Vestavia Voice December 2023

Page 1

December 2023 | Volume 11 | Issue 8








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ALDOT ready to add lanes to US 280 in 2024 By JON ANDERSON


unning 392 miles, U.S. 280 goes from downtown Birmingham to Blichton, Georgia (near Savannah), but traffic congestion sometimes makes it feel like you’ve been on the road long enough to travel 392 miles between Birmingham and Chelsea. The Alabama Department of Transportation hopes to ease the congestion by widening a 4½-mile stretch that takes travelers through Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills and Birmingham.

See U.S. 280 | page A16 Motorists travel east and west on U.S. 280 between Pump House Road and The Summit. The portion of U.S. 280 from Lakeshore Drive to Perimeter Park is slated for expansion to four through lanes on each side. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

Making the grade: Vestavia Hills students still score high, but math scores decline from 2022 By JON ANDERSON Students in Vestavia Hills City Schools continue to perform at one of the highest levels in the state, though math scores dropped on spring 2023 assessments. Vestavia Hills students in the spring of 2023 ranked second in the state in English, math and science scores, behind only Mountain Brook students, according to data from the Alabama Department of Education. About 83% of Vestavia Hills students were deemed proficient in English, compared to 87% in Mountain Brook, 78% in Saraland and 77%

in Homewood. In math, 68% of Vestavia Hills students were deemed proficient, compared to 79% in Mountain Brook, 63% in Homewood and 62% in Cullman. In science, about 79% of Vestavia Hills students were deemed proficient, compared to 83% in Mountain Brook, 71% in Homewood and 68% in Trussville. “I think our kids perform very well, and I think our teachers do an excellent job of preparing them,” Superintendent Todd Freeman said.

83% 77%





72% 68% 63%

See SCORES | page A18


Sponsors: ............. A4 News: .................... A6

Business: .............. A9 Community: ........ A12

Schoolhouse: ......A14 Sports: .................. B4

Events: ................. B10 Opinion: ............... B12

Real Estate: ........ B14

Go the Distance

Vestavia Hoops

Vestavia grad Joseph Harper hikes Appalachian Trail in less than 5 months.

See how the Vestavia Hills boys and girls basketball teams are preparing for the upcoming season.

See page A13


See pages B1-4



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Vestavia Voice

December 2023 • A3

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A4 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

About Us Please Support Our Community Partners

Publisher’s Note By Dan Starnes Sometime around the day after Halloween, I tend to hear a lot of people advocating for hitting the pause button on holiday festivities until after Thanksgiving. And I understand why. But I do the opposite. I skip over the holidays in my mind and start to set goals and plan for the following year. We should go to all the holiday events in our community that we can. We should all savor the moments that this time can create and experience formative and lasting memories. You can read about these events in this issue. But on to goals, for now. One of our goals for 2024 is to make Vestavia Voice as connected as it possibly can be to Vestavia Hills.

We have room for help in sales, writing, editing and social media. There is flexibility in what that can look like, from internships to freelance work to full-time employment. If you think that serving Vestavia Hills in this way sounds attractive to you, please feel free to shoot me a text at 205-370-0732 or email at dan@ I can’t wait to hear from you.

One of my personal goals in 2023 was to run the NYC Marathon. Check.

PHOTO OF THE MONTH Fourth graders at Vestavia Hills Elementary Dolly Ridge perform a Veterans Day program titled “We Honor You” on Nov. 9. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

Publisher: Dan Starnes

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Starnes Publishing LLC P.O. Box 530341 Birmingham, AL 35253 (205) 313-1780 Please submit all articles, information and photos to:

Community Editors: Jon Anderson Leah Ingram Eagle Sports Editor: Kyle Parmley Design Editor: Melanie Viering Photo Editor: Erin Nelson Sweeney Page Designer: Ted Perry

Alabama Power (B3) Allsteel Fence (B10) Always Best Care: ABC Senior Services (B15) Amy Smith Gardner, State Farm (A19) Bedzzz Express (B1, B16) Birmingham Zoo (A15) Bistro V (B10) Brandino Brass (A17) Bromberg’s (B8) Budget Blinds (B9) Cardinal Roofing (B11) Community Grief Support Service (A19) Cremation Center of Birmingham (B13) Cummings Jewelry Design (A1) Dermatology & Skin Care Center of Birmingham (B7) ENT Associates of Alabama (B11) Etc. (A2, B2) French Drains Pro (A10) Gardner Astroturf (A7) Gardner Landscaping (A6) HomeRN (B7) Issis & Sons (A11) Jana Hanna RealtySouth (A7) John Henley State Farm Insurance (A10) Larson & McGowin Chandlar Graham (A8) Mr. Handyman of Birmingham (A13) One Man & A Toolbox (A8) Pappas’ Grill (A19) Parrot Structural Services LLC (B9) Renew Dermatology (A3) Royal Automotive (A20) Shoe Station (A1) Shunnarah Flooring (B12) Sikes Children’s Shoes (B8) Southern Home Structural Repair Specialists (B4) SouthPoint Bank (B2) SouthState Bank (A17) Tecate Bar & Grill (B4) The Cook Store (A15) The Crossings at Riverchase (B5) TherapySouth Corporate (B5) Vapor Ministries/Thrift Store (B13) Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce (A5) Virginia Samford Theatre (A7) Vulcan Termite & Pest Control (A14) Vulcan Wellness & Aesthetics (A9) Wild Birds Unlimited of Birmingham (A14) Window World of Central Alabama (B1)

Intern: Harper Harwell Contributing Writers: Katharine Armbrester Sean Dietrich Kari Kampakis Loyd McIntosh Grace Thornton Client Success Specialist: Warren Caldwell Business Development Exec: Don Harris

Production Assistant: Simeon Delante Operations Specialist: Sarah Villar Graphic Designer: Emily VanderMey

Legals: Vestavia Voice is published monthly. Reproduction or use of editorial or graphic content without prior permission is prohibited. Vestavia Voice is designed to inform the Vestavia community of area school, family and community events. Information in Vestavia Voice is gathered from sources considered reliable but the accuracy cannot be guaranteed. All articles/photos submitted become the property of Vestavia Voice. We reserve the right to edit articles/photos as deemed necessary and are under no obligation to publish or return photos submitted. Inaccuracies or errors should be brought to the attention of the publisher at (205) 313-1780 or by email.


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Find Us Vestavia Voice is distributed through direct mail to Vestavia Hills residents. You can also find copies at a variety of locations throughout the community. For a list of pick up locations, scan the QR code below or go to vestaviavoice. com/about-us.

December 2023 • A5

Saturday, November 11 Saturday, December 2 Thursday, December 14

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A6 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice


Council votes for utility relocation on Massey Road By LOYD McINTOSH The Vestavia Hills City Council recently voted to approve the relocation of utility lines on Massey Road, making way for road and stormwater improvements and a sidewalk addition. The ordinance authorized Vestavia Hills Mayor Ashley Curry to enter into agreements with multiple utility agencies for the project, which will stretch from U.S. 31 to Columbiana Road. Vestavia Hills City Manager Jeff Downes explained during the Oct. 23 council meeting that the ordinance solidifies months of work to acquire the rights-of-way from property owners on Massey Road before work can begin on the improvements in 2024. Downes said there were four property owners who were not willing to compromise with the city on temporary construction easements or for the purchase of a “very small sliver” of land for the project, so the city elected to condemn the necessary property in order to move the project forward. Two of the four difficult properties had condemnation hearings scheduled for Nov. 27 and Nov. 29, and the other two hearings were to be scheduled, he said. “We are set to bid this in March of next year, so we have to move on these utility issues,” Downes said. The Massey Road project, which has been in the works for at least eight years, will include the installation of a sidewalk, road shoulder stabilization, drainage improvements and resurfacing. The project is another significant step toward the completion of several quality-of-life initiatives in recent months, Downes said.

Massey Road near Jacobs Road in Vestavia Hills. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

“I hope that you’re encouraged by the fact that in our last three council meetings, we’ve had every one of our longstanding projects making progress,” he said. The council also on Oct. 23 unanimously authorized Downes to enter into a public/private

partnership with the Cahaba Heights Merchants Association to promote economic development in the community. Specifically, the ordinance approves an expenditure of $5,000 to purchase a tent for a 30-day pop-up bar at El Zun Zun Mexican restaurant on Crosshaven Drive.

In other news, Downes announced the city’s new app, Vestavia Hills Connect, which will be a “one-stop shop” for residents to conduct business with the city. It is available for download on the Apple and Android app stores, as well as through the city’s website,

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Mayor’s Minute By Ashley Curry On Nov. 5, we held our annual Salute to Veterans event at our new Civic Center. I would like to thank our sponsors, our city personnel and our speaker, Maj. Gen. David Burford, for another outstanding event. Burford is a Vestavia Hills native, and we appreciate his participation. On Nov. 8, we also celebrated Veterans Day at the New Merkel House in Cahaba Heights. This annual event recognizes the veterans in attendance and presents certificates for family members of deceased veterans. In addition, students from the adjacent Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights greet the veterans, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing a special song for those in attendance. As Ronald Reagan reminded us, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States, where men were free.” May we never forget the veterans and the sacrifices they made to keep our nation free. The annual Deck the Heights event on Nov. 11 brought the magic of Christmas back to Cahaba Heights, with shopping, food, drinks and fun! Plus, make sure to check out the Heights holiday pop up shops all around Cahaba Heights. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and that you were able to spend time with family and friends. It is such a blessing to gather together with family. We are very fortunate to live in Vestavia Hills, and for that I am truly grateful. The annual Christmas tree lighting was scheduled to take place at City Hall on Nov. 28. There are several events in December that you don’t want to miss. Our annual holiday parade will be held in Liberty Park on Dec. 3. Don’t forget the annual breakfast with Santa at the Civic Center ballroom on Dec. 9. Lastly, the annual menorah lighting will take place at City Hall on Dec. 14. I wish you all a merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season.

