Over the Hump

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 7, 2002

Through team work, parental involvement and a lot of caring, Selma High School was able to pull itself out of the trenches to become academically CLEAR this year.

It wasn’t easy, but they did it and they plan to remain “clear” for years to come, said Dr. Geraldine Allen, Selma High School PTA president.

On June 27, it became official. The school which had been placed on Alert2 status, the second lowest status possible among academic ratings for schools, was declared academically clear, according to a 2002 Academic Status Report from the State Department of Education.

Just what took place to make this happen is no mystery. It took teachers, administrators, parents and the community to get involved and help students who had fallen to the way side improve academically.

The old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” was certainly true in helping Selma High School students get over the hump and pass the Alabama High School Graduation Exam.

The status rating of schools was based on results obtained from the Stanford Achievement Test and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam.

Labarron Mack, debate and performing arts teacher at Selma High School, can attest to the team work that brought the school to “clear” status.

“We had 32 teachers at Selma High who gave up 30 minutes of their legalized time (planning period) to tutor students in areas such as reading, language, and science. There’s no doubt that these teachers care,” Mack said.

This summer, Mack is continuing his commitment in seeing students

pass the Alabama High School Graduation Exam. He’s teaching summer school in a program called “High Hopes,” which is designed to give additional tutorials to 11th and 12th graders who have not passed the exam.

According to Levi Marshall, success specialist for the “High Hopes” program, students are taught remedial skills, take pre-tests that gets them ready for the exit exam, and use three computer programs that helps with tutorials.

From the looks of it, the students attending “Hope Hopes” program want to succeed and graduate.

Glen Martin, an upcoming senior, is hopeful.

“I came from another school system in Michigan and when I came to Selma High School, there was a lot I did not know. The tutorials and summer school have helped me tremendously. I’m ready to take the exam and know what I’m doing now,” Martin smiled.

Some of the other programs used to help students improve academically this past year were after-school tutorials; D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) program, which requires students to drop whatever they’re doing and read for 15 minutes; a mock graduation, in which principal Eli Welch calls a “scared straight approach” to make students realize if they did not pass the AHSGE, they would not graduate; Pull-Out program, in which students were pulled from their extra-curricular classes and met with a teacher for 45 minutes to concentrate on a particular subject, such as math or science. The school also received a $125,000 state grant to help students pass the AHSGE. Parents were also required to see their child’s status on the AHSGE before they could pick up report cards.

Dr. Allen said parental involvement was another key in getting through to the students.

“Councilman Randolph and I went to churches and spoke to the church body and parents, emphasizing what was lacking in their child’s academic achievement and the need for parental support,” Allen said. “We were most effective through the church and were amazed at parents getting involved in their child’s success at school.”

Allen admits that at first, there was a lot of apathy amongst parents to get involved and help their children with homework or tutorials, but said they eventually came around.

“Through mentorship, financial assistance, major communication with the parents, the PTA was able to assist in Selma High becoming academically clear,” Allen explained.

And like the school’s new motto “Our Vision is Clear,” Allen is confident the effort will remain the same and students will continue to improve academically.

“We have a lot of good students here at Selma High School. I see this as an upswing. This is just the beginning of positiveness.”