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Gov. Ivey Issues Moratorium on Early Paroles

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday placed a 75-day moratorium on early paroles, and replaced the parole board chairman.

The governor's moves follow concerns that the state parole board had freed violent offenders.

Ivey announced the action in a news conference with Attorney General Steve Marshall after the two had met with parole board members.

The order signed by Ivey directs the board to stop considering inmates for parole before they complete a designated amount of their sentence. She also asked the board to develop a corrective action plan. The governor also shuffled which board member will serve as chairman. Lyn Head will serve as chair, replacing Cliff Walker.

"There will be no more early parole during this period," Ivey said. "It's obvious we need a new approach so we can strengthen management and operations of that agency to better protect the people and public safety."

A spokesman for the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles said there was no immediate response to the criticisms from the two statewide office holders.

The two actions come after prosecutors and victim advocates expressed alarm over who was being released from prison and the adequacy of parole supervision once an inmate is released. A man charged in the July murders of a 7-year-old boy, his great grandmother and another woman in Guntersville had been released from prison in January after being granted parole.

"When I talk to prosecutors what they are saying is they are seeing more of those violent offenders showing up," Marshall said.

WSFA had reported about concerns about the number of inmates being considered for early parole.

Parole board rules said inmates convicted of serious crimes such as rape will get initial consideration for parole after they serve 85 percent of their sentence or at least 15 years, whichever is less. However, board members can also take into account mitigating circumstances and also expedite consideration to respond to a crisis.

The parole board issued a statement to WSFA earlier this month disputing an increase in early paroles or any change in procedure.

"The agency's position is we do not have data showing a dramatic increase in violent inmates being considered for parole prior to their original set date. If such data exists from another entity, we would be happy to analyze their numbers," the agency statement read.

Sen. Cam Ward, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers might consider trying to take away some of board members' discretion in deciding who gets released.

"There's no question there is a problem," Ward, a Republican from Alabaster, said. "I think there are violent offenders who are being considered for parole way too early."

 

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TIS Recreating Historic Thompson Farmhouse

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – When Thompson Intermediate School teacher Amber Broadhead and the school’s student committee began brainstorming ideas for the school’s Alabama Bicentennial project, they didn’t have to look further than the name on the school building.

Earlier this year, TIS submitted a community project idea to the Alabama Bicentennial Commission in an attempt to be named an “Official Alabama Bicentennial School” and receive a $2,000 grant to implement their project.

In May, TIS was one if multiple local schools to be named to the list and receive the state grants. Now, Broadhead and her students are getting to work.

“The kids are so passionate about this project,” Broadhead said. “We wanted to do something that would involve the community as well as the school.”

Through their project, the students will be working to construct an outdoor classroom at the current Thompson Middle School – where TIS will move after renovations are completed to the city’s school buildings over the next several months – recreating the look of the since-demolished Thomas Carlyle Thompson farmhouse in Siluria.

In the early 20th century, Thompson donated the land to house Alabaster’s schools, and his family’s name has been attached to the schools ever since.

“Really, the only thing we have now is the picture of Thomas Carlyle Thompson hanging in City Hall. There isn’t much commemorating how important he was to the city’s history,” Broadhead said. “This project is devoted to allowing the students to learn more about their own community and the history of Alabama.”

Per the guidelines of the grant, the students will work over the next several months to complete the outdoor classroom and have it ready for use by May 2019. Broadhead said the outdoor classroom will also be accessible to the community after it opens.

On the morning of Sept. 19, several students on the TIS student committee and their teachers met with state Sen. Cam Ward, state Reps. April Weaver and Matt Fridy and Alabama Bicentennial Ambassador Bobby Joe Seales and his wife Diane to celebrate the school’s inclusion as a Bicentennial School.

The TIS bicentennial-themed float will also follow directly behind Seales’ grand marshal car in the Alabaster homecoming parade on Oct. 10.

“Thank you all so much for your support,” Broadhead told the group after it took a photo under the school’s “We are an official Bicentennial school” banner. “The kids are very familiar with the Alabama Bicentennial and how important it is to our school.”

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CAWACO Awards Grant to Minooka Trails Project

By The Clanton Advertiser

 


Minooka Park in Jemison is scheduled to undergo expansion after receiving a Recreational Trails Program grant.

The Cawaco Resource, Conservation and Development Council presented a $10,000 grant to the Chilton County Parks and Recreation Board, which was used to match a $150,000 Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs grant and a $27,400 grant from the Chilton County Commission to help cover the estimated cost of the project, according to a Cawaco press release.

“Cawaco is leaving its mark on both of our parks,” Parks and Recreation director Gerald Arrington said. “They’ve really been good to us.”

Cawaco RC&D is an organization that supports educational and community development projects in Central Alabama.