December 2023 • A7

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A8 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

Foundation launched to support Fire Department By LOYD McINTOSH The Vestavia Hills Fire Department Foundation recently announced its establishment as a nonprofit initiative supporting the city’s firefighters, paramedics and other first responders. Launched by the Vestavia Hills Sunrise Rotary Club, the foundation is designed to help first responders and their families in times of need and pay tribute to those who put their lives at risk every day to protect the residents of Vestavia Hills. The organization will provide firefighters with financial support, emotional assistance and other resources. The initiative was spearheaded by Steve Ammons, a former Vestavia Hills councilman and Jefferson County commissioner who now is CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. “The Vestavia Hills Sunrise Rotary Club is proud to initiate the Vestavia Hills Fire Department Foundation,” Ammon said in a written statement. “We recognize the incredible dedication and sacrifice of our firefighters and believe that by creating this foundation, we can make a meaningful difference in their lives and in the Vestavia Hills community as a whole.” A longtime supporter of the Vestavia Hills police and fire departments, Ammons explained that the genesis of the foundation dates back to the First Responders Celebration event held each summer beginning in the 1990s. Following his eight years on the City Council, Ammons was asked by then police Chief Danny Rary to assist with developing a benevolence fund for the Police Department, which led to the establishment of the Vestavia Hill Police Foundation. The success of the police foundation caught the attention of Vestavia Hills fire Chief Marvin Green, who is a fellow Sunrise Rotary Club member. After several discussions about creating a benevolence fund for Vestavia firefighters and first responders, Green gave Ammons the go-ahead to get the project launched.

Vestavia Hills fire medic Chris Slavich hits the sled during the department’s bi-annual job task training at the Vestavia Hills and Rocky Ridge joint fire training facility on Oct. 11. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

“He finally came to me a couple of months ago and said, ‘We’re ready to do it,’” Ammons said. “So I sat down on a Sunday afternoon and got everything developed and by Monday it was done, and a couple of weeks later we got the determination letter for the 501 [nonprofit] status.” The foundation was launched with a $25,000 donation from an anonymous benefactor, as well as a $500 contribution from Ammons and

his wife. Ammons added that the foundation is working to develop a fundraising strategy and other financial-control plans to ensure its long-term success. Ammons is encouraging the 100-plus employees of the Vestavia Hills Fire Department to contribute to the foundation regularly to help a colleague if and when the time comes. “The best part is that the firefighters get to choose whether they want to payroll deduct, so

instead of passing the hat if they want to support maybe a future need that they may have or one of their sisters or brothers, they could go ahead and payroll deduct, and if it’s $10 a month that adds up,” Ammons said. “I calculated if every firefighter did $10 and all of them did it over a year, that is almost $26,000.” For more information about the Vestavia Hills Fire Department Foundation, go online to

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December 2023 • A9


Business Happenings COMING SOON

Compassionate Crossings is celebrating its first anniversary. Dr. Lindsay Floyd, a Hoover resident who graduated the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2007, founded the business to offer pet euthanasia services in the home of pets. The service operates primarily on weeknights, weekends and most holidays and gives pet owners an option for this service when their primary veterinary clinic is closed. 205-317-6747

Adrian Yvette Beauty is under construction at 4851 Cahaba River Road, in the shopping center at the corner of Cahaba River Road and Colony Park Drive. 205-887-3402, The Great Greek Grill, a new eatery serving authentic Mediterranean cuisine, will be moving into the former Zoës Kitchen location at Vestavia City Center and is expected to open by early December.

Community Bank is celebrating two years since opening its location at 8001 Liberty Parkway. 205-709-8950, renovated office, renovated movie room, new pickleball court, new year-round pool, two fire pits and a new dog park, according to renovation manager Demetrick Harvell and assistant manager Diamond Wiley with the Pegasus Residential property management company. 205-656-3682,

PERSONNEL MOVES Sha’Kayla Harris has joined RealtySouth as a real estate agent at the company’s over-the-mountain office at 2409 Acton Road, Suite 137. 503-896-7940, A New Day Car Wash is under construction at 4740 Cahaba River Road.

RELOCATIONS AND RENOVATIONS The Arbors at Cahaba River Apartments complex at 50 Cahaba River Parc (off Cahaba Park Drive between Vestavia Hills and Birmingham) is under renovations. The renovation work includes new breezeway floors, a

ANNIVERSARIES Magic City Needlepoint, 2531 Rocky Ridge Road, Suite 121, is celebrating four years in Vestavia Hills. Created with the idea of bringing back the art of needlepoint, the store specializes in helping customers create family heirloom pieces, unique gift items and home decor. The boutique stocks the latest hand-painted canvases, a wide selection of fibers and threads, as well as accessories. 205-721-7277,

The UPS Store at 732 Montgomery Highway will celebrate its 24th anniversary on Dec. 1. 205-978-0770, Minette Boutique, 3118 Bellwood Drive, Suite 120, recently celebrated their five-year anniversary. The Vestavia Chamber of Commerce helped them celebrate with a ribbon cutting on Oct. 18. The shop is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Business News to Share? Do you have news to share with the community about a business in Vestavia Hills or the greater Birmingham area? Let us know at business-happenings

A10 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

Co-working space for health care opens in Vestavia By GRACE THORNTON Several years ago, Becca Impello was in a “situation.” As a yoga practitioner and physical therapist, she was having a hard time finding a space that worked for her business. Not only that, she found that lease terms were long and expensive, and she ended up having to start an LLC with a few other solo health care practitioners so they could sign a lease together. “I thought at the time, ‘This isn’t working as well as it could,’” Impello said. So over time, she started looking at how shared workspaces might be arranged for wellness professionals. Around that same time, she met Meredith Calhoun, who had a business and real estate background. It wasn’t long before the two decided to team up and start Practice Works, a coworking space designed for wellness practitioners who need a place to see their clients in private spaces. “Coworking spaces already existed in the city, and while they were great, they weren’t set up for businesspeople who need to receive clients,” Impello said. So that’s what Practice Works set out to do, first opening a location in Birmingham’s Southside in 2019, then in Vestavia’s Walker Building, at 400 Vestavia Parkway, Suite 406, in July. “It’s a wellness-oriented working space, but it has expanded to include anyone who is providing services to help people make the best decisions for their life,” Impello said. That could range from a massage therapist to a financial planner. Calhoun said their goal with Practice Works is to offer entrepreneurs a professional, consistent, clean and beautiful space with memberships to fit a range of needs. She said some members want Pro Works membership with a dedicated office. Others want a Flex Works membership, where they

Practice Works staff and chamber members at the ribbon cutting for the second Practice Works location, which opened in the Walker Building on Vestavia Parkway in July. Photo courtesy of the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce.

can use flex spaces or conference rooms a certain number of hours each month. Others who purchase a Remote Works membership might want to take advantage of their marketing offerings, be a part of their directory or have a mailing address for their business. All those things, plus a like-minded work community, are what Practice Works wants to provide, Impello said. “Our terms are very affordable and manageable,” she said. “Three months is our only requirement; after that, it’s month-to-month.” While their Southside location has a waiting list for dedicated offices, the Vestavia location still has a few left, Impello said, noting that

they always have more room for Flex Works and Remote Works members. Calhoun said the decision to open in Vestavia was “an easy one.” “Our Southside location was so well received, we knew we had to find something closer to our southern communities to extend the reach and availability,” she said. Calhoun and Impello both said the setup at Practice Works fits the needs of practitioners in different stages of their career. The space works for a new therapist just starting out and looking to grow their business, and it works for the longtime practitioner who is now looking to go out on their own.

“We serve a very niche population,” Calhoun said. Impello said she believes they’ve been successful because they know what that population needs. “I’m the member who needs what we offer, and Meredith understands how people grow a business, especially the real estate piece and functioning in the business world,” Impello said. “Between the two of us, we brought a lot of knowledge and personal experience.” For more information, call (205) 506-6100, visit or follow them on Instagram @practice_works or Facebook @practiceworksbhm.

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December 2023 • A11

Athletes use the Shoot 360 basketball technology. Photos courtesy of Jonathan Carter.

Shoot 360 offers daily basketball gym access, coaching, advanced technology By GRACE THORNTON Jonathan Carter says basketball has always been his favorite sport. “I always really loved it, always spent my spare time playing with my dad and brother and my friends,” he said. And now Carter wishes he’d had Shoot 360 — the business franchise he’s opening in Vestavia Hills — available to him when he was growing up. “Shoot 360 is for the 6-year-old beginner and the 41-year-old adult that loves basketball and wants a good workout,” he said. “It’s also for the 27-year-old pro basketball player who’s in their prime — and everyone in between.” In a nutshell, he said, Shoot 360 is a membership-based basketball training facility that combines technology and hands-on coaching to help players reach their full potential. “There are some things that really set us

apart from everyone else,” said Carter, who recently opened his location at 2301 Old Columbiana Road. For one thing, he said, Shoot 360 has the most advanced basketball technology in the world — the Noah Basketball technology, which tracks a player’s shots and gives feedback about their shot arc, shot strength and more. “All of that technology, it really drives a lot of what we do and how we can give feedback to our players,” Carter said. “We also use ball tracking technology in our passing station, as well as ball handling and dribbling. There are screens that will give you the drill and you can also pass up against these screens, which is super cool.” Members get daily access to the facility and can reserve their courts in advance through an app. They also get access to between five and seven coaches.

