Chambley visits Kiwanis to talk superintendent election

Published 9:00 am Friday, February 9, 2024

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VALLEY — Over the past several weeks, the Kiwanis Club of Valley has offered candidates in the March 5th Republican Primary an opportunity to speak during their Wednesday noon hour meeting. The two candidates for Chambers County Pronate Judge, incumbent Paul Story and challenger Troy Davis, were the first to speak on back-to-back weeks. The candidates for Chambers County Superintendent of Schools, challenger Dr. Sharon Weldon and incumbent Dr. Casey Chambley, were the next two speakers.

The programs concluded on Wednesday with Dr. Chambley talking about the future of the county school system.

Chambley was introduced by Cub Vice President Yvette Burque as someone who has always strived to make a positive difference in the local community and in children’s lives. Chambley is a lifelong resident of the local area and has spent the past 22 years in public education. He holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Liberty University.

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“The energy and positive influence he brings in the school district is evident in his three-year tenure as superintendent,” Burque said. “He is a difference maker who works tirelessly to meet the goals of the district. The accomplishments that have been made in his first term along with his willingness and ability to tackle the 50-year federal desegregation case in such a short amount of time is a great example of his work ethic and resolve. He wishes to continue improving the educational experience of all children in Chambers County. He vows to continue to cultivate an atmosphere that attracts the best and brightest educators and motivates them to stay. He takes on every task with the mindset that he doesn’t mind rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. He is humbly asking for your support on March 5th to continue to serve and finish the job the voters of Chambers County elected him to do.”

The Chambers County Board of Education will be building a new high school in Valley. The name of that school, the school colors and the mascot name will be announced in a 5 p.m. EST public meeting at Langdale Auditorium next Tuesday, February 13th. The architectural renderings of the new school will be unveiled at that time.

“We wanted to do this in a place large enough to handle a big crowd,” Chambley told members of the club.

Putting up a new building is something that’s done one brick at a time. The acronym BRICK was a campaign theme when Chambley ran for superintendent in 2020. He’s using that same theme in his current campaign. B is for buildings, R for respect, I for identity, C for commitment and K for kids.The B plan in 2020 was to clean all buildings and grounds, to have a comprehensive assessment of all buildings and facilities and devise a districtwide capital plan. The progress made on that over the past four years includes having custodial and grounds supervisors for all schools in the district, spending over $500,000 on new classroom furniture, having districtwide cleaning, painting, remodeling, updating and landscaping. A plan to build the new high school in Valley and converting LaFayette High into a new magnet school are part of that plan as well.

The new high school will be built without having a local tax increase. The new building will cost between $85 million and $90 million and will be financed through a combination of debt rolloff and higher revenue that will be coming in from reassessment and revenue from online sales. It should open in the fall of 2026 at which time work will start on the conversion of the LaFayette High building into the STEAM magnet school.

Seeking the new consolidated high school, said Chambley, was not the easy road to follow. It was an unpopular idea with some who graduated from Valley High or LaFayette High and didn’t like the idea of moving on from their school’s long-time school colors and nicknames. “We aren’t building it for those who went to school 30 years ago,” Chambley said. “We are building for those who are now in school and those who will be going there in the future.”

This is not politically expedient. Chambley notes that those who graduated high school 30 years ago and still live here vote in local elections. The kids who will benefit from the new school don’t.

Chambley said there’s an arms race under way in terms of new school facilities. Those systems that don’t step up to compete will get left behind. Chambley said he doesn’t blame families that move away so their children can attend the modern facilities in places like Opelika and Auburn. The challenge is to offer something that will keep those families here and will entice new families to move in.

Everything is not geared for the future. Chambley said that a massive effort was undertaken to clean up the existing buildings. This involved the purchase of 15 new floor scrubbers and 18 restroom cleaning machines. The new furniture that’s been purchased includes many classroom desks for schools in Valley and LaFayette.

R in the BRICK acronym is for respect. The 2020 plan was to have the alternative placement option, to add JROTC at VHS and LHS and to put greater emphasis on discipline, character and professionalism. Progress on these goals include starting Inspire virtual academy, adding the JROTC programs, implementing a dress code and enforcing the truancy law.

The I for Identity plan in 2020 included updating athletic facilities, adding coaching positions and supplements and merging all booster clubs. Since then, new weight rooms have been added along with new athletic equipment and LED lighting at Ram Stadium. New coaching positions have been added and the system is continuing to provide the vision for consolidated booster clubs for increased pride and support across all activities.

The C for Commitment plan called for teacher recruitment and retention, grassroots teacher mentoring and advancement and the restructuring of PTO. Progress made on this includes having childcare services for all staff (to open next year), the addition of salary schedule steps for classified staff, the implementation of early pay for January and February, supplement increases and extraordinary compensation, a teacher and staff institute and an end-of-year picnic.

The 2020 K for Kids plan cited academic enhancement and accelerated learning, the extension of music and band opportunities and career advancement. Progress on this includes increased dual enrollment opportunities, the coming of increased music opportunities at the STEAM magnet school, the investment of millions in expanding the career tech education program and adding flag football and wrestling as new sports.

Chambley said the consolidation issue was one that had to be settled by Chambers County residents; if not, the federal courts would decide it. That’s pretty much the message given to him by the federal judge handling a case that started with the Lee v. Macon decision from the 1960s. A consent decree was issued in the early 1990s with Chambers County seeking to have a consolidated high school on Highway 40 between the Valley and LaFayette. It was put to a vote of the people and was soundly rejected. “We still don’t have a consolidated school 30 years later,” Chambley said.

There’s a plan now that has been approved by both the local board and the federal court. It’s a real thing this time and people can see what this new reality will look like at next Tuesday’s public meeting at Langdale Auditorium.