July 23, 2008

Montgomery County, Ala., School Board Hears Complaints on Magnet School Appeals

By Jenn Rowell, Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.

Jul. 23--Parents and students spoke out against the appeals process for magnet school enrollment at Tuesday night's Montgomery County Board of Education meeting.

A number of students at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School were not admitted back this coming school year because their grade point average in the core curriculum dropped below the required 2.5.

According to parents, some students with a GPA lower than 2.5 have been kept in the magnet program while others have not.

Parent Bridgett Watts said she provided doctors notes and other documentation detailing why her daughter was struggling in school last year, but those efforts went unnoticed.

"I don't think it's a fair process," she said.

There are no written guidelines on appealing a school decision to drop a student from a magnet school.

In the past few years, parents' appeals have started at the individual schools and gone as far as the superintendent's office. This year, Superintendent John Dilworth is setting up individual hearings before the board in some instances.

"We're looking at ways to improve the entire program, including the opportunity to appeal their removal from the program," said Tom Salter, a spokesman for the school system.

He said there is a committee looking into possible changes in the magnet program, including appeals.

BTW student Reneeka Hawkins also spoke before the board. She's been the class president for three years and was elected as the student government president for the upcoming year. But based on the GPA policy, she won't be allowed to attend BTW this fall unless the board reconsiders.

Cindy Howton, the parent of a BTW student, suggested the school system adopt a probationary period for students whose grades drop below the required 2.5 GPA.

Also Tuesday night, the board named three new principals.

Jessietta Thomas will become principal at Brewbaker Intermediate, Patricia Paulk Lockwood takes over at Children's Center and Patrick Nelson will lead McKee Middle.


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