Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Local Officials ask for funding assistance for Carroll Academy

Carroll County News-Leader

Lorna Jablonski

Carroll County Mayor Kenny McBride, along with Carroll Academy principal Brent Bullock and Senior Administrator and Director of Juvenile Court Randy Hatch toured Carroll Academy on Feb. 23 with the field representatives of U.S. Congressman John Tanner, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and U. S. Senator Bob Corker.

Brad Thompson, field representative for Tanner; Matt Varina, field representative for Alexander; and Jane Jolley, field representative for Corker were invited to tour the facility to enlist their assistance in providing funds to keep Carroll Academy open.

Hatch explained that the school served approximately 250 students each year from the five counties of Carroll, Henry, Benton, Weakley and Henderson. He advised the visitors that students from the sixth through 12th grade attended the school, after being placed there by the juvenile court system. “I can’t imagine not having this school after 15 years of service to the children of this area,” said Hatch. “We’ve had a lot of success. We offer the same type of curriculum as regular schools, but also offer life skills courses for both students and their parents. Some of our graduates have gone on to have successful college careers.”

He said that there are currently 76 students in Carroll Academy. The number is down from the 140 students who attended last year before the budget cuts.

“We lost five full-time staff members because of the cuts,” said Hatch. “All five counties try to help with money, but they can’t just raise one million dollars.”

Hatch explained that the GED program at Carroll Academy has done a great deal of good. Last year, 26 out of 30 received their GED diplomas. This year 23 of 26 passed their GED test. He also told the field representatives that a number of the Carroll Academy students placed in the “Advanced” category of the Gateway tests.

Thompson asked why most of the students were at the school. Hatch told him that most were there for drug-related problems and truancy. He advised the visitors that none of the students in Carroll Academy were dangerous to the community.

“We’ve never had a fight in 15 years,” said Hatch. The visitors toured classrooms, the silkscreen shop and the gymnasium. “We asked them to come to see what happens here,” said McBride. “Carroll Academy is actually changing lives.”

Hatch and McBride asked for support from the field representatives. “Anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated,” said McBride. “We need all the support we can get.” Hatch explained that it was public support that kept the school open this year.

“Public support turned the tide, or we wouldn’t be here,” said Hatch. “On June 30, I received a telephone call from a news reporter in Washington, D.C. That’s how we found out that we had gotten the funding to remain open this year.”

According to Hatch, the reporter had been following the fight to save Carroll Academy on the Internet, and couldn’t believe that Carroll Academy had a 96 percent attendance rate.

Hatch explained to the reporter that parents would go to jail for Contempt of Court if their son or daughter did not attend school. But, Hatch also said that 75 percent of the parents had come to the last parent-teacher conference at the school on their own, and for many, it was the first time that they had ever been to such a conference. Field Representative Jolley commended the Carroll Academy coaches for student and player behavior at sporting events.