“Part of the membership is you get coached every time you’re in the gym,” he said. “There are always coaches there working with our athletes.” Carter, who opened his first Shoot 360 franchise in Huntsville a little over a year ago, said his favorite part about the facility is that he gets to go to the gym and see his friends every day, and he doesn’t have to call a coach to see if they can open the gym up for him. He said what he would’ve loved about it as a young player is the daily access to the technology and games that let him compete with himself. He said he also would’ve loved being around coaches who have played college or pro basketball — something he only got occasionally or when he was at a basketball camp. Anyone interested in giving Shoot 360 a try can sign up for a free one-hour workout with a coach. “You go through a typical membership

workout — 30 minutes inside of our skills station, which is ball handling and dribbling, and then 30 minutes inside of our shooting station,” Carter said. “You can get up 250 to 300 shots, and every single shot you shoot is tracked with the Noah Basketball technology.” Each person gets a full workout analysis at the end. Carter describes it as an “incredible value.” “We are for all ages and all skill levels,” Carter said. “We’re not just elite basketball trainers; we have kids here that love basketball and don’t play on their school team but love coming to Shoot 360. We also have high school players who are most certainly going to play college basketball and come to Shoot 360 and find it an essential part of their training.” For more information, visit them online at or follow them on Instagram @shoot360_bhm or on Facebook @shoot360bhm.

A12 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

Community Have a community announcement? Email Sarah Villar at to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming issue.

Vestavia Hills grad fights for cystic fibrosis awareness By JON ANDERSON Some young women who participate in beauty pageants and scholarship competitions pick a charitable cause to support because it’s a requirement to be in the competition. But Abbie Stockard, a Vestavia Hills High School graduate who was crowned Miss Hoover 2024 in July and will compete in Miss Alabama next summer, has been passionate about her chosen community service initiative for years. Stockard, a 21-year-old nursing student at Auburn University, has been working to bring awareness to cystic fibrosis and raising money to fight the disease for more than a decade. Her best friend since third grade, Maddie Hagler, has cystic fibrosis, and Stockard said she long ago promised Hagler she would do everything she could to help fight for her and others suffering from the disease. Stockard has been participating in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides Walk for more than 10 years, raising money for the cause. The past two years, she has spoken at one of the walks and gone to elementary schools in the Birmingham area to share with young students about cystic fibrosis. Stockard worked with state Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, about a year and a half ago to get a resolution passed through the state Legislature, declaring May 26 as Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Day. And she partnered with Dr. George Solomon, a pulmonologist at The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital, to do a social media campaign to raise awareness about cystic fibrosis. Stockard did short video clips with questions about the disease, such as what causes it, what life is like with it and treatment options, and then Solomon responded with the answers. She aired the videos on various social media channels for seven weeks. She also last year held spirit nights at five restaurants that agreed to give 20% of their sales during a certain time to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, raising close to $10,000. In the coming months, she hopes to do the same thing at restaurants in Hoover, she said. Margaret Smith, executive director of the Alabama chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, said she is thrilled that Stockard has chosen cystic fibrosis as her community service initiative. “She has been a supporter of the foundation ever since she was a little girl,” Smith said. “She’s a really sweet girl. She does a tremendous job in our community and helps raise awareness about this. … We’re always happy to have her and appreciate all of her help and support.” Stockard’s commitment isn’t lost on her longtime friend, Hagler, either. “She’s always been there for me,” Hagler said. “It just shows how much she cares for me and how much she pours herself into finding a cure for something I’ve been battling my whole life.” Hagler, who attended Vestavia Hills High School with Stockard and now attends Auburn with her, said dealing with cystic fibrosis has been a challenge. Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disorder that causes the buildup of thick, slimy mucus in the lungs, leading to the blockage of pancreatic ducts, intestines and bronchi, and often resulting in respiratory infections. People who have it often have trouble digesting foods and maintaining a healthy weight. There is no known cure, and the average lifespan for someone with cystic fibrosis is about 50 years old. Hagler said she has learned how to deal with it better as she has gotten older and more mature, but she has to be careful about being around a lot of people and has to take about 30 pills a day and do treatments once or twice a day. An exercise

science major, she also tries to stay fit. She’s grateful for Stockard’s concern and passion. “She is honestly one of the most hard-working, passionate people I know,” Hagler said. “She is probably the busiest person I know, but she can make time for anybody. She just really cares about service. It’s been one of the biggest blessings.” Stockard said she’s excited to be Miss Hoover and especially excited that she won $5,000 to go toward her education. She plans to complete her undergraduate degree in nursing in the summer of 2025 and wants to get a doctorate in nurse anesthesia and work at Children’s of Alabama hospital, she said. She grew up in a medical family. Stockard’s mother is a pharmacist, her father is a medical sales representative, her grandfather was a surgeon and she has an aunt and uncle who are physicians and another aunt who is a psychiatrist. She just wants to serve people and make a difference, she said. Stockard stays busy at Auburn University, where she is on the Tiger Paws dance team, in the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and works with the Auburn student recruitment team, giving tours to prospective students. She grew up an Alabama fan, but she followed in her mom’s footsteps, went to Auburn and fell in love with the campus, she said. “Now I’m an Auburn girl through and through.” Stockard said she didn’t grow up competing in pageants but was convinced by a friend to give it a try during her freshman year. She became Miss Cahaba Valley 2022 and Miss Trussville 2023 and placed in the top five at Miss Alabama in both of the past two competitions. She’s hoping the third time will be the charm as Miss Hoover.

Above: Abbie Stockard at her parents’ home in Vestavia Hills. Stockard was crowned Miss Hoover in July and is a junior at Auburn University, studying nursing. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney. Left: Maddie Hagler, left, and Abbie Stockard are both students at Auburn University and best friends. Photo courtesy of Abbie Stockard.

December 2023 • A13

Vestavia grad hikes Appalachian Trail in less than 5 months By GRACE THORNTON Joseph Harper said life-changing things can come from a yard sale. When he was younger, he picked up a book at one such sale and walked away with a new dream. “I’d heard about the Appalachian Trail through Boy Scouts, and then I read all about it in that National Geographic book. It got stuck in my mind,” said Harper, a 2019 Vestavia Hills High School graduate and recent Auburn University graduate. “Then, sometime in college, it became a reality that I could be doing this very soon.” Five days after his graduation in May, he did just that. He spent 147 days hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine — a feat that only 25% of people who attempt it actually finish. During some of the hike he was by himself, but for much of it, he was walking with others and making new friends, he said. “The people, the friends you meet along the way really make it worthwhile,” Harper said. On Oct. 3, Harper reached Mt. Katahdin in Maine, the endpoint of the trail. “I got to see the sunrise on the top of the mountain,” he said. It was a fitting reward for just under five months of battling weather, wet socks and blisters. “I think the most days of rain I had in a row was four,” Harper said. “My feet got really destroyed. It was

Clockwise from left: Joseph Harper reached Mount Katahdin in Maine, the endpoint of the Appalachian Trail, on Oct. 3, after 147 days of hiking. Harper watching the sunrise on McAfee Knob in Virginia. During his time on the trail, Harper spent half his nights in shelters like this one on Blood Mountain in Georgia. Photos courtesy of Joseph Harper.

a challenge to figure out how to walk with that, and it was a challenge to have to get up and put on wet socks.” But overall, it wasn’t that bad, he said. Even when he and some fellow hikers hunkered down in Maine for a hurricane to blow over, they didn’t get much rain at all.

Harper said while he was on the trail, he thought about his journey in increments of three or four days at a time, which was basically the amount of food he had in his backpack. Along the way, he slept about half the nights in his tent and half in the roughly 260 shelters scattered

along the AT. “I never really had any issues with wildlife,” Harper said. He counted 22 bears along the way, and he only remembers one incident — a night when he woke up to a porcupine chewing on the shelter.

“One of my buddies, about 2 a.m., hit the shelter floor to scare it away, but all I could think was, ‘Now we don’t know where it is,’” Harper joked. “But a few minutes later it waddled over to the privy and started gnawing on it.” He said he went back to sleep just fine after that. In addition to the gift of new friends along the way, Harper said the views along the trail “were just incredible.” “There’s nothing like seeing the sunrise out of a fire tower or watching the sunset out of your tent,” he said. At one point along the way, Harper completed the Four State Challenge, hiking a 44-mile-long section of the trail that goes through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania in one day. Now back in Vestavia, Harper said he’s taking it one day at a time just like he was on the AT, “trying to enjoy each day and what it will bring.” Not long after arriving back home, he started his career in civil engineering. And even though he said he didn’t have any more big hikes on the horizon at the moment, he planned to return in May 2024 to the AT’s approach trail in Georgia for a short hike on the anniversary of his dream hike. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have accomplished my dream, and I can’t wait to see what each day holds from here,” Harper said.

Vestavia Hills Garden Club celebrates 75 years In 1948, the newly formed Vestavia Hills Garden Club was organized and its first president was Mrs. Paul H. Goodson. Meeting in homes, the ladies created projects for beautifying the new town of Vestavia Hills. During the 1920s, Mr. George Ward, two-time mayor of Birmingham, bought 20 acres of mountainside to build his dream home and gardens. He named it Vesta Via, from which the city took its name, Vestavia. On his estate, a lovely replica of the Temple of Sibyl was erected. After Ward's death in the 1950s, the area enjoyed many events until Vestavia Baptist Church bought the property to build their new sanctuary. The Garden Club learned of the church’s desire to relocate the Sibyl Temple and bought it for one dollar. The moving of the 63-ton temple to its present site and reconstruction took four years. It is said that the only time

U.S. 31 has been closed is when the temple was moved by the B.L. Harbert Construction Company. Since 1951, the Vestavia Hills Garden Club has been the caretaker and promoter of the lovely historical site, which is the gateway to the city. In the 1980s, a Sibyl Temple Foundation was formed to raise funds and keep the Temple and its grounds open to the public. With its amazing view all the way to Vulcan, it is a popular attraction to visitors and many weddings and engagements. On Nov. 9, the Vestavia Hills Garden Club hosted its annual Bid and Buy. The Sibyl Temple Foundation guests and members had the opportunity to bid on live and silent auctions and Kathy Petro served as the auctioneer. All proceeds continue the upkeep of the Sibyl Temple. – Submitted by Vestavia Hills Garden Club.

