W.S. Neal expecting growth next year

Published 11:56 pm Monday, April 30, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell
Phillip Ellis is expecting more students to walk through the doors when W.S. Neal High School opens in the fall. And he's hoping that by that time Escambia County voters will have renewed a 3-mill district tax and a 1-mill countywide tax to help schools.
"If the reports from this year are any indication, we will be increasing by about 20 students this fall," said Ellis, principal at W.S. Neal High School in East Brewton. "We have seen a steady increase of about 15-20 students each year over the past six years. Using the number from the reports compiled from this year, we stand see our enrollment showing another increase this year."
If the school's enrollment increases as expected, Neal will need another teacher, Ellis said.
"Our first priority it so make sure we have a sufficient number of teachers for our increasing enrollment," Ellis said. "The state funds our teachers based on past year attendance counts. We'll have teachers based on the 2006-2007 year, but will have students that will require more teachers than the state funds. With our numbers constantly going up, we are always behind in teacher units. Our numbers will be higher for the coming year than any year since 1989."
Escambia County voters will go to the polls June 5 to decide whether to renew a 3-mill district tax that benefits Escambia County Schools – including Neal High – and a 1-mill countywide tax that would benefit both county schools and Brewton City Schools.
In that election, Brewton city voters passed the 3-mill tax designated for city schools, but county voters did not pass a separate 3-mill tax. Voters also defeated the countywide 1-mill tax that would benefit both school districts. The taxes have been on the books for about 80 years. The non-renewal of the taxes would cause county schools to lose about $600,000 each year, while the city school system would lose about $70,000 annually. Ellis said not only is the addition of teachers for next year at stake in the election, capital improvements that are desperately needed at the 55-year-old facility would not come to fruition in the foreseeable future.
"This school was built in 1952 with several add-ons through the years," Ellis said. "With a building this old and 435 students down these narrow halls everyday, it's difficult to maintain a building. We really need at least one more girls bathroom."
Ellis said the age of the building also has an increased effect on general up-keep and the cost to operate on a daily basis.
"This school was not built for air conditioning in 1952," Ellis said. "With all of the windows that were originally installed for ventilation purposes, that poses additional cost with electricity and maintenance."
Ellis said taxpayers shouldn't worry about whether the money will be used properly with Superintendent Billy Hines at the helm of the county school system.
"Billy runs a tight ship," Ellis said. "Taxpayers shouldn't worry if the money will be spent in the right place for the right things. He is certainly not going to waste one penny of the money that comes to the schools."
Students at the school have been exposed to needs that require the renewal of the ad valorem tax. Ellis said information would be sent to parents at the end of the school year to encourage them to make a positive step toward renewing the tax by voting in June.
"We had someone on campus this week to register our 18-year-old students to vote," Ellis said. "We want to do everything we can to ensure that the tax renewal is approved. The renewal is very important, not only to us at Neal High School, but to all of the schools in the county."

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox