A Closer Look

Posting Date: July 22, 2013
Expires 12/30/14

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Vestavia Hills City School district now has a Facebook page and Twitter account. These social media tools will be used to disseminate school related information to a wider audience. Please "like" us on Facebook at our page Vestavia Hills City Schools and "follow" us on Twitter @vhcschools.

Posting Date: November 14, 2014
Expires 12/31/14

Action Teams meet to begin next phase of Strategics

More than 135 volunteers have begun team-based work in the most critical portion of a yearlong Strategics process for Vestavia Hills City Schools.

Seven Strategic Action Teams are meeting now to formulate concrete actions to carry out each of the strategies created in October for school system improvement. These teams are comprised entirely of local volunteers including parents and alumni, community members, teachers, and administrators.

Each Action Team is supervised by a group of leaders trained directly by Dr. Bill Cook, president of The Cambrian Group which is leading the VHCS Strategics process. Team leaders include:

- Stephanie Meadows, teacher at Vestavia Hills High School
- Jason Bostic, assistant principal at Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights
- Roger Dobnikar, assistant principal at Liberty Park Middle School
- Susan McCarthy, reading coach at Vestavia Hills Elementary Central
- Meredith DeFore, secondary special education specialist
- Lisa Cunningham, elementary special education specialist
- Cindy Echols, assistant principal at Vestavia Hills Elementary East
- Jennifer McMahon, VHCS PTO Council president

The team leaders are overseen by four internal facilitators: Superintendent Sheila Phillips, Assistant Superintendent Meredith Hanson, Andy Carpenter, assistant principal at Louis Pizitz Middle School, and Alicia Hunsburger, assistant principal at Vestavia Hills Elementary West.

“I was very impressed with the turnout of volunteers,” Assistant Superintendent Meredith Hanson said. “I feel like there is great representation of our community and school system. I’m also very grateful for our team leaders, who are doing this solely because they care so much about our system and had a passion to do this job.”

Teams held their initial “kickoff” meetings at Vestavia Hills High School on Nov. 3. Team members began by defining for themselves what each strategy means as well as what it doesn’t. In subsequent meetings, each team will research and draft specific, cost-effective actions to implement each strategy. Each of the seven teams will report their action plans to the Strategic Planning team when it reconvenes in January 2015.

Posting Date: November 05, 2014
Expires 12/31/14

VHEW's Bender wins Emerging Leader award

Vestavia Hills Elementary West’s Krista Bender was honored Nov. 4 as the recipient of the inaugural Emerging Leaders Award from the Alabama Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development at its fall conference in Orange Beach.

Bender, an instructional coach at West, has taught in the Vestavia Hills system for more than 7 years. She was honored as the district’s Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2013.

“We chose to nominate Krista based on her leadership here at West, and her extensive résumé of leadership endeavors within our district,” VHEW Principal Kim Hauser said. “We are proud of her and are certainly excited to have her at West.”

Posting Date: October 27, 2014
Expires 12/31/14

Superintendent's Message, November 2014

Superintendent's Message is published monthly in the Vestavia Hills Community News.

More than three dozen representatives from Vestavia Hills City Schools and our community recently collaborated for three consecutive days in the development of our system’s new Strategic Plan. We approached this planning as both a discipline and a process, with intent to generate innovation and creativity with a respect to the established traditions and our reputation for excellence. It is the purpose of this planning to serve the students and community with a commitment to unprecedented possibilities and continuous discovery. 

Out of our strategic planning on Sep. 22–24, the following seven strategies were created:

  1. We will provide multiple opportunities for students to choose pathways toward achieving their aspirations.
  2. We will expose students to an array of opportunities to discover their unique gifts.
  3. We will build staff capacity emphasizing individual responsibility.
  4. We will create a dynamic of learning and teaching that provokes questioning and honors academic risk-taking.
  5. We will create a culture of inclusivity and respect.
  6. We will customize and create global learning environments to facilitate learning without constraints.
  7. We will intentionally cultivate reciprocal relationships with our community.

Thanks to the commitment of dozens of community volunteers, we will now begin taking action on each of these strategies. Our seven Strategic Action Teams — comprised entirely of community and school volunteers — will begin this month developing plans for projects and programs to carry forward the success of Vestavia Hills City Schools. I extend my personal gratitude to them as we look forward to reporting their work to our community in the months ahead.

— Sheila Phillips, Vestavia Hills City Schools Superintendent

Posting Date: September 29, 2014
Expires 12/31/14

VHECH designated 'Let's Move! Active School'

Let’s Move! Active Schools (LMAS), an initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign, has honored Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights (VHECH) with the 2014 Let’s Move! Active Schools National Recognition Award for its outstanding efforts in creating an active school environment.