From left: Claire Gwaltney, president of Sybil Temple Foundation; Cathy Delozier, president of Vestavia Hills Garden Club; Kathy Petro, Bid and Buy auctioneer; and Judy Leesburg, chairwoman of Bid and Buy. Photo courtesy of Vestavia Hills Garden Club.

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A14 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

Schoolhouse Have a schoolhouse announcement? Email Sarah Villar at to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming issue.

Vestavia school system revenues surge 10% over budget By JON ANDERSON The Vestavia Hills Board of Education ended fiscal year 2023 on solid financial footing, with revenues and other financing sources coming in at 110% of the amount budgeted, the school system’s chief financial officer reported to the board in October. The school board had expected to receive about $91.8 million in revenues in fiscal 2023, which ended Sept. 30, but preliminary, unaudited end-of-the-year results showed revenues at $101 million, financial statements show. The school board had initially planned to spend $90.7 million in fiscal 2023 but — with revenues coming in higher than anticipated — ended up spending $95.8 million, records show. That was 105.7% of the amount budgeted, Chief Financial Officer Courtney Brown said. The end result was a $5.2 million surplus for the year, compared to a $139,000 surplus in fiscal 2022. In fiscal 2022, the district budgeted for $87 million in revenues and $85.5 million in expenditures but ended up getting $91 million in revenues and spending almost the same amount. In fiscal 2023, state revenues were $47.3 million ($4.5 million greater than anticipated), and local (city and county) revenues were $52.8 million ($4.4 million more than anticipated). Brown also noted that at the end of the fiscal year, the school system had enough reserves in its general fund to cover 1.6 months’ worth of operating expenses. “We actually ended on a good note this year, so I feel very good about it,” Brown said.

Left: The Vestavia Hills Board of Education meets on Nov. 2. Right: Courtney Brown, chief financial officer for Vestavia Hills City Schools. Photos by Jon Anderson.

The school board also in October agreed to pay Duncan & Thompson Construction Services $297,285 to build a new canopy in front of Vestavia Hills Elementary Dolly Ridge. The previous canopy at the front entrance was damaged by a vehicle this past summer and had to be taken down. The school board’s attorney plans to seek reimbursement for at least a good portion of that expense from the school board’s insurance company, which in turn will seek reimbursement from the party that caused the damage, Superintendent Todd Freeman said. However, it’s likely the board will have to pay some of the expenses for the new canopy because the new canopy extends farther than the previous one, covering the full length of the loading and unloading area, Freeman said.

The goal is to get the new canopy installed over Christmas break, he said. In other business, the school board: ► Approved licensing agreements with Jeff Leonard Graphics and Moose Prints, so those companies can produce merchandise with logos and symbols that belong to the school system. Thirteen companies now have licensing agreements with the Vestavia Hills Board of Education, school system spokesman Whit McGhee said. ► Renewed the school system’s $8 million revolving line of credit with Regions Bank, which the system has had for several years in case of shortfalls at the end of a fiscal year. ► Received a $46,500 check from state Rep. Mike Shaw’s discretionary fund to use as needed. Shaw said he plans to talk with school

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principals in House District 47 about how the funds can best be spent in their schools. ► Recognized Technology Director Keith Price for receiving the Data Security Champion Award from the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools for his work to secure access to the school system’s network, protecting the network from outside interference and protecting the privacy of 900 employees and 7,000 students. Freeman also announced that Price is retiring in a couple of months, after about five years with the school system, and praised the job he has done. ► Recognized Brendan Lovelady in the school system’s technology department for receiving chief technology officer certification from the Alabama Leaders in Technology organization.

December 2023 • A15

Central elementary campus to become hub for nonprofits By JON ANDERSON The Vestavia Hills Elementary Central campus has been mostly vacant since 2019, after 30 years of use as a school for students in grades 4-5 in the Vestavia Hills Elementary East and Elementary West school zones, but now there are new plans for the building. Ammie Akin, a longtime educator, and her husband, Will Akin, a commercial real estate veteran, have agreed through a company called Wellspring Holdings to purchase the Central school for $1.25 million and turn it into a hub for educational nonprofits that will support needs in the community. The Vestavia Hills Board of Education gave its approval for the sale on Nov. 2. The school system is selling the 8.15 acres that includes the school and the two-story, 7,398-square-foot office building in front of the school, but it will hold onto the 12.15 acres that contain a track and soccer field because the system and Vestavia Hills Parks and Recreation Department still use those, Superintendent Todd Freeman said. The property was acquired from Vestavia Alliance Church in 1987. When the school system acquired Gresham Elementary School from Jefferson County and renamed it Vestavia Hills Elementary Dolly Ridge, all of Vestavia’s elementary schools became K-5 schools, and the Central campus was vacated. It has been used for some meetings, and the Vestavia Hills Parks and Recreation Department has used the gym, but the rest of the school has gone unused, Freeman said. He believes the Akins’ plans for the building, which now will be called Hub in the Hills, will be good for the community. Ammie Akin has 20 years of experience in education. Her background spans from elementary to high school and college, and she has served in administrative roles, most recently as interim superintendent for Briarwood Christian School. Akin completed her undergraduate training in the College of Education at the University of Alabama and continued her education by earning a master’s degree, educational specialist degree and

The Vestavia Hills Elementary Central school has been mostly unused since 2019. The Vestavia Hills Board of Education voted Nov. 2 to sell it to a private entity called Wellspring Holdings, that plans to make it a hub for educational nonprofits. Photo by Jon Anderson.

a doctorate in educational leadership at Samford University. In 2020, she joined the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Technology Studies at the University of Alabama as a clinical assistant professor of educational leadership. She has been a member of the university’s Leadership for Character Team, which is part of the Center for the Study of Ethical Development. She also assists with the Superintendents’ Academy through the university and has been a leadership facilitator and developed programs for aspiring and current principals and superintendents. But Akin’s passion for education extends beyond her professional endeavors. She has actively contributed to the launch of nonprofit organizations, including as the board chairwoman for Unless U, a nonprofit that supports adults with developmental disabilities.

She also is a member of the board of advisors for the University of Alabama Adapted Athletics, an organization that sponsors competitive college sports in men's and women's wheelchair basketball and tennis. Akin’s experiences have given her a keen understanding of the distinctive needs of children and families, according to a statement from Hub in the Hills. “Dr. Akin’s awareness of these unique needs fuels her commitment to creating meaningful and impactful initiatives that cater to the well-being and development of children and families,” the statement said. Akin described the Central elementary campus as an iconic landmark. “We feel privileged to have the opportunity to revitalize this space, ensuring that generations to come will continue to benefit from the rich legacy that Central Elementary represents,” she said.

Will Akin, an active real estate developer and investor who himself attended the Central elementary school, has had a focus on redeveloping distressed properties in Alabama and surrounding states. He also is a past chairman of the board for SavA-Life Vestavia and has partnered with numerous local charities. Ammie Akin said in early November they had not yet identified nonprofits to be part of the Hub in the Hills. Over the next several months, she and her husband will be working with architects, engineers and contractors to further inspect the property and develop renderings of how they want to redesign the space, she said. The purchase of the building is a personal investment for them, but not the kind of investment that many people think about, she said. “It’s an investment in the lives of people — our most important asset.”

FANOULA GULAS comes from a Greek family that had large gatherings with traditional Greek foods, so she learned early about the love of family, food and hospitality. After marrying into a large Greek family, the Gulases, known for their restaurants, she perfected some of the recipes that had been passed down for generations. Fanoula is bringing Greek pastries!

BROOKE BELL is the vice president of culinary and custom content at Hoffman Media, where she oversees the editorial teams of Bake from Scratch, Southern Cast Iron, Taste of the South, Louisiana Cookin’, and Cooking with Paula Deen as well as the test kitchen, custom content development, and cookbooks.

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A16 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

U.S. 280

CONTINUED from page A1 The state in 2024 plans to begin adding an extra lane on each side of U.S. 280 between Lakeshore Drive and Perimeter Park, just east of Interstate 459. That would make four dedicated through lanes on each side of the highway along that stretch of road. To make that happen, the state will have to replace the Pump House Road bridge over U.S. 280 in Mountain Brook because there is not enough room for additional lanes with the current bridge structure. Leonard The state also plans to add a third left-turn lane from westbound U.S. 280 onto I-459 and make repairs to the I-459 bridge deck, said DeJarvis Leonard, the lead engineer for ALDOT’s East Central Region. Additionally, the project includes repairs on the existing U.S. 280 roadbed between Lakeshore Drive and Rosedale Drive in Homewood and repaving of the stretch between Perimeter Park and the Cahaba River, Leonard said. That makes the total project cover about 5.8 miles. It’s clear the project is needed, Leonard said. Currently, there are an estimated nearly 100,000 vehicles per day traveling U.S. 280 at I-459, he said. The stretch of road in question is operating at a D or F level of service during peak traffic times (roughly 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 4:30-6 p.m.), he said. In traffic design lingo, a D level of service equates to “approaching unstable flow,” and an F level of service means “forced or breakdown flow,” in which travel time cannot be predicted and generally there is more demand than capacity. “We’re pretty much at full congestion,” Leonard said. Adding an extra through lane on each side of the highway should improve the level of service to a B or a C, Leonard said. A B level of service means “reasonably free flow,” and a C level of service means “stable flow, at or near free flow.” The planned road changes should take five to 10 minutes off the travel time between I-459 and the Red Mountain Expressway, Leonard said. “We’re excited about the project and think it should be a win-win for everyone,” he said.