“It takes a big team to get something like that to happen,” said Drayton Cosby with Cawaco.

Commissioners Steve Langston, Jimmie Hardee and Joe Headley were joined by Sen. Cam Ward, Rep. Jimmy Martin, Rep. April Weaver and members of the Chilton County Extension Office during the Cawaco grant presentation on Aug. 29.

According to Arrington, 83 acres has been purchased and will be home to several trails, including the possibility of a more suited beginner loop.

The park’s current beginner loop is only one mile long.

“It’s a hidden jewel out here,” Ward said about the park.

The goal for the new section of trails is to be wider and more conducive for riding side-by-side ATVs. “We’re looking forward to bringing in new riders,” Arrington said.

Arrington hopes to have the project completed by next spring. The additional land puts the park at roughly 450 total acres.

“It is a tremendous asset for the county,” Martin said

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Thank You to Alabama's Teachers

My oldest daughter just turned sixteen. She’s driving, and as a dad, it’s a thrilling, but scary moment in life — this week, she started the tenth grade, and the reality is that during the school year, she spends nearly as much time at school as she does around home. For young people like my daughter, those hours at school are shaped primarily by their fellow students and their teachers.

If everything turns out right, a young person will enter Alabama’s schools around the age of five or six, and by the time they graduate at seventeen or eighteen, they will have a solid grasp of the fundamentals of mathematics, history, American and English literature, biology, and chemistry, among other subjects. We entrust teachers with the awesome responsibility of educating our young people about the basic structure of the universe - to understand and reason through, for instance, the process of photosynthesis – so that they can think analytically when confronted with any type of problem. That’s an incredible responsibility; and to teach such important knowledge to students who, well, haven’t yet achieved full impulse control, is no small task.

We trust our teachers to impart knowledge and facts, but we also expect our teachers to model virtuous behavior before our young people, because knowledge isn’t the same thing as wisdom, and we want our kids to become responsible adults. The best teachers can not only clearly communicate lessons on the history of the Civil Rights movement, but can also talk about, and model in person, the virtues of courage and perseverance that animated heroes like Rosa Parks.

Facts are stubborn things, as the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, and what she meant by that is that the world is governed by certain unalterable truths, including, for instance, the truth that a free market economy lifts more people out of poverty than socialism does. Teachers turn this knowledge into wisdom by showing students the link between effort and reward: the harder you work, the better grades you will get, and the harder you work once you graduate, the more opportunities you will have in the workplace.

Great teachers impart knowledge, model wisdom, and often they do so at a great cost to themselves: growing up, the best teachers I had were the ones who were willing to stay a few minutes after class to answer my fifteenth question how to solve a quadratic equation. Many teachers often sacrifice time and effort beyond what’s required — the clock often begins before eight, rarely stops at five, and every hour in-between is dedicated to their craft.

As a state senator, I am committed to ensuring that our schools are well-funded and that our teachers are competitively paid. Nothing is more important to the future of Alabama than supporting education policies that work — and as in business or sports, personnel is policy. I am grateful to the great teachers we have, and I promise to always have your back in Montgomery. Thanks for all that you do — the impact that you have on my daughter and thousands of other students is life-changing.

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Helena Receives $8,000 Grant for Park

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

HELENA–Joe Tucker Park will see some improvements to the boundless playground equipment, thanks to a grant that was approved at the Monday, July 9 Helena City Council Meeting.

The Community Development Fund Grant comes to Helena in the amount of $8,000 from the Alabama Association of Resource Conservation and Development. The grant was discovered by State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster while serving on the appropriations committee. Ward felt that the city of Helena could put the grant to use and called Helena Mayor Mark Hall to see if there was a need.

“I was told there was a grant for the area but nobody had asked for it so I asked for it,” Ward said at the July 9 Helena City Council Meeting. “The Resource Conservation and Development delivers grants and when we have a little extra money for projects we want to put those to use. The mayor and I talked and $8,000 later we’ve got some money to improve Joe Tucker Park.”

The city of Helena knew that several of the boundless playground equipment would need to be replaced at Joe Tucker Park totaling close to $10,000 and the grant will help fill that need.

“We were trying to find a way to replace the equipment but Cam called and said, ‘Hey I’ve got you a grant that you could probably qualify for if you have something in your department that needs to be fixed,’” Hall said. “I said ‘Oh wow this is a Godsend’ so as usual Cam came through for us and got us the grant that will help us tremendously. We just want to thank you for coming through at a time when we need it most.”

In other business, the Helena Council approved Resolution 07092018 with the Shelby County Highway Department for a caution light service agreement at Shelby County 91 at Hillsboro Parkway, approved funds for the 2018 10U Helena Rage All-Star Team for competing in the 2018 All-Star World Series in Gulf Shores and approved changes to member of the Helena Historical Preservation Committee.

