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May 24, 2015
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Fletcher Carr completes 57 years as bus driver with no accidents
Fletcher Carr completes 57 years as bus driver with no accidents

LaFayette High Band Director Leon Banks (at left) congratulates Fletcher Carr (right) upon his retirement as a bus driver for the Chambers County School System and thanks him for an extraordinary job in keeping kids safe on the road for a long period of time. Carr drove school buses for 57 years without an accident. Thursday was his final day of transporting kids to and from school. He said that he would like to keep his commercial driver's license (CDL) active and to be a substitute driver for the system when needed. "He's been a big part of our band program," Banks said. "When he took us on an out-of-town trip, he would always make sure everyone was on the bus before leaving." (Photo by Wayne Clark)


LaFAYETTE — Fletcher Carr made his final run as a Chambers County school bus driver Thursday afternoon, but he's not yet ready to put away that commercial driver's license (CDL) and never get behind the wheel of a bus again.

He told The Times-News before making that last run that he'd like to stay on as a substitute driver in the event the system ever needed him to fill in for a regular driver who couldn't make their run for some reason.

That's the kind of dependable person Mr. Carr has always been. He's driven a school bus in Chambers County for 57 years now, he's 82 years of age and wants school officials to know he'll still be ready to help out if he's ever needed.

In all those years he's been on the road transporting school children to and from school and the LaFayette High band to out of town games, he never had a single accident. That's one life accomplishment he's most proud of. Some others? "I've never been in jail for any reason and I never smoked or drank," he said.

Mount Zion Baptist Church in LaFayette is at the core of his life. "I've been there as long as I can remember," he said. "The only way I'll ever leave the church is when the Lord is taking me home."

Mr. Carr plans to stay active. "The worst thing you can do in retirement is to sit around and do nothing. People who do that don't live very long," he said.

He loves to go fishing, especially at Chambers County Lake and at the LaFayette city lake. He also likes to take care of chores around the house, such as getting out in the yard and cutting the grass. He plans to keep doing that, and if called on by the school system to fill in for a driver, to do that, too.

Carr has been driving a school bus since 1958. Harvey Henderson was over the bus shop at that time. He said that people at the shop and fellow bus drivers have always been good to him and that he appreciates that. He admits to having a hard time keeping up with the many students he's driven over the years. "There have been so many I can't keep up with them," he says.

It's believed that he's driven four generations of the same families in his time behind the wheel. One thing's always been the same, from the late 1950s to 2015, those who've ridden with him develop a genuine affection for him. He's been a father figure for youngsters for seven decades now.

"I can't say I've ever had any trouble out of the kids," he says. "They know the rules they're supposed to follow on the bus, and they've always been good about doing that."

One of the hardest things he's had to do was to tell the students who rode with him this year that he was retiring. "They want me to stay," he said. "They don't want me to hang it up, but it's time to do that. I'm 82 now."

"The Lord has been good to me," he says, "and I've enjoyed working for the Chambers County system. I wouldn't take anything for the people I've known at the bus shop. They were always nice to me."

Mr. Carr said it's been gratifying to see the improvements that have taken place in the buses over the years. "It used to be hard to change gears," he said. "You don't have to do that with these new buses. They are so much easier to drive."

Band Director Leon Banks says that Mr. Carr is one of the most conscientious people he's ever been around. "He's a big part of the success of our program," he says. "He was always our main driver when we took trips. He never left anyone by mistake. He was always very careful to make sure all the kids were on the bus before he'd leave."

The band was always like family to Mr. Carr. His four children, daughters Wylene, Jane and Marsha and son Donald came through the program.

While Mr. Carr observed his 57th anniversary of driving a bus this year, it's not the most important 57th anniversary he's celebrated. He and wife Mary have been married that long. That's the kind of milestone a good husband doesn't forget.

If there's one rule Mr. Carr recommends for all other bus drivers it's this: always put the safety of the children first. Their lives are in your hands when you are out on the road driving them. Make sure you get them home safely each and every day. Mr. Carr kept his perfect record intact on Thursday.

Batson-Cook celebrates 100th anniversary helping WPPD
Batson-Cook celebrates 100th anniversary helping WPPD


WEST POINT — As part of their celebration of 100 years in West Point, about 40 volunteers from Batson-Cook Co. converged at the former Knology building on West Ninth Street Thursday at noon to begin a community service project for the West Point Police Department.