Motorists travel on U.S. 280 between Perimeter Park and The Summit. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.


The expected cost is $25 million to $30 million, but the project is still in the final design stage, and construction bids probably won’t be taken until March, Leonard said. Construction should start in early May and take 18 to 24 months to complete, he said. The bulk of the work will be scheduled at night and on weekends so as to minimize disruptions to weekday traffic, Leonard said. There will be some traffic interruptions, especially during bridge construction, but the public will be notified in advance about major traffic flow alterations, he said. This project has been in the planning stages for three to four years, Leonard said. Originally, it was a smaller project that involved new lanes being added only between Lakeshore Drive and Pump House Road — a stretch of about 2.1 miles, Leonard said. However, it was such a small job that it didn’t attract the attention of a lot of contractors, and the bids received were high, he said. ALDOT decided to broaden the scope of the job and believes that will attract more bidders and help bring the cost per mile down, he said. The project already has been approved by the Birmingham Metropolitan Planning Organization and added to the state’s transportation improvement plan, Leonard said. It will be funded by the state, including state and federal tax dollars, he said. The city of Birmingham is making adjustments to improve the entrance to The Summit shopping center from U.S. 280 in conjunction with the ALDOT project, Leonard said. State and Birmingham area officials

have looked at numerous ways to improve traffic flow on U.S. 280 over recent decades, including an option to build an elevated roadway in parts of the corridor. However, there was enough opposition from cities and communities in the corridor to eliminate that idea from consideration. Among the concerns, residents said they feared an elevated roadway would be unsightly and add noise and light pollution, hurting their property values.


Regarding the new plan to add lanes to U.S. 280, Mountain Brook Mayor Stewart Welch said he believes it will help move traffic through the area faster between downtown Birmingham and I-459. Some Mountain Brook residents two years ago expressed concerns during a public meeting that the elimination of an acceleration lane from Overton Road onto U.S. 280 will make traffic back up too long on Overton, causing a logjam there. Leonard said ALDOT needs to turn that

acceleration lane into a through lane because there is not enough room for both to exist due to the terrain. He understands that would make it more difficult for traffic from Overton Road to merge onto U.S. Welch 280, but in response to resident concerns, ALDOT plans to alter the traffic light timing to give dedicated time for right turns from Overton onto U.S. 280, he said. Welch said that should help compensate some for the removal of the acceleration lane. “I know they’re going to try to address the problem as best they can with the timing of the lights, and hopefully it won’t get too bad,” he said. People would be surprised how much traffic can flow through an intersection in 20

seconds, he said. “I think ALDOT’s doing the best they can to solve a problem that’s a pretty tough problem,” Welch said. Vestavia Hills Mayor Ashley Curry said he definitely views the additional Curry lanes on U.S. 280 as a positive. The traffic volumes on U.S. 280 have far surpassed the original projections for the roadway, he said. The additional lanes on the highway will help more traffic more efficiently, he said. “I don’t think there’s any way it would do anything but help us,” he said. “It’ll be safer. It’ll be quicker.” While that stretch of U.S. 280 isn’t in the Hoover city limits, it will affect many Hoover residents as well, especially those who live in the Greystone or Inverness areas. Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said he knows that U.S. 280 is a difficult problem to solve and that ALDOT has studied the situation. “I’m grateful they’re actually putting new lanes on 280 to help the problem,” Brocato said. “I think that eventually that will be the solution as it moves out through Chelsea as well.” About 10 years ago, ALDOT implemented a change in Brocato traffic patterns at the intersection of U.S. 280 and Valleydale Road, for drivers on westbound U.S. 280 who want to turn left onto Valleydale and drivers on eastbound U.S. 280 who want to turn left onto Cahaba Beach Road. Those drivers now must go through the traffic light at Valleydale Road and make a U-turn and then a right turn instead. That took some adjustment by drivers, but the changes did help move traffic quicker, Brocato said. The U.S. 280 corridor is vital to a number of cities, including Hoover, Brocato said. “We certainly want to support anything ALDOT does to help move traffic through there safely and efficiently and at the same time gives our communities the opportunity to continue shopping on 280,” he said.

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A18 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice


CONTINUED from page A1 “We don’t focus on a test, but the test is an indication of how our kids perform and what they have learned during the school year. It’s a good piece of information for us.” Given that the vast majority of Vestavia Hills students go on to college, “we feel like we’re getting them prepared well and ready to go when they graduate,” Freeman said. “We’re always looking for room to grow, and test scores always give us ideas of areas where we can strengthen ourselves. We would like to strengthen our math and science. That being said, we still do really well in those areas. That’s just a place we feel like we can grow.” Districtwide, English proficiency scores have stayed the same (83%) the past three years, data shows. Science proficiency rates grew from 77% in 2021 to 79% in both 2022 and 2023. Math proficiency rates grew from 63% in 2021 to 72% in 2022, but rates then fell to 68% in 2023. Jason Bostic, Vestavia Hills’ district assessment coordinator, said it’s important to note that the 2021 tests were taken near the end of a year in which many students were still learning partially or completely virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of students were still trying to get back into normal routines, and educators across the state were concerned about whether students were learning as effectively with virtual instruction. The spring of 2021 also was the first time the state’s students were taking the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program tests. The ACAP tests are only one tool that teachers use to assess their students’ progress, but Bostic said perhaps the biggest takeaway from looking at recent years’ test scores in Vestavia Hills is that math is an area where school leaders want to focus. The percentage of Vestavia Hills elementary students (grades 3-8) deemed proficient in math varies from 61% at Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights to 80% at Vestavia Hills Elementary Liberty Park. All of Vestavia Hills’ elementary schools have increased proficiency rates since 2021, but four of the five elementary schools saw a slight decline in proficiency from 2022 to 2023. Only Vestavia Hills Elementary Dolly Ridge saw math scores increase from 2022 to 2023. At the middle school level, about 68% of Pizitz Middle School students were proficient in math, which was up from 63% in 2021 but down from 73% in 2022. About 55% of students at Liberty Park Middle School were deemed proficient in math in the spring of 2023, down from 59% in 2022 and 58% in 2021. At the high school level, proficiency rates are based on 11th graders’ performance on the ACT college entrance exam. At Vestavia Hills High School, 69% of the 11th graders were deemed proficient in math in the spring of 2023, down from 75% in 2022 and 71% in 2021. In English, three of the five Vestavia Hills elementary schools showed improvement in test scores in the spring of 2023, while middle and high school students showed just slight declines in English. In science, four Vestavia Hills elementary schools showed declines from 2022 to 2023,

Top Test Scores in Alabama


PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH 1. Mountain Brook: 86.7% 2. Vestavia Hills: 83.4% 3. Saraland: 78.2% 4. Homewood: 77% 5. Cullman: 75.6% 6. Trussville: 75.4% 7. Madison: 74.6% 8. Hoover: 73.4% 9. Hartselle: 71.7% 10. Arab: 71.1%

92% 90% 89%


87% 86% 85%



87% 86%

83% 83% 82%




PROFICIENCY IN MATH 1. Mountain Brook: 78.6% 2. Vestavia Hills: 68.1% 3. Homewood: 62.9% 4. Cullman: 62.3% 5. Saraland: 61.8% 6. Orange Beach: 60.8% 7. Arab: 60.5% 8. Hoover: 59.4% 9. Muscle Shoals: 58.9% 10. Trussville: 58.7%

PROFICIENCY IN SCIENCE 1. Mountain Brook: 82.6% 2. Vestavia Hills: 78.6% 3. Homewood: 71.3% 4. Trussville: 67.9% 5. Cullman: 66.4% 6. Hartselle: 65.5% 7. Saraland: 64.2% 8. Oneonta: 63% 9. Madison: 61.6% 10. Hoover: 61% SOURCE: ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION




We have additional resources to help students that are not proficient or need additional support in the skills outside of what they’re getting in the classroom.


they were in the fourth grade in the spring of 2023, Bostic said. Those are, for the most part, the current class of fifth graders, though some students have come or gone as they moved to another area or school. However, that same group of students saw their math proficiency scores decline from 81% in the spring of 2021 and 2022 to 68% this past spring, Bostic said. This year’s sixth graders saw their English proficiency scores rise from 84% in 2021 to 90% in 2022 and 92% in 2023, while their math scores dropped from 71% in 2021 to 68% in 2022, but then rose to 74% in 2023.


Emily Graham, a fifth grade math teacher at Vestavia Hills Elementary Dolly Ridge, reviews decimal subtraction with her students Nov. 9. Dolly Ridge was the only Vestavia Hills school where math scores increased from 2022 to 2023. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

but all were still higher than in 2021. Students at both middle schools and the high school showed declines in science proficiency, but the decline at Pizitz Middle School was less than 1 percentage point. Bostic said Vestavia Hills school officials find it valuable to track the progress of the

same group of students as they move from one grade to the next. There are some encouraging signs. About 79% of the district’s second graders in the spring of 2021 were proficient in English, and that increased to 84% when they were in the third grade the next year and 87% when

So how do teachers and school officials use test score data? Bostic said all the schools have professional learning team times built into their school day to look at student work and identify students who may need intervention or content areas that need more focus in the classroom. In the elementary schools, teachers from the same grade level meet together, and in the secondary schools, teachers break into groups based on their respective content areas, he said. Students also take benchmark assessments three times a year — at the beginning, midpoint and end of the year — and any students who fall in the bottom 25% are screened to see

VESTAVIA HILLS TEST SCORE PROFICIENCY BY GRADUATING CLASS These charts show how the same general group of students performed over the past three spring test cycles. It includes students from all Vestavia Hills elementary schools.