The award celebrates a school’s commitment to helping students learn, focus and grow through the integration of physical activity before, during and after the school day. Less than one percent of U.S. schools are recognized with this honor, according to a release from LMAS.

“I am so proud of the many accomplishments each and every VHECH student makes on a daily basis,” said Dr. Kay Cooper, VHECH Principal. “I’m especially proud of the hard work of our P.E. teacher, Jeremy Andrews, on behalf of our school and Let’s Move! Active Schools. Our students work very hard both mentally and physically each day, and they’re supported by the most loving and caring faculty and staff. This is a win all-around for the whole school.”

“We’re so proud here at VHECH of the hard work of the parents, teachers, and students,” physical education teacher Jeremy Andrews said. “Being physically active on most days of the week is the key to a healthy lifestyle. To be awarded for what we do each and every day is an honor.”

Powered by a national collaboration of leading health and education organizations, Let’s Move! Active Schools is a physical activity and physical education solution whose declared mission is to ensure that 60 minutes of physical activity is the new norm for schools. To earn the LMAS National Recognition Award, a school must meet significant benchmarks in five areas: physical education, physical activity before and after school, physical activity during school, staff involvement, and family/community engagement.

More information on the Let’s Move! Active Schools program is available at www.letsmoveschools.org.


Posting Date: September 17, 2014
Expires 12/31/14

VHCS convenes Drug Awareness Team to combat substance abuse

Vestavia Hills City Schools on Tuesday held the first meeting of its Drug Awareness Team, a new initiative in the system’s fight against substance abuse among young people.

The Drug Awareness Team consists of administrators from the district level, middle schools and high school, a representative from a local drug testing agency, a Drug Court judge, members of the city’s PTO and Leadership Vestavia Hills, school counselors, and Brad Blount, a Vestavia Hills High School alumnus who speaks publicly about his recovery from drug addiction. The team will likely expand as new needs are identified, team member and Vestavia Hills Board of Education president Kym Prewitt said.

“Drug and alcohol abuse is an issue everywhere, so we decided to convene a team to look at what tools we already have in place, as well as other programs and ideas that we could explore to help us better combat the problem,” Prewitt said.

Judge Shanta Owens, a team member who presides over felony drug abuse cases in her Birmingham courtroom, said in the meeting that one of the challenges of combating substance abuse was that many users have figured out methods of passing drug tests while addicted. “We have got to fight that,” Owens said.

Team members discussed current and ongoing programs the city and school system are utilizing to raise awareness about substance abuse, including a recent “Help the Hills” town hall meeting that will be held again on January 5, 2015, and the school system’s new Voluntary Drug Testing Program, which enrolled some 300 students at the start of the school year, according to VHCS Director of Administrative Services David Howard. Also highlighted was the district’s partnership with IMPACT Family Counseling for its upcoming Strengthening Families Program, a three-week course of study beginning in late September for middle and high school families, which will discuss substance abuse prevention and family dynamics.

Attendees proposed several ideas, such as cross-promoting drug prevention events being held in neighboring school systems, and providing parents with a centralized, online hub of resources to learn about drug prevention and to help children who have become addicted. The Drug Awareness Team is scheduled to meet monthly through the remainder of the year, Prewitt said.

Posting Date: September 10, 2014
Expires 12/31/14

20 Vestavia Hills High School students among 2015 National Merit Semifinalists

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation earlier today named its 2015 Semifinalists, including twenty students at Vestavia Hills High School — the most at any school in Alabama, according to the organization.

Vestavia Hills students among the approximately 16,000 Semifinalists include: Thomas Archibald, Ankit Bansal, Graziella Camata, Lynn Han, Amelia Haston, Kai He, Luke Hogewood, Jason Hsu, Kathryn Jason, Charles Li, Jin Lu, Collin McMahon, Tailin Pan, Mark Philpot, Caroline Sandoval, Katherine Stahl, Samuel Tindall, Deborah Van Camp, Philip Wang, and Amy Weng.

“We would like to congratulate our National Merit Semifinalists for their high academic achievements,” said Tim Loveless, interim principal of Vestavia Hills High School. “We also want to thank our teachers who help them with the study process to get to this point. These students and teachers have represented Vestavia Hills High School as a place of academic excellence.”

“National Merit Semifinalists represent the top achieving students across the country, and this program opens up scholarship opportunities to students at colleges across the nation,” VHHS college counselor Oliver Aaron said.

