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Phil Campbell students decorate Alabama State Capitol Christmas tree

Christmas at the Alabama State Capitol has a distinct Franklin County flare as students from Phil Campbell Elementary School's 4th grade class traveled to Montgomery Thursday to decorate a tree in the capitol rotunda.

The trip was at the invitation of Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. Each holiday season Merrill invites an elementary class to travel to Montgomery to decorate the Secretary of State's Christmas tree.

In 2015, Merrill invited the fourth grade class from Westwood Elementary School in Coker, where his wife Cindy teaches. Last year, the invitation went to Merrill's former elementary school in Cleburne County.

This year, the secretary reached out to Phil Campbell Elementary, his wife's alma mater.

This year, the logical school to invite was Phil Campbell Elementary, where my wife Cindy attended. I called (principal) Jackie Ergle last week and asked if she was interested in bringing her fourth grade and she said yes,” Merrill said.

Cindy is an alumnus of Phil Campbell Elementary and that area is very important to me and I want the people of Phil Campbell to know how much we appreciate them,” Merrill added.

Franklin County Superintendent of Education Greg Hamilton was thrilled to hear about students at one of his schools traveling to Montgomery as guests of the Secretary of State.

We are honored he would ask one of our classes to come do that,” Hamilton said. “Secretary Merrill is a true advocate for Franklin County and I'm really honored he called and invited the students at Phil Campbell to decorate the tree.”

The students enjoyed a tour of the state capitol before decorating the Christmas tree in the rotunda.

We were super excited to get the invitation, both teachers and students,” Ergle told Larry Lee, author of the Education Matters blog. “You know, something like this doesn't happen every day for our little school.”

The students wore holiday-themed shirts they made at school. They toured the capitol, met with Merrill and placed their handmade decorations and ornaments on the tree.

Merrill, who took office in 2015, said he plans to continue the annual tradition of inviting a 4th grade class to Montgomery each December to decorate the tree.

When I became Secretary of State in 2015, I was approached in November by the governor's office and told we would have a Christmas tree in the capitol rotunda and I could invite anyone I wanted to decorate it,” Merrill said.

I'm honored to have students from my wife's hometown to have done the decorating this year,” he added.



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