92% 90% 87% 84%

84% 85%






81% 74%




December 2023 • A19

88% 86%


86% 83% 82%

83% 80%

75% 74% 73%


71% 69%




75% 74%

75% 73%

76% 75%


70% 69% 68%

64% 63% 60%

81% 77%


72% 71%


63% 59%



58% 56% 55%

if they need additional support, Bostic said. “We have additional resources to help students that are not proficient or need additional support in the skills outside of what they’re getting in the classroom,” he said. Teachers also take time to review state curriculum standards and make sure those standards are being taught, Bostic said. That was especially important the past couple of years because the state standards have been updated in reading and math, he said. Brooke Wedgworth, a curriculum and instruction director for the school system, said it’s an ongoing process to see if the district’s strategies are working or not. Sometimes, the strategies may be specific to

a particular grade level at a certain school, and other times they may be implemented across the district, depending on the need, she said. About five years ago, district officials saw a need to focus on phonics instruction. They started in kindergarten and each year added another grade level, providing extra professional development for teachers. “We definitely saw improvement because of that,” Wedgworth said. However, they’re still seeing some results in that area of test score data that they don’t want to see, she said. Teachers also have been focusing in the past couple of years on making sure they use the same terminology and academic vocabulary that is used on the ACAP test, Wedgworth

said. For example, students may know how to do the math but, if different terminology is used in the test instructions, may not understand what exactly they are being asked to do, she said. The answer may be as simple as using a different word, she said. Also, some grade levels, after reviewing test score data, have been working to improve students’ vocabulary, which is part of the reading assessment, Wedgworth said. The district focused on vocabulary for K-5 students during a professional development day for teachers in October, she said. Another professional development session focused on math, especially problem-solving, she said. District leaders believe the teachers do a

great job, but they can continue to learn and improve to help maximize student understanding and performance, she said. The school district is putting a heavy emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math instruction, Wedgworth said. “We know our kids need it, and we know that’s what a whole lot of our students are going into careerwise,” she said. While Vestavia Hills school officials do check to see how their students are doing compared to students in other school districts, the focus is primarily on Vestavia Hills students themselves, Bostic said. “We’re focusing on our kids and our district and making sure we’re meeting their academic needs.”

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A memorial to those we’ve loved and lost Memorial Dedication & Tree Lighting

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10TH • 3:30 - 5:30 PM HOMEWOOD CENTRAL PARK Refreshments | Santa & Mrs. Claus | Holiday Music A tree filled with lights will be placed on the corner of Oxmoor Road & Central Avenue in Central Park & illuminated during November & December


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December 2023

Sports B4 Events B10 Opinion B12 Real Estate B14

Metro Roundup B15

Rebels look to continue positive momentum By KYLE PARMLEY Make no mistake, losing Win Miller to graduation is a big blow to the Vestavia Hills High School boys basketball team. He scored over 2,000 points in his career and finished as the program’s all-time leading scorer. But the Rebels are in about as good a position as can be hoped for when it comes to moving forward. “We return four starters and five of our top six in terms of minutes and statistical production,” Vestavia Hills head coach Patrick Davis said. Jackson Weaver, Jordan Ross, Keown Richardson, Thomas Taaffe and Adam Barksdale are all back and eager to lead the Rebels this season. That’s not to say replacing Miller is an easy task. In addition to his scoring punch, he added plenty to the Rebels both on and off the floor. He helped push the Rebels’ offense toward the preferred pace and he helped hold the team together off the floor. Davis believes he will be a strong college player at Belmont University. “He was a guy everybody could look to when things got rocky. He had been there and done that,” Davis said. At the start of this season, the Rebels will be far from a finished product. Ross and Richardson were in the playoffs with the football team at the start of the season, while Weaver was working his way back from an injury. It may take some time for the Rebels to round into form, but Davis is bullish on this team’s potential. “I think by the time it’s all said and done, we’ve got a chance to be really good,” he said. “We’ve had a couple teams the last few years where we were really good in November. That’s hard to sustain for another three months. I don’t


Vestavia HIlls’ Jackson Weaver (12) dribbles the ball guarded by Bob Jones’ Malachi Mitchell (3) during a Northwest Regional semifinal game at Tom Drake Coliseum at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville in February. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

see us being anywhere near as good as we can be this calendar year [November and December].” Weaver stepped up as Miller’s primary sidekick last year on the stat sheet, with Davis making a Batman and Robin comparison between the two. Davis believes Weaver is now “ready to be Batman.” “He’s very much wired that way and plays with an edge, with a chip, and plays kind of ticked off. He’s more than capable,” Davis said of Weaver. There are seven seniors on the varsity roster this season. Five of them have significant varsity

experience, with Weaver, Ross, Richardson, Taaffe and Ben Evans all expected to contribute heavily once again. Nate Brown and Andrew Cox are also seniors who will have a chance to make an impact. Davis is excited to see Evans take the next step in his game. “Him going from a luxury commodity kind of guy to a guy that’s got to be an every night guy is going to be a big deal,” Davis said. Wood Woodward, Jones Cleary, Barksdale, Josh Milner, Parker Surber, Jack Cobb and Axel Dieguez are juniors on varsity as well.



Vestavia Hills will travel to Kentucky again this winter during the Christmas break to compete in a high-quality tournament the Rebels won last year. The Rebels will also face the likes of Chelsea, Spain Park, Hartselle, Homewood, Mountain Brook, Oak Mountain and Oxford before Class 7A, Area 5 play with Hoover, Thompson and Tuscaloosa County. The Rebels have advanced to the regional tournament each of the last three seasons and will look to build upon that success once again, as they have posted a combined record of 77-15 over those three years.


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B2 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

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December 2023 • B3

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B4 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice


Talent, experience give Lady Rebels high hopes By KYLE PARMLEY The Vestavia Hills High School girls basketball team enters the 2023-24 season with arguably as much experience as any team in the state, according to head coach John David Smelser. That is the case despite the Lady Rebels only having one senior this year. Five of their top six players are back, and four of them possess state championship game experience. The biggest loss from last year’s team is Anna Towry, a player who scored points but also contributed in a multitude of ways. “We’re trying to figure out how to play without her and what she brought. You kind of notice what she did bring when you’re playing without her,” Smelser said. Sarah Gordon returns as the team’s leading scorer. Smelser said she has added to her game over the offseason, including being able to score on different levels. He has seen great improvement over the last year and still doesn’t believe the junior has reached her ceiling. “Offensively, there’s not much negative to her game. Defensively, she’s long and quick. She’s gotten better and she continues to improve,” he said. Jill Gaylard, Jordan Madsen and Grayson Hudgens are all back. Each of them has plenty of experience and will play pivotal roles this year. Mallory Cowan is the team’s lone senior this year and has embraced her role as being a leader to a team of players younger than her. The Lady Rebels have six juniors that complement each other well. “They’ve all got a different role and they all bring something different to the table,” Smelser said. “They all feed off each other and they’re

Vestavia HIlls’ Sarah Gordon (33) shoots a 3-pointer guarded by Bob Jones’ Ja’Kyah Smith (10) in a Northwest Regional semifinal game at Tom Drake Coliseum at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville in February. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

all leaders. As long as we can be unselfish and play for each other, we’ve got a chance to be really good.” Smelser has no doubt that this team possesses the talent to make a deep run in the playoffs. Many of the upperclassmen have been part of the program as it has won 91 games over the last three seasons. The program has also advanced to at least the regional tournament for four consecutive years. He believes the key to helping this year’s team reach its potential will be how it jells off the court.

“How connected can we be? How can we all accept our role and the best in our role and not try to be something else? They’ve played together since they were in third grade,” he said. Emma Gordon, Sarah’s twin sister, will get her chance to contribute in a big way this season. Marley Cowan is a sophomore who stands over 6 feet tall. She will provide the Lady Rebels with plenty of scoring punch and gives them a different dimension as a post player.

Junior Rosemary Gill suffered a knee injury that will keep her out of action. Smelser said there will be a few underclassmen that will contribute to the varsity squad this season as well, as they prove themselves. Vestavia Hills will take on teams like Chelsea, Spain Park, Hartselle, Pleasant Grove, Homewood, Mountain Brook and Bob Jones. The Lady Rebels will also play in a couple tournaments before taking on Class 7A, Area 5 play with Tuscaloosa County, Hoover and Thompson.





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B6 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

UNDER THE LIGHTS By KYLE PARMLEY The high school football regular season has come to a close, with Vestavia Hills posting an 8-2 record and earning the No. 3 seed out of Class 7A, Region 3. Here are some highlights from the last few regular season contests. Stay tuned to for postseason coverage of the playoffs. Photos by DAVID LEONG

Bruce Littleton (22): Caught a 48-yard TD pass vs. Oak Mountain.

Owen Simpson (96): Hit a 44-yard field goal vs. Tuscaloosa County.

Vestavia Hills defense: Pitched 3 straight shutouts to finish regular season.

Charlie Taaffe (19): Threw a TD pass vs. Oak Mountain.

Bo Shea (not pictured) and Gibson Bean (45): Intercepted passes vs. Tuscaloosa County.

John Paul Head (13): Combined for 5 TDs vs. Oak Mountain.

