VIDEO: Fort Payne School Board hears reports from Wills Valley and FPMS

VIDEO: Fort Payne School Board hears reports from Wills Valley and FPMS

PHOTO: The Fort Payne City Board of Education met on Thursday, July 21 for their monthly meeting. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor

FORT PAYNE, Ala. — (Full Video at the Bottom) To begin July's regular meeting, The Fort Payne Board of Education heard presentations from Wills Valley Elementary Principal Sally Wheat, and Fort Payne Middle School Principal Shane Byrd on the previous year at their respective schools.

Sally Wheat, Principal at Wills Valley Elementary, presents a report from her school. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

As Wheat began her presentation on the progress of her school, she said, "Taking on the principalship in the middle of the year has been a smooth transition for me, as well as our school as a whole. I could not have asked for a more supportive staff, faculty, students, parents, and I really appreciate the support that Mr. Cunningham has given me, and the advice just in the last six months. I've just finished my tenth year at Wills Valley, and as I've said before, it does not get better than the Fort Payne City School System."

Wheat then presented the academic data from Wills Valley, which showed that her students had improved in Math across the board over the last year, and that the new math curriculum for this year should lead to more growth. Reading in Kindergarten had improved from 47 percent at benchmark to 76 percent at the end of the year. The STARR Reading program had also shown growth in First and Second Grade. Wheat also related that the school had conducted ARI training for the faculty, which should help improve growth even more in the area of reading this year.

Wheat then overviewed the programs that students had participated in over the last year, which included "Liberty's Legacy," which teaches character and citizenship through the eyes of Lady Liberty. Students also went on a field trip to Little River Canyon, which included building an earthworm habitat, a nature walk, and learning how to fight a wildfire.

Wheat also said the school conducted online enrollment for Kindergarten (around 200 had enrolled so far) and Pre-K. Wills Valley is currently piloting the program, but all schools would soon be enrolling online.

For the coming year, Wills Valley will be adding a fifth Pre-K classroom. The school received a grant for $113,000 to make the addition. "This will let us serve about 40 percent of the students that enter kindergarten, will have attended our Pre-K," said Wheat.

Shane Byrd, Principal of Fort Payne Middle School, presented a yearly report on his school. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

Next, Principal Shane Byrd, of Fort Payne Middle School. To begin his presentation, Byrd said, "I, like Ms. Wheat, would like to thank you for the opportunity to work in a place like Fort Payne City Schools. We all share the feeling of the love of our community; we wouldn't be here if we didn't. It's great to work in a place where you feel like you have support. There's high expectations, you've got to do what you are supposed to do, what you are asked to do, and you're going to get called out if you don't. But it's nice to work in a place where people support you."

Byrd then reviewed photos from the previous school year. He also reported that enrollment at the school began at 998 at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, but dropped to 990 by the end. Byrd related that he would like enrollment to hit his goal of 1000.

Principal Byrd discussed enrichment programs, such as art programs, contemporary music class, robotics, and chorus. The music class also conducted a concert for the rest of the school. The top 50 science students were allowed to take part in a class conducted by a retired science teacher on the Peregrin Falcon. FPMS students also held a boat race, in which one student used rocket power, and recorded the fastest time ever.

Students also took part in six different STEAM competitions in Huntsville, including writing computer code and hardware robotics. The 7th Grade GigaWatts team also developed their own electric powered race car to take part in the Greenpower USA Competition. Byrd said that students even figured out the proper gear ratios for the race car, and even developed custom tires.

Watch the FPMS GigaWatts Team's Race Car in Action:


Byrd also explained that the school had fully implemented the use of of iPads. Students use CommonSense media to do digital course work on the devices. When it comes to personal devices being used at the school, Detective Davis of the Fort Payne Police Department gave classes to 5th and 6th graders, as well as 7th and 8th graders on the, "in's and outs of personal responsibility, what their behavior should be like, using personal devices," said Byrd. "it's a dangerous deal to put a cell phone in a child's hand." He also said the kids completed the "Too Good for Drugs," program in cooperation with the police department. Nursing students from NACC also took part in "Kid's Check," checking all the students for Scoliosis in one day.

Principal Byrd also explained that, "We wear red, white, and blue on Wednesday. That's our routine in our school. I think we need to encourage our kids to appreciate the fact that their freedoms came with a cost. So we do this every Wednesday. We encourage our kids to wear red, white, and blue; we (the faculty) wears red, white, and blue." Byrd also said the school had a message or presentation each Wednesday, such as a war story or other patriotic story.

When it came to academics, Byrd explained that all the school's scores increased on the ACT/Aspire testing, except for the 7th grade, which had dropped since last year. He also discussed the assessment of the test for the previous year. When Cunningham asked Byrd if the school would continue using the ACT/Aspire testing, Byrd responded that they wouldn't be using it for the current year. For the upcoming year, enrollment at Fort Payne Middle School is currently at 1013.

The board then approved personnel items and additional items (listed below). For item XI, the board approved and signed a resolution (No. 2017-1) to support an initiative to raise the city's sales tax by one percent. The reasoning, mentioned in the adopted resolution was, "it would also benefit Fort Payne City School system as a portion of the increased funding would be used toward the construction of new facilities, the upgrading of current facilities, and the implementation of new programs within the Fort Payne City School system."

