Time to make a decision

Published 1:30 am Wednesday, May 23, 2007

By By Adrienne McKenzie
The time is nearing when citizens will have to make the decision whether to vote for or against the 3-mill tax renewal for the Escambia County School System.
It is certainly not my place to tell anybody how they should vote or where they should put their money but I do have an opinion about about the school system and education.
If the tax does not pass the schools will definitely be lacking in funding. When conducting interviews for the tax series the Advance has been running for the past six weeks, I have learned a lot about the 3-mill tax renewal for the system.
I have interviewed with the principal of each school in the Atmore area with the exception of Rachel Patterson Elementary School where my mother is the principal. The Atmore Advance publisher Adam Prestridge, conducted that interview. Through those interviews I have learned exactly what each school will lose if county residents do not renew the tax.
The elementary schools in the area will lose in capital maintenance. The school's are fairly old and need repairs. Huxford Elementary School needs a gym. According to principal Betty Warren, when the weather is bad the children are forced to sit in the classroom during their recess time instead of spending time outdoors. She said those are the days when she sees the most discipline problems. This does not even include the issues with the auditorium at Huxford, which is crammed with learning stations. Huxford cannot put on proper programs because of the lack of space.
Escambia County Middle School will lose at least two teachers without the tax renewal. This means their class sizes will increase and the teacher to student ratio will not be balanced. Students at that level need individual care and with larger classes that will not be possible.
Kyle Ferguson, principal of Escambia County High School, said that his students are having a difficult time with the history portion of the graduation exam. He would like to add two history teachers to his faculty. This will certainly not be possible with the loss of the tax.
According to Escambia County's superintendent, Billy Hines, the tax is not anything new. In fact, the tax is one of the oldest ones in the county. Whatever citizens are paying right now on taxes is what they will pay next year if the tax renewal does pass.
The school system will lose close to $300,000 if the tax renewal is not passed. That is a lot of money that can do a lot of good for the students at the local schools.
Like I said, I am not at liberty to tell people what to do with their money, but I would like to remind people to keep local students in mind. A good quality education is important for the growth of Atmore. The students that are in school right now will one day possibly be running the city and in order for the city to prosper, those students need a well-balanced education. For that to happen, this tax needs to be renewed.
Adrienne McKenzie is a staff reporter for The Atmore Advance. She can be reached at 368-2123 or via email at lifestyles@atmoreadvance.com.

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