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Education sees big changes in 2008

From kindergarten to university, students of all ages have seen big changes in Pike County education through 2008.

Some good, some bad and some that could be debated, significant changes have been implemented in Troy University, Pike County and Troy City School systems last year.

There have been new additions in administration, new programs implemented and even a new dress code, but the top issue in it all is proration.

Proration

Just a few weeks ago, schools across the state were hit with a 12.5 percent proration rate, a number probably no one was ready to hear.

This marked the largest rate to hit the state education budget in 48 years, and it’s going to require some effort on local superintendents to keep things running smoothly this year.

School superintendents said they were bracing for a proration that wouldn’t exceed 7 percent, but instead Gov. Bob Riley declared proration at 12.5 percent, which will be brought down to 9 percent with the passage of Amendment 1.

There also is a chance more of the state’s rainy day fund could be tapped into to ease the hit.

Though 2008 didn’t provide any answers to how the school systems will deal with a lack of income in the state budget, 2009 will reveal just what exactly lies ahead.

But, both local superintendents said they think their school systems are in good shape to weather the storm.

“We will be OK for this year,” said Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith. “We can make it.”

And Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell said they have enough saved up to make it through the year just fine, as well.

Both superintendents said they will look for ways to cut back without affecting students too severely, like travel cuts or deferring maintenance.

At the university level, Troy’s Director of Government Relations Marcus Paramore said he isn’t sure what this will mean for the university’s students, but there will be some cuts almost undoubtedly.

Personnel

On a more positive note, both local school systems have seen new additions to key staff positions last year.

Perhaps the biggest change in administration came to the Troy City Board of Education when Troy University’s Judson Edwards replaced retired board member Doug Patterson in May.

Patterson, who was Troy University’s vice chancellor, was a 15-year senior member of the board when he retired.

Edwards, a professor of economics and the director of the Center for Business and Economic Development, was appointed by the school board to serve on the seat.

Edwards, from a family who has been involved heavily in education, said he understands how crucial the process is.

“The school system in really the core of any community,” Edwards said. “It’s crucial to industrial recruitment and the creation of jobs.”

And in Pike County Schools, some big changes have been made to administration, as well.

Former Director of the Troy-Pike Center for Technology Al Griffin took over as the head of Goshen High School, replacing long-time administrator Gene Nelson.

Griffin served as the director of the technology center for four years before taking the head role at GHS last August.

Griffin, who is from the Goshen area, said he saw the opening as an opportunity to return home.

And Sandra Bodiford, an administrator from out of state, stepped in to fill Griffin’s former position as head of the Troy-Pike Center for Technology.

Also in Goshen, Jackie Hall, a Goshen native, has stepped in as interim principal of Goshen Elementary School for at least the rest of 2009.

Uniforms

For Troy City Schools specifically, a change in dress code was key in the school system.

The school’s first ever uniform policy was implemented at the beginning of the 2008 school year.

The Troy City School Board approved the uniform policy in their May 19 board meeting with a unanimous vote.

“It is believed that a uniform dress code for students will enhance higher academic performance, eliminate distractions in the school setting, improve behavior, promote students’ self-respect and self-esteem and provide cost savings for parents,” Felton-Smith said.

The policy required students to change their dress to a navy blue, orange, or white collared shirt or polo with sleeves that have to be tucked into khaki or navy blue pants or shorts.

Girls can also wear skirts, skorts and jumpers no shorter than two inches above the knee.

Students’ could wear tennis shoes with no color restrictions, but other types of shoes have to be black, brown, gray, navy, tan or white and fully enclosed.

The uniform policy was met with some opposition from the student body at the original board meeting, with a signed petition presented by Charles Henderson Middle School President-Elect Roxanna Nokes.

However, no one else present spoke against the policy at the time, and board members also received warming comments on the dress code.

Tuition

At the university level, some big changes have also taken place in 2008.

In their board meeting in May, Troy’s Board of Trustees approved a change in tuition structure that impacted how students pay for classes.

The new system required students to pay tuition per credit hour they are assigned, rather than one flat fee.

Part-time students already paid that amount, but full-time students paid one tuition rate for taking between 12 and 16 hours of classes.

The rates were raised to $177 per hour for undergraduate students and $200 for graduate students.

The fee structure came after Troy University was cut $11.2 million in the state budget.

Doctorate

And marking a major milestone in Troy University history, the school received final approval to begin offering the first-ever doctorate degree in the coming year.

The program will be offered in the school of nursing.

The school was approved for the doctorate degree toward the end of 2007 by the state commission on higher education, but they received an OK from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in late December.

“This is a milestone in the history of Troy University,” said Troy’s Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr. “We are excited about this major achievement for our university, but the real beneficiaries will be the people of the state of Alabama as we increase the availability of highly trained nurse practitioners.”

Through the doctorate degree, Hawkins said he hopes to increase medical professionals in underserved areas of Alabama.

This mark will also open the door for the university to offer more doctorate level degrees in the future, though no decisions have been made on our which other degree will be offered at the doctorate level.