ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Dougherty County School Board members have less than a month to decide whether they want to set up a Career Academy. They must send a letter of intent to the state by February first.
Other systems in south Georgia may also compete for limited grant money for the project. The biggest question remains, Can the school system come up with the local money required for the academy?
Here are the facts, some Dougherty County Schools routinely fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress requirements, 2 high schools have been on the needs improvement list for the last three years, and another for the last year and only 20 percent of students graduate HOPE eligible. State officials say a Career Academy could turn these numbers around.
Dougherty County School Board Members spent two hours this afternoon learning how a Career Academy could benefit students in southwest Georgia.
"One size doesn't fit all, anything we can do to make sure that we not only graduate students but place those students, take care of those students, educate those students from everywhere I would love to see this area become a hub," said Dr. Joshua Murfree, DCSS Superintendent.
The question is can the system afford it? While they can get three million dollars in facility money from the Lt. Governor's program and another $200,000 in start up funds, it's a one time deal. The system would be responsible for maintaining the program and they're facing a loss of 8 million dollars next school year, but Vice Chairman Rev. James Bush says it's something the system must seriously consider.
"The drop out rate, the graduation rate in other systems have gone up, the FTE's have gone up and we're going to take a serious look at this," said Rev. James Bush, Dougherty County School Board Vice Chairman.
Dougherty County Schools would need partners to make the program happen, not only Albany Technical College, but Darton College, ASU, and the business community.
"We are losing students and they are graduating or dropping out and then they're coming back to us at about 24 years old and of course they've floundered a little bit in that period and they'd do themselves, their families, and the rest of us more good if they're earning a good income," said Dr. Anthony Parker.
The business community would help develop the model, and classes would be more of performance based learning, with hands on experiences for students, geared to businesses that already exists in the community. Dr. Murfree says if the model had existed years ago there might be more business in Albany today.
"Ten years ago, I believe we could have saved Cooper, Merck, and Bob's Candies because then those companies could have said to us these are the skill sets we need from the people here in this community," said Murfree.
Board members plan to take the next month to discuss the academy and whether it's the right fit for Dougherty County. @
School officials learned they wouldn't have to put the Career Academy in a stand alone building, but if they split it up among existing schools they'd have to apply to be a charter school for the entire system. Board members say they have a lot to consider in the next month.
State officials said the school system would not need to provide matching funds to receive the grant funding, but they say in other models, both the county government and community businesses have contributed to building new buildings to house Career Academy programs.