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Shelby Legislators Honor "Doc" Mahan

ALABASTER – On May 8, Dr. Stanley Michael “Doc” Mahan was honored for his lifetime of service and commitment to the community of Brierfield, Montevallo and the surrounding areas by having a bridge near Montevallo named in his honor.

Mahan’s family settled in the Brierfield area off of Highway 139 more than 200 years ago. Mahan founded his dentistry, located along Highway 139 above Mahan Creek, in 1966. He spent the last 50 years serving the community as a dentist before retiring to his current home at Shelby Ridge in Alabaster.

On May 8, Dr. Mahan was honored by state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and state Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, at a ceremony at Shelby Ridge with commemorative plaques signed by Gov. Kay Ivey naming the bridge that runs above Mahan Creek on Highway 139 the Mike “Doc” Mahan Bridge.

A teary Dr. Mahan accepted his awards in front of his family, his dental staff and the staff at Shelby Ridge who currently care for him. He reminisced about his time serving the community in many different capacities and thanked his wife, Linda, for all her support throughout the years.

Dr. Mahan received his undergraduate degrees from Auburn University and the University of Montevallo before pursuing his DMD at the University of Alabama, where he graduated in 1966. In addition to his dental practice, he has also served as adjunct faculty at the University of Alabama and the University of Montevallo. He has also served in many different dentistry honor societies, local fire departments and been a faithful member of the Montevallo First United Methodist Church.

“Dr. Mahan has been an instrumental part of the fabric of Shelby County’s history,” Administrator Roderick Watkins at Shelby Ridge said. “We are happy to be just a small part of honoring his legacy today.”

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Let's Unlock Second Chances in Alabama

By State Senator Cam Ward

No one makes it through life without regrets. The split-second decision we wish we could take back, the risk we never should have taken, the people we failed to prioritize—these are the moments that open our eyes to our need for a fresh start. Unfortunately, not everyone gets a second chance. Right now, there are 22,401 adults in Alabama’s prison system. Ninety percent or more of these men and women will be released after paying their debt to society. When they are, they will find second chances hard to come by. This is not only an issue in Alabama. It is estimated that 65 million Americans—or one in four adults—have a criminal record. Everyone makes mistakes in life, so each of us deserves a second chance. That’s why our legislature resolved that April would be Second Chance Month in Alabama. This resolution is another step in the effort to reform our prison system. It’s time for our state to begin removing unnecessary barriers for people who have paid for their crimes. The Council of State Governments has found that returning citizens face more than 48,000 legal barriers to housing, education, employment, and more. Shouldn’t we want people to get a job and become law abiding taxpaying citizens? Preventing former inmates from getting a job just doesn’t make sense. Then there’s the long shadow of a criminal record. Men and women who have a criminal record face social stigma from others in their communities, and the shame associated with spending time in prison. They have a difficult time finding a place to live, getting a driver’s license, or insuring a vehicle. Many businesses write off an applicant with criminal background regardless of whether they have paid their debt and done everything that has been asked of them. Christians believe in loving their neighbors by treating them the way we would wish to be treated ourselves. If you faced rebuilding a life, including your career and relationships, you would want someone to offer you a second chance—not because they pity you, but because they value you as a fellow person. Jesus didn’t turn anyone away, no matter what bad decisions they had made in the past. We can learn from that lesson. It’s harder to extend love and chances to people when they have fallen, but the reality is we have all fallen in different ways. Alabama is ready to start unlocking second chances for people with a criminal record, because our state’s citizens understand the costs of a high recidivism rate. If we truly want to lower our recidivism and crime rates, let’s give people a fair opportunity to get back on their feet. It’s much cheaper to help someone find a job than to reincarcerate them. Remember, the vast majority of incarcerated men and women in our state will be released. Unlocking second chances saves taxpayers money and reduces the recidivism rate by keeping men and women out of prison, stimulates the economy by getting former prisoners back to work, and develops safer, flourishing communities. Let’s build a culture of second chances in Alabama that reflects the God-given dignity and potential of all individuals. Cam Ward, a Republican, represents the 14th District in the Alabama State Senate.

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CWACO Announces Jemison Park Grant

Clanton Advertiser

It has been about a year since the Cawaco Resource Conservation and Development Council awarded Jemison City Park with a grant to fund park improvements, and on April 11, Cawaco RC&D and its supporters returned to survey the impact.

Cawaco RC&D supports education and community development projects across Central Alabama.

“We appreciate the money, and have done the best we could with it,” Commissioner Steve Langson said.

Present for the announcement were Senator Cam Ward, Representatives Jimmy Martin and April Weaver, Programs Manager Patti Pennington, Langston and City Administrator Shannon Welch.

Since the park received the $5,000 check, it has added a portable softball fence, replaced the wood in the ballpark dugout and bleachers and upgraded the press box, according to Langston.

