For a number of years, the school has been recognized both academically and athletically, but this year the school has performed exceptionally well in academics. Valley’s Beta Club attended the Alabama Junior Beta Club Convention in Birmingham March 10-11. Out of 86 clubs, with more than 3,800 students statewide, Valley individually placed first in science and miscellaneous art; second in ceramics and essay; and third in social studies, spelling bee, poetry, black and white photography and digitally-enhanced photography.
Valley students also placed first in group projects in the categories of wreath, sculpture and basket and second in spotlight your club. The quiz bowl team, poster team, banner team and individual speech received top 10 finishes. There are 78 students currently in Valley’s Beta Club, and 30 of those attended this year’s convention. Valley’s Beta Club sponsors Stephanie Homan and Kim Norris couldn’t be prouder of their students.
“It is a whole school [effort]. We earned more academic awards this year than we’ve ever earned, and students don’t just gain intelligence all of a sudden in the eighth grade,” Homan said. “It is a K-through-eighth effort that these students have been brought up with high academic standards, and they’ve achieved those goals. ... The academics are really strong, and we’re producing high academic achieving children and that’s showing in a variety of areas.”
According to Valley Jr. High Principal Tommy Kacharos, the school has had the highest average in reading and math on the ARMT/ARMT+ (The Alabama Reading and Math Test) for the past four years. Then, the eighth-grade Explore Test — a test typically taken by eighth and ninth graders prior to taking the ACT — results came back, where students beat the national average by one point and scored the highest in the county school system.
“They’re outstanding; our eighth-grade test scores were outstanding,” Kacharos said. “ ... We had the county spelling bee winner, three years in a row. Seventh- and eighth-grade quiz bowl champs four years in a row, and now the Beta club’s come in and racked up.”
Assistant principal Sharon Harrison agreed with both sponsors and Kacharos, saying it’s not the effort of two or three teachers, but it’s a culmination of everyone working together.
“It starts in kindergarten, and it just continues year after year after year,” Harrison said. “... We all work together from kindergarten through the eighth grade, and we do not do grade inflations; therefore, when a child’s in the Beta club, they can perform at that level. It’s not just putting people in there [the club] to make them feel good or to get to go on a trip. It’s not just going on a trip, which is fun, but it’s that they’ve actually earned it.”
The students work hard because they’re required to by the faculty and staff at Valley. Kacharos said their success is due, in part, to the school’s Accelerated Reader program. He said students are continuously reading, and he believes that there is “more reading in this school than most schools.”
“It just keeps rolling in this year though. It’s just unbelievable what we’ve accomplished,” Kacharos said. “... I’m just so proud. It’s just amazing what’s happened this year. It’s a total team effort starting in kindergarten.”
Over the span of years that Homan and Norris have been the Beta Club sponsors, Homan said she is not only impressed with the students’ academic accomplishments, but she is also proud of their behaviors at and away from school.
“I’m very proud of our Beta Club. They perform very well academically. They work together and help each other. They’re not antagonistic against one another. They’re very supportive, and they’re very well behaved,” Homan said. “That is another thing that I really appreciate in these students. When we take them off on these trips, I get the most compliments from hotel staff and restaurants and anywhere we go, that these are the most well behaved children that they’ve ever seen. And, to me, that’s just as important as winning the awards.”