Four schools in Marengo County make ‘failing’ list

Published 10:49 am Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Alabama Department of Education released the list of “failing” schools Tuesday, indicating schools where parents are eligible for a state income tax credit to send their child to a private school.

Among the 78 schools listed are John Essex High School, Marengo High School, George P. Austin Junior High School in Linden and Linden Elementary School.

John Essex and Marengo are in the Marengo County School System, while George P. Austin and Linden Elementary are part of Linden City Schools.

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State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice unveiled the list Tuesday of schools that failed to meet standards set by the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.

The tax credit, which has been estimated to be $3,500 per year per child, can be used to pay for tuition for private school or any non-failing public school.

Marengo County Superintendent Luke Hallmark said schools in rural areas have a hard time due to financial restrictions, but that both failing schools need to improve.

“John Essex was making improvement, but just not enough over the last five years,” Hallmark said. “At Marengo, we have a lot of areas we need to work on and improve. Schools in rural areas have a hard time finding highly qualified teachers to come to those areas and stay there. We can’t afford to offer the extras that a lot of other school districts can.”

Hallmark said he and the board will have to develop ways to meet the criteria outlined by the state.

“We’ve got to do a better job at these two schools,” he said. “I’m proud of A.L. Johnson and Sweet Water for their academic success. John Essex isn’t far off, and we have some work to do at Marengo.”

Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin said the system will have to wait and see what happens over coming weeks to see what direction Demopolis will take in accepting students from other systems.

“In the coming weeks, all of this will be analyzed and litigated to help provide better direction,” Griffin said. “We are fortunate we have no failing schools, and right now, we are holding firm until we get further direction in the coming weeks.”

Attempts to reach Linden Superintendent George Baldwin were not successful Tuesday.