Superintendent Jim Cunningham said of the initiative, "I want to join with you and promising that this is something that is needed, our facilities are getting old. So we need new facilities, and we need to continue to update the facilities we have. I really applaud them for their efforts to give us what we need, and also help the City of Fort Payne with infrastructure in the city. We're all one by the way."

President Jimmy Durham said, "Of course we do have property on Valley Head Road that's setting there, that's just screaming for a new school to be built on that side. Hopefully this is our first step to having a new school facility; one that everyone can be proud of, and can definitely help our children, and our kids, and that's whats most important." The motion passed unanimously.

For the Superintendent's report, Cunningham discussed the contribution from the new Chick-Fil-A to the city school system in the form of books donated after the official opening last week. He also gave comments on Wheat and Byrd's presentation from the their respective schools. On August 1 (Tuesday) the board will hold it's institute for the employees, which will be held at the First Methodist Life Center and breakfast will be served. John Croyle will be speaking, along with Superintendent Cunningham. He also congratulated Mr. McLung and the Zero Robotics Team. Cunningham also reported the schools had received clean water reports after testing.


  • Steven Whited, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security Teacher at Fort Payne High School

Leaves of Absence: 

  • Christy Brandon, English and French Teacher, at Fort Payne High School (2017-2018 School Year)
  • Gingerly Lackey, System-Wide Special Education Teacher for a Family Medical Leave (August 9, 2017 - November 1, 2017)


  • Michael Banks from History Teacher at Fort Payne High School to Health Teacher at Fort Payne High School
  • Valerie Barnes from History Teacher at Fort Payne High School to Education and Training Teacher at Fort Payne High School
  • Austin Panell from System-wide Special Education Aide, to the following positions: Physical Education Teacher at Williams Avenue Elementary School and Head Wrestling Coach at FPHS.
  • Suzanna Orozco, from CNP Worker at Fort Payne High School to CNP Assistant Manager at Fort Payne High School.
  • Donovan Dalton, from Library Aide at Fort Payne Middle School, to System-Wide Special Education Teacher
  • Keri Garrett, from System-wide Special Education Teacher at Williams Avenue Elementary School to Reading Interventionist at Williams Avenue Elementary School.
  • Heather Burt, from Half-Time Library Aide at Williams Avenue Elementary School to Half-time Clerical Aide at Wills Valley Elementary School.
  • Mario Limon, from Junior Varsity Girls Soccer Coach to Head Varsity Boys Soccer Coach.
  • Darrell Prater, from Junior High Baseball Coach to Junior High Football Coach and Junior High Baseball Coach,.
  • Nicholas Hensley, from Half-time Bus Driver, to Full-time Bus Driver.


  • Tiffany Saint, as the Accounts Payable Bookkeeper/Receptionist, at the Central Office.
  • Teresa Hicks, as a CNP Worker at Fort Payne High School.
  • Mark Scott as System-Wide Special Education Teacher, Head Boys Golf Coach at FPHS, and Head Girls Golf Coach at FPHS
  • Paige Brown as System-Wide Special Education Teacher
  • Kyle Crabtree as History Teacher at Fort Payne High School
  • Jacen Garrett as History Teacher and Band Assistant at Fort Payne High School
  • Larry Roden as Instructor of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at Fort Payne High School
  • Makayla Drake as a Fourth Grade Teacher at Williams Avenue Elementary School
  • Carla Beal for the CNP Data Entry Position
  • Lamar Hendricks as the 9th Grade Boys Basketball Coach
  • Andrew Isbell as a Junior High Football Coach
  • Alli Justice as a Junior Varsity Girls Volleyball Coach
  • Luis Segura Hidalgo as a Junior High Math Teacher at Fort Payne Middle School
  • Approved the Extended Day Program Staff as follows:
    • Site Coordinator: Peggy Byrd
    • 3 Full-time P.M. Teacher Positions and 1 Pre-K Teacher position to be shared between the following certified teacher:
      • Renae Burt
      • Melanie Roberts
      • Karen Fleming
      • Donna Hayes
      • Tammy McKenzie 
      • Kathy Barfield 
      • Jenny Own
      • Regina Boatwright
      • Susan Carr 
    • P.M. Aides:
      • Emily Barfield
      • Leah Newman
      • Lauren Gibbs
    • P.M. Pre-K Aide:
      • Tara Stiefel
    • Extended Day Substitute:
      • Connie McPherson 

Other items addressed at the meeting: 

  • Added Teacher, CNP, and Transportation to the substitute personnel list, effective 2017-2018.
  • Approved Request for FPHS for out of state travel to Chattanooga, Ga on August 25 for the football game.
  • Approved a Board Policy on Annual Leave
  • Approved an increase in employee lunch prices from $2.70 to $2.75.
  • Approved the Fort Payne City School's Foster Students Care Plan, as submitted.
  • Approved the June 2017 financial statements and bank reconciliation report as submitted.
  • Set dates for the 2017-2018 Budget hearings which will be Monday, August 21, at 5:30 pm for the 1st Budget Hearing, and Thursday August 24, 2017 at 5:30 pm for the Final Budget Hearing.

The next meeting of the Fort Payne Board of Education will be on August 24 at 6 pm in the conference room of the Central Office. 

Watch the Full Video: