County school board rolls out new buses, announces new principals


Superintendent Shane Barnette, standing, shows board members the interior of one of the new school buses. / Heather Mann

CULLMAN – In an effort to increase student safety, the Cullman County Board of Education announced at its meeting Thursday evening that it will debut 20 new school buses equipped with outside security cameras. Last year, the state of Alabama experienced 1,752 instances of cars illegally passing school buses when the crossing arms (stop signs) were out in a single day. To help discourage and prevent drivers from doing this in the future, the new buses each have two cameras located beneath the crossing arms to catch cars that pass illegally. Additionally, all buses currently in use will be outfitted with security cameras of their own.

Along with the two outside cameras, the new buses will feature four inside cameras, easier-to-open windows, easier braking and driver seatbelts that will be more visible to police cars monitoring traffic. The buses will be replacing the 20 oldest models in use: 10 from Fairview, 8 from Hanceville and 2 from Good Hope. The retired buses were declared as surplus and will be sold by sealed bid.

The board was set to recognize the Good Hope High School InSPIRESS (Innovative System Project for the Increased Recruitment of Emerging STEM Students) teams for their achievements, but they had to move the recognition to a different meeting as neither team was present. The teams to be recognized were Team E.T. (Dillon Price, Alec Doss, Michael Moran, Jerrica Vincent, Joanna Crauswell, Breanna Holcombe and Sadie Abbott) and Team Atlantis (Madison Lowery, Jacob Smith, Angel Cortes, Cohen White, Bailey Starnes, Dulce Castellanos and Josie McDonald).

The board approved Good Hope's request for an out-of-state field trip for two of its InSPIRESS winners, Madison Lowery and Jacob Smith. The two will be traveling to Washington D.C. in July to present at NASA headquarters, continuing the school's legacy of excellence in the InSPIRESS program.

After approving the last meeting's minutes, the board approved changes in principals for three schools:

  • Amanda Victoria Johnson was promoted from assistant principal of Cold Springs Elementary to principal.
  • Tonya Cupp, previously principal of Arab City Elementary, will serve as the principal of Good Hope Primary after Janet Mattox's retirement.
  • Robin Heath Netherton, previous assistant principal at Holly Pond Middle, will replace Ferrell Runge as Vinemont High's principal after his retirement.

Next on the agenda was the approval of Kyle Chamblee to teach drivers' ed at West Point High, followed by an approval for Vinemont Middle to use school funds to pay select teachers $22 per hour to develop a comprehensive reading plan for the school over the summer. The board also approved Good Hope High's request to hire on three students to do summer work. The three will be paid minimum wage through the school's funds. All county schools were then authorized to dispose of obsolete/non-working equipment (technological and otherwise) as well as broken and non-repairable furniture for the 2017-18 school year.

The board officially moved to appoint Amanda Johnson, Tonya Cupp and Robin Netherton as probationary principals of their respective new schools, then appointed the following people as contract principals for the 2017-18 year:

  • Kim Brown – Hanceville Elementary/Vinemont Elementary
  • Tim Burleson – Cold Springs High
  • Kim Butler – Holly Pond Elementary/High
  • Chris Chambers – Child Development Center
  • Jimmy Collins – Hanceville High
  • Alan Dunkling – Good Hope Middle
  • Clark Farley – West Point Middle
  • Chris Gambrill – Parkside/Fairview High
  • Chuck Gambrill – Holly Pond Elementary/Middle
  • Marty Hardman – Fairview Elementary
  • John Hood – Good Hope High
  • Tony Johnson – Parkside/Vinemont Elementary/Hanceville Elementary
  • Michael Jones – West Point Intermediate
  • Susan Melton – Garden City/Good Hope Elementary
  • Richard Orr – Parkside
  • Cyndi Roden – Hanceville Middle
  • Karen Sparks – Holly Pond Elementary
  • Vicky Spear – Vinemont Middle
  • Kevin Sullins – Harmony
  • Billy Troutman – CATA
  • Trina Walker – Fairview Middle
  • Gina Webb – Welti
  • Angie Yarbrough – West Point Elementary
  • Heith Yearwood – West Point High

Two new school policies were put in place to help students in the coming years. The Jason Flatt Act aims to help schools recognize and act on suicidal risks, as well as recognize and prevent the harassment and violence that may contribute to teenage suicide. The next policy stated that "the Board does not discriminate against students or their parents or guardians on the basis of their religious viewpoints or their expression of such viewpoint." The policy will ensure that students will be neither penalized nor rewarded for their religious expression, and that they may pray and participate in religious activities before, during and after school so long as they don't violate any rights established by the State of Alabama or the U.S. Constitution.

The board approved the April bills, salaries and financial statements, then approved the maintenance department's bids for Vinemont High's electrical upgrades and Hanceville Middle's re-roofing, renovation and electrical needs. Also approved was a contract renewal for Jake Marshall Service, Inc. and a request of easement for a Cold Springs driveway.

A request came from the transportation department to provide buses for the Friends of FCA group, which the board approved. The group will take five buses to different venues around Cullman city from July 10-14 and will provide the drivers' pay and bus fuel. The board then approved several insurance IDs.

Following much confusion during months leading up to this year's graduation, the graduation dates for the Class of 2018 were moved a week back from May 19 & 20 to May 26 & 27, pending approval from Wallace State Community College. The decision came from several schools reporting trouble trying to calculate valedictorian and salutatorian GPAs in time to prepare for graduation.

Before adjourning, Superintendent Shane Barnette delivered his report: the additional safety cameras for all existing school buses have been purchased, there will be a Business and Industry Appreciation Reception on Thursday, June 29, from 2-4:00 p.m., he thanked all board members that attended the AASB Summer Conference, and August 1 will be Institution Day at Wallace State starting at 8:30 a.m.

The next Cullman County Board of Education meeting will be Thursday, July 13, at 6 p.m. with a work session at 5:30 in the central office board room.

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