Batson-Cook project executive Paul Meadows said employees from the local office are performing demolition work, framing new walls and helping to renovate the building that will become the new police department headquarters.

"This is our way of giving back to the community that has been so good to us for the past 100 years. We are proud of our heritage in West Point and look forward to the city's continued growth," Meadows said.

Batson-Cook opened for business at the same location it now occupies in 1915 as a hardware store, and later expanded into the construction field. The company also has offices in Atlanta, Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla.

The renovation of the old Knology building is expected to be completed later this year, and Police Chief Tony Bailey said the new facility will provide his department with much needed space and room for expansion.

"We will be able to utilize this building for current and future law enforcement functions that wouldn't have been possible at the present location, providing citizens better service," said Bailey.

Also attending Thursday's event were Batson-Cook President & CEO Randy Hall and Vice President/General Manager Joe Appleton Sr.

Superintendent Hodge gets top marks in performance review
Superintendent Hodge gets top marks in performance review


LaFAYETTE — Chambers County Superintendent of Education Dr. Kelli Hodge is held in high regard by board members, central office staff, teachers and administrators in the system. That's something that's clearly borne out in a recently completed superintendent's review.

Such a review is required by the state according to a set schedule. Dr. Hodge's review came up this year and was done by Applied Performance Research, Ozark, Ala. Dr. Ronnie Jackson was at Wednesday afternoon's monthly board meeting to discuss the results.

Dr. Jackson has been doing these reviews for Applied Performance Research for more than 10 years. "We've never had scores as high as these on any survey," he said. "Obviously, her administration and her board think very highly of her."

The survey asks a range of questions with respondents being asked to score the superintendent on a four-point scale with a score of four being excellent, three very good, two for some improvement needed and one immediate improvement needed.

Dr. Jackson said that Dr. Hodge had been given an amazing number of fours across the board. Most surveys, including those for a superintendent who has been with a system for a good while and is well thought of, tend to break down to scores of 2.9 to 3.2 for most categories. Dr. Hodge was consistently rated from 3.7 to 4.0 in almost every category measured. Overall, she scored 98.8 percent.

"I've been in this business a long time, and this kind of scoring is unheard of," Dr. Jackson said, comparing it to "walking on water without stumps."

"You're going to keep this a secret aren't you?" Board Member Alane Duncan kiddingly asked. "We don't want other systems to know this."

In terms of knowledge and skills, Dr. Hodge consistently scored from 3.8 to 4.0. On laws and practices, every single member of the board gave her a 4.

"Seventy-one percent of the answers were fours," Dr. Jackson said. "That's pretty strong. When you see scores like this it reflects a good working relationship with the board."

Dr. Jackson added that Dr. Hodge had done extremely well in the structured interview she'd given. "It was very good and on point," he said. "She had supporting materials for the responses she gave. Her responses were good to all the questions we asked."

"I have never presented a report where the numbers were skewed this high," Dr. Jackson said. "It was a very thorough and a very good review."

There were two questions, both involving collaboration, that pulled the overall scores down slightly. "She's already addressed that in a professional development plan," Dr. Jackson said. "She's very good in terms of organization and planning. The administration scored her a 3.9 in that, and the board scored her at 3.7. In her understanding of federal laws, the board gave her a 4 and the administration a 3.9. In problem solving, the administration rated her a 4 and the board a 3.7. In terms of innovation, both the board and administration scored her at 3.8. In technology management, she was rated 3.8 and 3.6 by the board and administration."

Dr. Hodge was scored at 3.9 on fiscal responsibility, 3.7 and 3.9 in living up to professional responsibilities, 3.9 and 3.8 in leadership of human resources.

"Collaboration is the one area she can improve in, and she is taking that head on," Dr. Jackson said. "She has a way to address it and a timeline to do it in."

"We're very proud of our system and our superintendent," Board President Bill Martin said.

"I think she deserves a round of applause," Board Member Judy LaFollette said, leading the board in doing that.

