fundraising,” he said.

“If you play baseball at Valley High it’s because you met your fundraising goal. There were two girls put off the softball team because they didn’t meet their goal. That’s not right. The superintendent (Dr. Kelly Hodge) is not putting any money to this. If she is, she’s not letting it be known. Our businesses are tired of all this fundraising. They are getting hit all the time.”

Riley, who served as county superintendent from 1991-2011, said he couldn’t understand why Dr. Frankie Bell had been suspended as the principal of W.F. Burns for five months. “She’s sitting at home every day and making $80,000 a year,” he said. “This should have been resolved by now. Either she should have been reinstated or relieved of her job.”

Riley said there were some very serious discipline problems at both W.F. Burns and Valley High.

“There are fights almost every day,” he said.

“Our schools are being neglected, more money needs to be spent on them, and discipline needs to be gotten under control. I apologize for this rant, but I think things have gotten to the point where I needed to speak up.”