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B8 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

Sports Editor’s Note By Kyle Parmley

Let them celebrate As someone who covers plenty of high school sports throughout the year, I get the great opportunity to see many, many teams be crowned champions. Area champions, regional champions, state champions. There are so many trophies handed out during the course of all the seasons. For example, if you go to the Super 7 high school football state championships, you’ll see eight state titles awarded over a three-day period. I can easily see how you become numb Parmley to that, if you work a large number of championship events. You see the same movie unfold over and over. Team A wins and rushes the field in a bundle of elation and claims a trophy for its efforts. Rinse, repeat. I’m often frustrated at how the teams that win these championship events are stifled in the immediate aftermath of victory. After a very brief explosion of joy, players and coaches are shuffled back to their places so that the mundane and repetitive awards ceremony can commence. For the high school athletic teams in this state, they are told that reaching these championship events is the pinnacle of their seasons. But too often, they are only allowed to celebrate for a single moment and then moved out of the way for the next title game. What gets lost so often is the context each team carries at the end of a season. The teams fortunate enough to win a state championship have logged countless hours, days and months with each other, achieving triumphs and persevering through struggles along the way. They didn’t just show up at the end ready to win it all. These coaches and athletes have dedicated their lives for a portion of time to ensure that their particular team has a chance at glory. While those of us who are fortunate enough to cover these events regularly can always come back next year, many of the players and coaches get one shot at claiming a state title. The least we can do is allow them to bask in the moment of reaching the mountaintop of their sport. It’ll be OK if the next game starts a few minutes later than planned. The teams deserve at least a minute or two to soak up a championship moment. Let them enjoy it! Kyle Parmley is the sports editor at Starnes Media.

Varsity Sports Calendar BASKETBALL

Dec. 28-30: Boys at Metro Tournament. Homewood High School.

Dec. 1: @ Homewood. Girls at 6 p.m., boys at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5: @ Mountain Brook. Girls at 6 p.m., boys at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 29: Girls @ Helena. TBA.


Dec. 8: vs. Oak Mountain. Girls at 5:30 p.m., boys at 7 p.m.

Dec. 5: Panther Invitational. The Alley.

Dec. 15: Boys @ Hewitt-Trussville. 7 p.m.

Dec. 11: vs. Hewitt-Trussville. Vestavia Bowl. 3 p.m.

Dec. 15: Girls @ Bob Jones. TBA.

Dec. 14: vs. Southside-Gadsden. The Alley. 3 p.m.

Dec. 18: Girls at Maserati of Birmingham Classic. Vestavia Hills High School.


Dec. 19-21: Boys at Jim Rose Central Bank Classic. Lexington, Kentucky.

Dec. 7: vs. Calera, Pelham. Vestavia Bowl. 3 p.m.

Dec. 2: Magic City Invite. Birmingham CrossPlex. Dec. 9: Holiday Invitational. Birmingham CrossPlex.

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B10 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice


Vestavia Hills events guide Dec. 2: All is Bright. Vestavia Hills City Center. The All is Bright holiday event will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Attendees will enjoy Christmas activities, photo opportunities, live performances, a visit with Santa, lots of great giveaways, vendors, Christmas carols, free kids’ activities and more. Dec. 3: Holiday Parade + Party in the Park. Santa himself will be on hand to help celebrate the Christmas season. The parade will begin at 2 p.m., traveling from Liberty Park Middle School and ending at Alston Meadows, where the holiday party will take place afterward. The event is free. Rain date is Dec. 10. For information, visit business. and click the “Events” tab.

Dec. 7: Legacy League Home Tour. View beautiful homes around Homewood and Vestavia Hills during the 13th annual Christmas Home Tour, organized by Samford University and sponsored by ARC Realty. The tour will consist of five unique homes throughout the area, including the home of Samford President Beck Taylor and his wife, Julie. Two different time slots are available: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 4 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 through Nov. 30 or $45 from Dec. 1-5. events/Christmas-Home-Tour. Dec. 9: Breakfast with Santa. Come out and enjoy a free pancake breakfast with Santa, courtesy of the City of Vestavia Hills, from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at the Vestavia Hills Civic Center, 1090 Montgomery Highway. details/breakfast-with-santa-6508.

will build their houses at home, then drop them off at the civic center to be displayed from 9 a.m. to noon. There will be multiple categories under which houses can be registered, and all participants will be able to vote on which house they like the best. All proceeds will be donated to the Megan Montgomery Foundation, an organization dedicated to preventing domestic abuse by investing in young adults and helping them recognize unhealthy behaviors. Register at Dec. 12: Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce Luncheon. The last Vestavia Hills Chamber luncheon of 2023 will take place at 11:30 a.m. at Vestavia Country Club, 400 Beaumont Drive. There will be time for networking before lunch is served. Register at

favorite Christmas character. This event is a great way to get involved with your community, donate to charity and get ready for the Christmas season all in one. The run will take place starting at 7.30 a.m. at 1425 Montgomery Highway, Suite 115. Registration is $30 for the 5K or $20 for the 1-mile fun run. Register at TheReindeerDash2018.

Library in the Forest CHILDREN Dec. 6: 12 Below — Random Craft Day. 3:30 p.m. Children’s Program Room. Grades 3-6. Dec. 12: Family Night with Santa. 6 p.m. Community Room. Dinner, a show and photos with Santa.

Dec. 5: Birmingham Boys Choir 46th Christmas Concert. 7 p.m. Wright Center at Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Drive. The Birmingham Boys Choir is a nonprofit organization that provides young boys in the Birmingham area an opportunity to concentrate and develop their musical skills. The concert is free and no ticket is required.

Dec. 9: Gingerbread Jam. Sign up for the Second Annual Gingerbread Jam, which will take place at the Vestavia Hills Civic Center. Participants

Dec. 14: Menorah Lighting. The Vestavia Hills Menorah Lighting will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Vestavia Hills City Hall, 1032 Montgomery Highway. Come enjoy latkes, donuts, music, kids’ activities and gelt drop. For more details visit chabadof Dec. 18: Reindeer Dash. Join the city of Vestavia Hills for a 5K run for charity dressed as your

Dec. 13: 12 Below — Gingerbread House Competition. 3:30 p.m. Children’s Program Room. Grades 3-6. TEENS Dec. 1 and 8: Open Gaming. Community Room. Enjoy board games and the latest consoles with fellow teens. Snacks served. Dec. 6: Writing Group — Picture

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Prompts. 4 p.m. Historical Room. Join the writing group and build a story based around pictures you randomly select. Snacks served. Dec. 9: Dungeons and Dragons OneShot — Claus for Concern. 2 p.m. Historical Room. Journey to the North Pole and save Christmas before it’s too late! Snacks served. Registration required. To register, contact Daniel at 205-978-3683. Dec. 11-13: Exam Study Breaks. 3, 5 and 7 p.m. Historical Room. Need a break from studying? The Teen Department is offering 30-minute study breaks with snacks and games. The library will be open until 9 p.m. these nights. Dec. 15: Beat Saber Tournament. 4 p.m. Community Room. Test your lightsaber skills in a Beat Saber VR tournament. Grand prize is an Amazon gift card. Snacks served. Dec. 19: Tabletop Gaming Group — Christmas cheer. 4 p.m. Makerspace. Celebrate all things tabletop and try out Christmas-themed games and drink a cup of hot chocolate. Games and expertise provided. Dec. 20: Gingerbread House Contest. 4 p.m. Makerspace. Decorate, celebrate and compete to see who can build the ultimate edible edifice. Snacks served. Dec. 27: Game Party. 4 p.m. Makerspace.

Join us in-person to play interactive Jackbox party games like Quiplash, Drawful and Tee K.O. with other teens. Phone or mobile device recommended. Snacks served. ADULTS Tuesdays: The Sisterhood Circle. 6 p.m. Library Treehouse. Meet new people, enjoy refreshments and have good conversation in our Sisterhood Circles. During this busy season, we all need to take a moment to breathe. So, bring yourself, bring a friend and enjoy some much-needed me-time. Hosted by Dehryl Mason. Dec. 5: Breathe In, Chill Out; Dec. 12: Collage Cafe: Memories & Simple Pleasures; Dec. 19: Cue the Applause: Celebrate Your Year! Dec. 6: Crafters Inc. Holiday Paper Quilling. 11 a.m. Community Room. Dec. 13: Hallmark Movie Party. 2 p.m. Community Room. Dec. 14: Read & Feed Book Group. 6 p.m. Community Room. Dec. 15: Craft*Lab: Holiday Ornaments. 7 p.m. Community Room. Dec. 21: Friends of the Library Holiday Party. 10 a.m. Community Room. Featuring Alie Gorrie.

