Marengo BOE faces issues

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 27, 2008

LINDEN &8212; As economic factors nationally are causing dips in tax revenue, those same factors may be having an impact on local school systems. According to the monthly tax report for Marengo Schools, the taxes collected may be down by a significant amount from last month.

Superintendent Luke Hallmark said for the whole month, the taxes collected from the county for the school system totaled approximately $18,000, which is down by $19,000 from the previous month&8217;s difference.

Although the difference may seem drastic, Hallmark said last month&8217;s figure is actually up by approximately $7,000 from last February. A combination of economic factors, including a decrease in sales tax collected by businesses in the county is the probable culprit for the loss in revenue for the schools.

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In spite of these losses, the school system has actually increased by six students since last month. Two new students enrolled at Marengo High School, three at John Essex High School and one at A.L. Johnson, bringing the total enrollment for the system up to 1,547.

Hallmark also commented on the status of education legislation on the state level, as funds run tight for both K-12 and higher education systems.

One concern, according to Hallmark is that the proposed cuts are not being done based on the numbers of students. The highest level of enrollment is with K-12 systems across the state.

Just one percent of the fund would account for up to $64 million.

Other concerns on a state level that will affect local systems like the Marengo County Schools is a proposed change in the requirements and kinds of diplomas offered at Alabama&8217;s public schools.

According to the new proposal, which would go into effect this fall if the state board approves it, there would be only two options for diplomas: a Alabama High School diploma or an Alabama Occupational Diploma. Within the Alabama High School diploma guidelines, there would be four different endorsements, or kinds of diplomas a student could receive.

The standard diploma for Alabama high school graduation would be equivalent to what is now known as the Advanced Academic Endorsement. Those students who did not wish to remain on that diploma track could choose from a career technical endorsement, advanced career technical endorsement or credit-based endorsement.

According to Hallmark, the motivation in changing the current diploma requirements is to get more students diplomas, especially special education students, because many vocational and technical schools do not accept some of the currently awarded diplomas.

Other changes for the diploma would require students to take at least one class online or through a distance learning program. Also, the advanced endorsement requires two credits of a foreign language in the same language, which could be taken online or through distance learning.

The proposal also includes provisions for a credit recovery program that would allow students to earn credit for courses by either taking them in the summer or after school in order to ensure they receive their diploma.

The state board is expected to vote on the proposal in April, and Hallmark said the school system is already preparing for such a major change, with a scheduled meeting in June with counselors and teachers.