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, about 1.4 million high school juniors nationwide entered the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). The nationwide pool of Semifinalists includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

Finalists will be chosen in early 2015 after a rigorous application process that includes information about each student’s academic performance, test scores, and endorsements from high school officials. Some 7,600 scholarships worth a total of $33 million will be awarded in the spring, the organization announced. 

Posting Date: August 27, 2014
Expires 12/31/14

VHCS Strategics to lay groundwork for system-wide growth and improvement

Vestavia Hills City Schools is embarking on a new Strategics program for school and system improvement. Strategics is comprised of three critical areas — Strategic Thinking, Strategic Planning, and Strategic Action. This comprehensive development process will be conducted over the 2014-15 school year and beyond.

Dr. Bill CookVestavia Hills’ Strategics process is being facilitated through The Cambrian Group, a Montgomery-based firm specializing in strategic planning for education. Leading this facilitation is The Cambrian Group’s founder, Dr. Bill Cook, a native Alabamian who in 1986 introduced the concept of strategic planning to education. Cook authored Strategic Planning for America’s Schools, which is considered by many in the educational community to be the definitive book on both the theory and practice of strategy.

The Strategics process began in August with a two-day meeting of the district’s Strategic Thinking Team. Led by Dr. Cook, the Strategic Thinking Team was made up of 32 stakeholders including teachers, administrators, Board of Education members, parents, city councilors, and community members. This course explained in detail the various arenas of strategic thinking from a historical perspective, and how current local conditions should affect the district’s future planning and decision-making.

Next is Strategic Planning, which will take place over a three-day period in late September. Many members of the Strategic Thinking Team, along with several additional invitees, will return to begin hands-on discussion and formation of the district’s new plan. Sessions will focus on development of the school system’s statement of beliefs, mission statement, objectives, and strategies. Out of these meetings, a draft plan will be formulated and communicated to the public.

Following the creation of the draft plan, the district will begin soliciting volunteers to take part in Strategic Action Teams. These teams will meet over the course of several months to determine ways that the district can achieve positive results from each strategy. The district will create separate teams for each strategy, facilitating an opportunity for many in the Vestavia Hills community to assist the school system in a creative way. By early 2015, these teams will report their suggestions back to the Planning Team, which will then agree on action plans and on a concrete implementation process.

Another critical phase of the VHCS Strategics program is school planning, which will likely begin in the spring of 2015. Each school in the Vestavia Hills system will develop its own Planning Team, charged with the task of making the district’s Strategic Plan practical for their school on a local level. Schools will also form Action Teams and develop programs to implement each school’s strategies. This process will be overseen and approved by VHCS Superintendent Sheila Phillips.

The bulk of the district’s Strategics program should be completed by the end of the 2014-15 school year. Unlike traditional strategic planning, however, VHCS Strategics is a continuously developed plan. Periodic reviews and updates to each school’s plan and the district’s plan will take place, ensuring that Vestavia Hills City Schools remain in a framework for continued growth and success.

VHCS Assistant Superintendent Meredith Hanson, who is taking part in her third Strategics process with The Cambrian Group, says that the yearlong process is that thorough by design. “It is very in depth, and intense, to promote thinking and reflection to guide our district so that we do what is best for all of our students in Vestavia Hills,” Hanson said.

“I look forward to setting new standards for teaching and learning in our district as we work to define and create goals for the next level,” said VHCS Superintendent Sheila Phillips. “The investment all of our stakeholders make in this conversation will only strengthen the results for our children.”

Posting Date: August 20, 2014
Expires 12/31/14

VHCS Students Raise ACT Composite Average

Students in Vestavia Hills City Schools raised the district’s average composite ACT score for the second consecutive year, scoring more than five points higher than the state composite average, ACT reported Wednesday.

433 Vestavia Hills students took the ACT in the 2013-14 academic year. Those students who took the test scored an average composite of 25.8 on a 36-point scale. The average composite for the 37,985 students statewide who took the test was 20.6, according to ACT.

This marks the second year in a row that Vestavia Hills students raised the district’s ACT average. VHCS students scored an average composite of 25.6 in 2013 and 25.3 from 2010 to 2012.

ACT also announced Wednesday that 58 percent of Vestavia Hills test-takers had met or surpassed all four of its “college readiness benchmark scores,” which ACT defines as the scores needed to indicate a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in college-level English, algebra, social science, and biology. More than two-thirds of Vestavia Hills students met or surpassed at least one of the college readiness benchmark scores, ACT reported. By comparison, only 21 percent of test-takers statewide met the benchmark in all four areas.

"We are proud of the hard work that has gone into preparing our students for this standard of success and for their postsecondary endeavors," Vestavia Hills Superintendent Sheila Phillips said this morning. "We will continue to focus on providing educational experiences that prepare our students for this level of assessment."