“Then we put some stuff in the park down under the trees, just for a little bit of [aesthetic] purposes,” he said.

“Y’all took a little money and went a long way with it,” Drayton Cosby of Cawaco RC&D said.

Langston said the portable softball fence has had the greatest impact.

“It gives the kids a place to play ball,” he said. “This really, really helps the young ladies in this area.”

The park would like to steadily upgrade, according to Langston

“If possible, we would like to upgrade our fencing because [of] the age,” Langston said. “We would like to do some stuff to the pavilion area, and just make it nicer.”

Pennington advised the park to select priority projects and the determined the steps needed to complete them, “and give us a step of that.”

“Our grant cycle is still open, and parks and recreation is still one of our top priorities,” she said.

For more information about Cawaco RC&D, visit cawaco.org.

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Jemison Intermediate Receives Grant for Chromebooks

Clanton Advertiser

By CAROLINE CARMICHAEL / Staff Writer

Jemison Intermediate sixth graders have been enjoying new Chromebooks, thanks to a $2,910 grant awarded to science teacher Katie Maddox.

The grant was funded by the Cawaco Resource, Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, which is a nonprofit organization that supports educational and community development projects throughout Central Alabama.


The Council, together with Senator Cam Ward and Representatives Jimmy Martin and April Weaver, presented an announcement check to Maddox on April 11 at the school.

“On behalf of RC&D, we certainly are proud to be a part of it,” Drayton Cosby of Cawaco RC&D said. “I actually wanted to thank our partners — Senator Ward, Representative Weaver, Representative Martin — they actually provide us funding through the state.”

Maddox shared the impact the grant has had on her classroom.

“I purchased 10 HP Chromebooks for my personal use in the classroom,” Maddox said. “Two years ago, whenever I began writing the grant, we only had two computer carts for our school that all the teachers were having to share.”

Maddox said she had hoped to supply to her classroom with enough Chromebooks for students to share in groups of two or three.

Much has changed since then, and school technology upgrades now offer a Chromebook-student ratio of almost 1 to 1, according to Maddox and Principal D.J. Nix.

Maddox said she uses the Chromebooks in her classroom on a daily basis to regularly access Google Classroom, AMSTI learning programs and other research programs.

“Those are the ones that I personally use in my room,” she said. “One thing that is really great for our school, [is] we have a very large ESL population.”

Maddox said companies that offer digital textbooks can better accommodate Spanish-speaking students with simplified scientific terms and translation options.

Reading levels can also be adjusted for students’ needs.

Ward said the state has created a fund to meet the technological upgrade needs for schools.

“Tablets are there now, but I daresay we’ll all look back in 10 years and say, ‘Remember those old tablets we used to use?’ It’ll just keep evolving,” Ward said.

For more information about Cawaco RC&D, visit cawaco.org.

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Thorsby High School Raising Money for Digital Sign

Clanton Advertiser

Thorsby has been raising money since the start of the school year in hopes of getting a new digital sign out in front of the school.

The effort received some more help when Sen. Cam Ward donated $2,500 toward the fund during a check presentation on April 4.

“We’ve been working on it all year long,” Thorsby Principal Corey Clements said. “We’re about half way there. We hope to finish strong and have it [new sign] ready for next [school] year.”

According to Clements, the new sign will open up an avenue of options for how the school shares information and gets across its news to residents.

Digital signs have been installed at other schools throughout the county in recent years.

Dr. Kris Wood is a Thorsby alum and has been helping to spearhead the idea of a new sign for more than a year.

“Aside from everybody saying it looks nice, what we want is a better way to communicate with stakeholders in the community,” Clements said.

The school currently calls out to parents and leaves a message about schedule changes. However, callouts are subject to people missing the message.

The digital sign would give the school another alternative to relay messages and a backup plan to the callouts.

Sen. Cam Ward presented a check for $2,500 to Thorsby Principal Corey Clements during a presentation on April 4. The money will help Thorsby as it raises funds for a new digital sign in front of the school. (Contributed photo)
“It’s a great communication tool and also a way for us to celebrate success,” Clements said. “When we have a big win in football, we want to be able to put the score up there. We want to celebrate our kids when they’re doing well.”

An advantage of the sign is that it will allow for multiple upcoming events and news to be advertised on a rotating basis.

The sign will have the option to be changed remotely, which will mean eliminating the process of climbing up a ladder and manually changing the letters.

Alumni and community businesses have stepped up to provide donations, while Marika Porter has been in charge of a pair of fundraisers as a member of the school staff.

The fundraisers included selling fleece pullovers and cookie dough.

Donors will have their name run on the digital sign as often as possible, as a show of thanks for their support of Thorsby High School.

Anyone looking to make a donation or to get involved can contact the school at (205) 280-4880.

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