LAFAYETTE – “At the conclusion of a recent city council meeting, Valley Mayor Leonard Riley made a series of comments regarding the current administrative leadership of the Chambers County School District. In all fairness, I felt it was my responsibility to reply by simply comparing the facts of his prior administration as school superintendent to where we stand today,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge.
“For example, Mayor Riley asserted that ‘there were some very serious discipline problems at both W. F. Burns and Valley High.’ Discipline has always been a challenge in these particular grade levels. However, during the 2010-2011 school year, when Mr. Riley was superintendent, Valley High School alone had 28 documented cases of fighting, followed by 24 cases the succeeding year.”
“During the past four years, we have averaged a total of 18 documented fight cases and never more than 19 in a single year at Valley High, the largest campus in our district. Therefore, comparing apples to apples, we have clearly seen a decline in the frequency of more serious disciplinary issues at our middle and high schools. Furthermore, we have hired additional School Resource Officers, nurses, and an attendance officer. “
“Mayor Riley also made the comment 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.’ Having served in the role of superintendent himself, Mr. Riley knows better than most people how federal funding for individual schools is impacted by student enrollment, the free and reduced lunch percentage at each school, the percentage of low income students and those considered at risk. It is not a local administrative decision as Mr. Riley has implied. But, once again, let’s examine the comparative facts regarding how funds were allocated during his administration.”
“Between 2011 and 2012, the highest per-pupil spending was at Five Points School, J. P. Powell Middle School, Bob Harding-Shawmut Elementary and LaFayette High School. When we look at the 2017-2018 school year, which is the period of time cited by Mayor Riley in his comments, these were the exact same schools where per-pupil spending was highest.”
“We also see identical statistics reflected in the 2018-2019 school year, and by the same token, all schools raking lowest in per-pupil spending have remained unchanged. Therefore, when you examine the facts, there is virtually no difference in the way per-pupil spending was allocated between Mr. Riley’s administration and what is being done today. As long as our current demographic data stays the same, schools located in the city of Valley will always rank lowest in per-pupil spending because, again, these funds are disbursed according to specific federal requirements. I might add, however, that schools in Valley are presently receiving more funding today than they did when Mr. Riley was superintendent.”
“The Mayor further alleged that ‘two girls were put off a softball team because they didn’t meet their (fundraising) goal.’ This statement is just frankly not true, and I will specifically address the issue of athletics in our district at a later time.”
“I am, in no way, insinuating that our school system is above the need for improvement. It is what I strive for on a daily basis, and will continue to do so as long as I hold this office. It is a challenge like none I have ever faced before, but one that I take very seriously with the best interests of our students being my primary concern.”
“Mayor Riley’s intentional distortion of the facts does none of us any good. It only sows more seeds of contentious division in our community during a time when we should be pooling our resources toward a common goal in a factual and concise manner.”
“In closing, I want to express my sincere appreciation for all the hard work and dedication exhibited by our teachers, administrators, and support staff toward the education of our children. With their help, our schools are safer and have a higher degree of technology available to them now than ever before. Unfortunately, their exemplary efforts have been lost in the negative banter displayed through social media and other sources,” Hodge concluded.