In business at the Wednesday session, Dr. Hodge said that the work being done by Schneider Electric on the systemwide energy upgrades was dwindling down. The current net fund equity figure of approximately $7.1 million is down only around $200,000 from where it was this time last year. "Considering that we added some local positions this time last year (taking up the slack from falling state funding), we're holding up pretty well," Dr. Hodge said.

One area where the school system could use some help involves substitute bus drivers. "We run short of them all the time," she said. "We'd love to have more people with CDLs (commercial driver's licenses) coming to a training session we will have."

Anyone interested can contract Transportation Superintendent Mike Frazier at the county bus shop.

The board backed Dr. Hodge's recommendation to ask the Chambers County Commission to pass a sales tax holiday for the first full weekend in August. This has been done in many cities and counties in Alabama since 2006 and gives families with school age children a break in buying back-to-school items.

The board awarded a contract to low bidder Lofton Fire & Safety for an annual fire extinguisher servicing contract. Its offer to do this for $2,475 was the lowest figure submitted by six competing firms.

No bids were received to provide sprinkler system service. This will have to be re-bid.

Mobile Fixtures and Equipment got the contract to replace a hot food counter at Huguley Elementary School. This will replace some outdated equipment at a cost of $10,430.32. Mobile Fixtures also got the contract to replace a serving line with milk cooler for Fairfax Elementary. This will cost $30,152.53.

Bresco was the low bidder for a new serving line for Valley High. This will cost $61,966.

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Troup's Tyler Bunn inks baseball scholarship with ABAC
Troup's Tyler Bunn inks baseball scholarship with ABAC

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

LaGRANGE — Troup senior baseball standout Tyler Bunn will take his talents to South Georgia next spring after the Tigers stellar outfielder this week signed a baseball scholarship with Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) in Tifton, Ga.

A four-year player for coach Craig Garner, Bunn had an outstanding career for the Tigers in all phases of the game.

He posted one of the highest batting averages on the team, had good speed on the base paths and was one of the best on the team and in GHSA 4A-Region 5 play defensively with an array of assists from his outfield spots.

He was versatile and Garner could count on him for error-free ball in both left and rightfield.

Bunn also saw action on the mound and was clearly one of the most well-rounded players on the team.

He played a big role in Troup posting 17 playoff wins over his career, including a GHSA state-best 14-4 road mark.

Bunn smashed a grand slam against Handley earlier this season and his sensational, diving catch against Sandy Creek preserved a no-hitter for teammate in righthander Bo Halcomb.

Tyler is expected to play a key role next spring at ABAC.

Lanett Recreation track program has successful season
Lanett Recreation track program has successful season

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

LANETT — Now in its fifth season of competition, the Lanett Recreation Department’s youth track and field program just wrapped up another successful season, Ronnie Tucker, Lanett Recreation Director, told The Times-News this morning.

“We’ve had a track and field program for the last five years and actually had 46 kids the first year we had signups,” Tucker noted. “We had 15 youngsters come out for the program this spring and did well. We hope to have more kids in the program next year as well,” added Tucker.

This is also the first year Lanett track and field has competed in the Alabama Recreation & Parks Association (ARPA) meets, Tucker noted.

The 15-member squad competed at the district held in Opelika two weeks ago and had two youngsters qualify to compete in Lincoln last week at the ARPA state championships, Tucker said.

London Roberts led Lanett with an outstanding fourth-place finish in the 50-yard dash at the state meet to highlight local performances.

•For additional information about the program, contact: Tucker at (334) 644-4316.

Carissa Harper to play for CVCC Lady Pirates
Carissa Harper to play for CVCC Lady Pirates

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

VALLEY — Valley Lady Rams basketball standout Carissa Harper will be joining good company and friends next year at Chattahoochee Valley Community College.

Harper signed a national letter-of-intent (grant-in-aid basketball scholarship) Monday to play her college basketball for the CVCC Lady Pirates.

Carissa is the third Lady Ram to sign with CVCC in the last two weeks.

Valley High standouts Breyunna Bussey and Diamond Walker also recently signed with CVCC to give the Lady Rams three players at one institution.

Having three players sign from the same class and school at an established college program, in a high profile sport, is indeed a rare item.

The Harper, Bussey and Walker trio combined to help Valley High become one of the premiere and most successful girls basketball programs in all of AHSAA under the direction of coach George Grimes.