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B12 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

Opinion Sean of the South By Sean Dietrich

The Soloist I was 11. I was invited to try out for the Christmas community choir. A lady visited our church to conduct the auditions. I had been practicing for three weeks, learning the lyrics to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” My father, the welder, took me to the audition after work. Before it was my turn to sing, he gave me a pep talk. “Knock it outta the park,” he said. “Like Mickey Mantle, you hear?” I sang for the lady in the wire-rimmed glasses who held the clipboard. She was less than impressed with me. “Stop singing!” she shouted, interrupting my song. “We’re looking for something else, I’m sorry. Next please?” My father stormed forward from the back of the church. He looked like he was on his way to pick a fight with an umpire. “Now wait a minute, lady,” he said. “I demand you let my boy finish his song. He’s been working on it for weeks. What kind of heartless woman doesn’t let a kid finish his song?” The woman’s mouth dropped open. She looked at my father like he’d lost his mind. She sat down and asked me to sing it again. I cleared my throat. I sang. I did much better than before. It wasn’t a home run, per se, but more like an outfield triple. I got the part. I was 15 feet tall. Until that day, I’d never done anything special with my life — unless

“You’re gonna be fine.” you counted the noises I could “But what if I mess up?” make with my armpits. I was a “You won’t.” chubby kid with awkward fea“I gotta puke.” tures. I was neither handsome, nor athletic. “Listen to me,” he said. But now, I was a soloist. “Singing is just like baseball, It took months of preparation you stand at the plate, you to get it right. Each day after relax, you hit the ball. Now school, I would rehearse for my you’re gonna go knock that ball mother in the kitchen while she outta the park, got it?” made supper. I almost lost my lunch on his On the night of the perforboots. mance, my father arrived home The chapel was ornate. I Dietrich an hour late. He wheeled into have never seen so many people our driveway, kicking gravel crammed into one place — behind his tires. there must’ve been three counties in attendance. My mother flew off the porch, carrying A small community orchestra played. The choir my choir robe on a hanger. “You’re late!” she sang. Then came my solo. And … shouted at him. My mother gasped when she I choked. saw my father. I missed my cue. Maybe it was because of the “You’re filthy!” she said. “You can’t go like large audience, or the three-story stained glass, that!” His denim clothes were stained, he smelled or the beautiful choir. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. like diesel, his skin was painted with soot. “The boss made me work late,” he said. The music came to a screeching halt. The “Ain’t got time to change.” choir director almost passed a kidney stone. My mother wished me luck with a kiss on Everyone knew something was wrong. The the forehead and stayed behind. My father sped silence of the hall was deafening. through the night. This is how I would die, I thought. On a We arrived at a Presbyterian church with lots stage, wearing a starched robe. of cars in the parking area. Families were walkThen, I saw him. ing into the chapel dressed in Christmas finery. He was in the back of the room, a mile away. “I think I’m gonna be sick,” I told Daddy. The sooty man, sitting in a pew surrounded

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by people in fancy clothes. People who had scooted away from him. And that look he wore. It was pride. His boy was on the platform. Suddenly, I was less worried. I forgot where I was. The audience disappeared. The next thing I knew, I was singing. By the second verse, every voice in the audience had joined me. Hundreds of voices, following mine. And from the back of the chapel, candles were being lit, one by one, until the place was illuminated with a million lights. When the concert finished, my father met me backstage. His eyes were raw and red. There were tear-trails on his dirty cheeks. The choir director congratulated me. Then, she shook my father’s filthy hand. “Merry Christmas,” she said. But he couldn’t seem to speak. All he could manage to say was, “That’s my boy.” Then he said it again. He took me into town to eat a chili dog. We ate on the tailgate. We stayed up late. We laughed. That was our last Christmas together. If you get a chance today, tell your kids how proud they make you. Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast.

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December 2023 • B13

Life Actually By Kari Kampakis

Raising confident kids If I had to name one thing that I don’t want my children to struggle with, I’d probably say confidence. That is why it’s hard for me to see them doubt themselves or question their abilities. I remember the first time I witnessed real self-doubt in my child. It descended upon my daughter unexpectedly, and I felt helpless trying to stop it. She was in third grade and learning her multiplication facts. Every day after school, she practiced timed tests on the computer and dissolved into tears when she failed to beat the buzzer. After a week of discouraging lows, I noticed a change in my child. My once-confident little girl seemed to shrink before my eyes as she lost faith in herself and her intelligence. The worst part was hearing her self-assessment. It broke my heart. “I’m so stupid.” “I’ll never get this.” “That’s it. I’m quitting.” “I’m an idiot. I hate school.” She had pegged herself wrong, of course, but nothing I said could convince her of that. Even her history as a great student was irrelevant in her mind. This challenge in math stumped her, and it messed with her confidence in unprecedented ways. It took time and practice, but my daughter worked through the issue. She eventually learned her equations with speed and efficiency. With each step of progress she made,

her confidence grew. And what I grew to learn myself was how little control I have in saving my child from a struggle. This was (and still is) painful to accept. As a mom, I want to kick self-doubt to the curb. I want to believe that lots of love, affirmation and encouragement will armor my four children with bulletproof confidence. But the truth is, my influence has limits. I can praise my kids all day, but how they feel about themselves and their potential is ultimately a matter that only their Creator can help them settle. The good news is, God loves them more than I do. He sees the future and knows what they need today to be ready for tomorrow. While I want to rescue my kids immediately from uncomfortable situations and emotions, God sees the bigger picture. He understands how letting them wrestle with adversity and self-doubt can 1) draw my children to Him, 2) build character and 3) cultivate the right kind of confidence. If life was always easy, and my kids easily excelled in everything, they’d probably be arrogant. They might take full credit for their gifts and success. But when they see their weak points, they recognize their need for God. They can receive His grace and let His power work through them, since God’s power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). This truth leads to humble confidence. It helps my daughters see God as the bigger force at work and credit Him for anything they accomplish or overcome.

I want humble confidence for my children, but I wish there was a shortcut. I wish I didn’t have to watch them get knocked to their knees and pray they’ll make it back up. It toils my heart to see them struggle, yet I find peace in God’s promises. God has carried my daughters through obstacles in His perfect timing. The breakthroughs always come when a breakthrough is needed most. And while I don’t enjoy watching them hit roadblocks or mental blocks, I do love seeing the confidence they gain when perseverance and commitment pay off and they emerge stronger on the other side. It’s natural for all our children to doubt themselves, but I pray they never doubt God. God is working in them and for them, and with His help they can cultivate confidence that is rooted deeply in Him, enabling them to fulfill their God-given purpose and positively impact the world. Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis is a Mountain Brook mom of four girls, author, speaker and blogger. Kari’s newest book, “More Than a Mom: How Prioritizing Your Wellness Helps You (and Your Family) Thrive,” is now available on Amazon, Audible and everywhere books are sold. Kari’s bestselling other books — “Love Her Well,” “Liked” and “10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know” have been used widely across the country for small group studies. Join Kari on Facebook and Instagram, visit her blog at, or find her on the Girl Mom Podcast.

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B14 • December 2023

Vestavia Voice

Real Estate

By the numbers: October 2022 vs. 2023

65 65

35243 35243



35226 35226

35216 35216





35242 35242 35242 35226


Note: Real estate data is by zip code, but some parts of these zip codes are outside the city limits. Data provided by the Greater Alabama Multiple Listing Service on Nov. 7, 2023

Recently sold homes in Vestavia Hills

► ADDRESS: 3337 Southbend Circle ► BED/BATH: 4/3 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 3,971 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Southbend ► SALE PRICE: $975K

► ADDRESS: 2697 Altadena Road ► BED/BATH: 3/3 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 3,505 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Altadena ► SALE PRICE: $635K

► ADDRESS: 2718 Pruett Place ► BED/BATH: 3/3 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 2,440 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Cahaba Heights ► SALE PRICE: $530K

► ADDRESS: 717 Lexington Road ► BED/BATH: 3/2 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 1,768 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Vestavia Hills ► SALE PRICE: $477.6K

► ADDRESS: 1509 Hamilton Lane ► BED/BATH: 3/2 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 1,970 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Hamilton Square ► SALE PRICE: $425K

► ADDRESS: 824 Vestavia Villa Court, Unit 824 ► BED/BATH: 2/1.5 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 1,254 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Vestavia Villas ► SALE PRICE: $170K SOURCE: GREATER ALABAMA MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE

December 2023 • B15

Metro Roundup 280 CORRIDOR

API CEO shepherds both politics and seven children By KATHARINE ARMBRESTER For those who believe that being a fulltime mother and the CEO of an organization is impossible, Stephanie Smith proves them wrong. She has been a voice and driving force in Alabama politics for 25 years, and in the meantime she has been the mother of seven children. Smith is the president of the Alabama Policy Brought to Institute, located along you by our the U.S. 280 corridor sister paper: in the Brook Highland area. The API is a conservative think tank and is the only one of its kind in Alabama. Congressman Gary Palmer and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker were instrumental in creating the API in 1989. For nearly 35 years the nonprofit, non-partisan organization has strived to “inform the general public about good public policy so that they are equipped to engage in the political process.” “We believe that the policy decisions our leaders make have a huge impact upon our daily lives; it is our goal to impact those making policy decisions for the betterment of the state,” Smith said. The Alabama Policy Institute protects fairness, freedom, and families by investigating, informing about, and initiating positive public policy, is the stated mission of the API. Informing the public about their policies and

Stephanie Smith serves as the president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank that is the only one of its kind in the state. Photo courtesy of API.

equipping people to participate in the political process of our state is one of their main goals. While the organization is not affiliated with any political party, Smith states that their

mission is the “promotion of limited government, economic freedom, and the promotion of the family.” The last tenet of her organization’s mission is particularly important to her.

“In my 22 years as a mother, I've been a full-time employee, a stay-at-home mom, a small business owner, and now a non-profit leader,” says Smith. “I think we all have to strive to find a good balance between work and home, but I'll admit I do regularly feel the pinch that many working mothers feel.” Smith believes that part of her success at balancing a large family and a career is due to the support she has received from the API’s board, donors, and the organization’s commitment to protecting families. The API is the only organization in Alabama that is the designated affiliate of the State Policy Network, which serves as a network for conservative and libertarian think tanks in the United States. There are 68 State Policy Network affiliates in our country, and only five of them are led by women. Smith acknowledges that female CEOs are unusual in her field, and she is the first female CEO for the API. Smith is dedicated to the principles of her organization and hopes that it will continue to find ways to educate Alabamians about public policy and get them involved in improving their communities. Her service to both her family and to the state is proof that the two commitments are achievable. “I believe that providence and my 25 years of experience in Alabama politics led me to the exact right place at the right time,” says Smith, and she is grateful for the backing she has received from her organization, as well as the loving support of her family. “Running our family is a team sport and we're all passionate about the mission of API.”

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