Debate continues about school for dropouts

The Dougherty County School Board is debating a contract with a company to help establish a "drop back in academy" / Sarah Bleau

The Dougherty County School Board continues to debate establishing a "drop back in academy" as board members raise concerns about the contract and money that the school system would receive from this program.

"They shared with us that we get 10 percent of the pot, and I just think that's not enough money," says Chairman James Bush. "Ten percent of $3,000 or $5,000 is not enough money for me."

The drop back in academy would receive $3,800 per student from the state; the board says they would receive $5,500 for students with special needs. The Board of Education says they expected Alternatives Unlimited, Inc. to receive 90 percent of the funds and the system would receive ten percent.

Board Member David Maschke says the contract with Alternatives Unlimited has them receiving more money than they originally told the board.

"The contract says that it will be 90 percent or $5,500, whichever is greater," says Maschke.

Board Member Dr. Anita Williams-Brown says they should not be concerned about money but rather the well-being of the students who have dropped out.

"We're not losing money - really we're making a few dollars - but it's not about the money here. It's about the children, and we need to get these kids off the streets," says Brown.

Board Member Darrel Ealum also says he has concerns with the contract being on a calendar year and not a school year which could interrupt student learning. He says he is also concerned the termination clause includes automatic renewal of the contract if the board does not discuss it prior to the end of the calendar year.

"It kind of reminds me of the cell phone concept: If you don't tell the cell phone company an exact time when your phone is going to be terminated then all at once you're into another year contract," says Ealum.

Brown says they should write a reminder that every October the board meets to discuss the contract renewal.

Voting on the contract was tabled pending further review and negotiations, but board members say they have not tabled getting help for dropouts.

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