“Breyunna, Carissa and Diamond were a part of the great turnaround for Lady Rams basketball,” Grimes said. “They’ve left a great mark for future Lady Rams to live up to. All three should have a great chance of playing early at CVCC,” noted Grimes.

The trio is part of what has been an amazing streak of consistent success for the Lady Rams program.

With Harper, Bussey and Walker, Valley has had eight student-athletes sign scholarships in the last three years.

“Breyunna has a very good offensive game and is an outstanding rebounder on both ends. Diamond plays with a lot of energy on both ends, is a good defender and a driver on offense. Carissa has a big presence in the middle of any defense, but also can be a threat on the inside on offense,” Grimes says.

Valley rang up a four-year mark of 89-21 with one state runner-up finish, a pair of Final Four appearances, two regional crowns, four straight regionals, four straight area tourney titles and three area regular season crowns in the last four years.

The eight Valley High players on scholarship include: Ceira Lovejoy, Cadesia Avery, Brianna Davidson, Tatyana Darden, Audrianna Walker, Harper, Walker and Bussey.

Valley’s “Elite Eight” playing college basketball speaks volumes about the type of program Grimes and his staff have built at Valley High.


Obituaries for Friday, May 22, 2015
Obituaries for Friday, May 22, 2015


LANETT — Mr. Kelvin L. Barrow, 44, of Lanett passed away Friday, May 15, 2015, at his residence.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, May 23 at 1 p.m. at Mt. Hermon Baptist Church Family Life Center in Lanett with the Rev. Louis Upshaw, pastor, officiating and Dr. Bertha Hodge, eulogist. Burial will follow at Liberty Cemetery in LaFayette.

Silmon-Seroyer Funeral Home in LaFayette is in charge of arrangements.


LANETT — Mrs. Thelma Darden of Lanett died Thursday, May 21, 2015, at LaGrange Hospice in LaGrange, Ga.

Funeral services and survivors will be announced by Davis Memorial Mortuary of Valley.


DETROIT, Mich. — Mr. Leophus Gunn, 68, of Detroit passed away Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Detroit.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, May 23 at noon CDT at Rehope Baptist Church in LaFayette with the Rev. H.L. Hines, pastor, officiating. Burial will follow at the church cemetery.

Silmon-Seroyer Funeral Home in LaFayette is in charge of arrangements.


VALLEY — Mrs. Pat Ingram, 70, of Valley, died Wednesday, May 13, 2015, at EAMC-Lanier Hospital in Valley.

Memorial services will be held Monday, May 25 at 2 p.m. at Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home Chapel in Valley. Burial will follow at Johnson Memorial Gardens.

Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley is in charge of arrangements.


WEST POINT — Mrs. Betty Jean Patillo Jones, 57, of West Point died Wednesday, May 20, 2015, at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, Tenn.

Memorial services will be held Sunday, May 24 at 3 p.m. at Keeney Memorial United Methodist Church with the Rev. Ralph Thompson, pastor, the Rev. Michael Slaughter and the Rev. Carl Barber, officiating.

M.W. Lee Mortuary of West Point is in charge of arrangements.


LaGRANGE — Mr. Willie James Ogletree, 67, passed away Saturday, May 16, 2015, at his home.

The celebration of life service will be held Saturday, May 23 at 1 p.m. at Bethany Baptist Church, Pine Mountain, with the Rev. Ervin Smith officiating. Burial will follow at the church cemetery.

Lakes-Dunson-Robertson Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


SALEM — Mrs. Dorothy “Dot” Mae Jones Ridgeway, 76, of Salem died Thursday, May 14, 2015, at her residence.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, May 23 at 1 p.m. at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Valley with the Rev. R.L. Carter, the Rev. Roger Walker, the Rev. Joe McGhee and the Rev. Tony Longshore officiating. Burial will follow at Marseilles Cemetery in West Point.

M.W. Lee Mortuary of West Point is in charge of arrangements.


LaFAYETTE — Mrs. Frances Warren Rhoads, 85, of LaFayette, former resident of Lanett, died Wednesday, May 20, 2015, at LaFayette Extended Care in LaFayette.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, May 23 at 11 a.m. at Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home Chapel in Valley. Burial will follow at Waverly Cemetery at 1 p.m. EDT.

Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley is in charge of arrangements.


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