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Funding sought for magnet schools

Selma Magnet Schools recently received confirmation for the third year of funding for Magnet Schools of Selma &045; School of Discovery/Genesis Center (grade 6) and Selma Middle C.H.A.T. Academy (grades 7-8) &045; through a federal Magnet Schools Assistance Grant totaling $2.4 million. School of Discovery is located at 400 Washington St. and C.H.A.T. academy at 1701 Summerfield Rd.

Selma Magnet Schools is the only such program in the Black Belt from Montgomery to Mississippi, according to Principal Charlotte Griffith of C.H.A.T. academy and Lawrence Wofford, president of the 25-member Magnet Schools Advisory Committee.

In the application for funding from the magnet schools program for the next three-year cycle, Griffith said that additional funds will be sought to add Selma High School

and an elementary school as part of the program. In a recent interview held on the C.H.A.T. campus during a tour of the campus, Griffith said that the application for the next three-year cycle of funding for the magnet schools program will be submitted in January or February 2004 and that a response is expected by June or July. The expanded program would begin in the fall of 2004.

Selma High School already has a 2-year-old special college-prep program funded by the Bill Gates and Kellogg foundations, according to Griffith.

Also in the works for Selma Magnet Schools is an application for an International Baccalaureate degree program that would involve all schools in the expanded magnet school program that is envisioned.

Selma City Public Schools is currently the only system statewide to have funding from the magnet schools program, though Montgomery schools had 13 years of funding through the end of the previous cycle, she said.

Only 60 school systems nationwide are currently being funded through the magnet schools program, according to Griffith, a Dallas County native who has served as principal of C.H.A.T

since its inception three years ago. She served as principal of the former Selma Middle School the year before, when the original magnet schools grant proposal was submitted

C.H.A.T. academy currently has a student body of 597, and a faculty of 40, while Discovery/Genesis has an enrollment of 311 and a faculty of 25.

Both schools enjoy a highly enriched curriculum and utilize state-of-the-art equipment due to the magnet schools grants. Both have applied and accelerated classes. The buildings are attractive and immaculately maintained.

Focus areas for the School of Discovery/Genesis Center, whose principal is Gerald Shirley, are:

geography and tourism, travel geography, cultural tourism, aerospace fundamentals, robotics, astronomy, weather patterns, visual and performing arts, and &uot;bridges to success.&uot;

C.H.A.T. has a wide array of innovative programs in the areas of Communications, Humanities, Arts and Technology (hence, the acronym C.H.A.T.). Its areas of focus include:

aerospace computer applications, broadcast studio, graphic arts, visual and performing arts, tourism promotion, entrepreneurial initiative, advanced academic courses, TaeKwondo, the great books and accelerated reading.

Because of the special mission of the two schools and the high quality of instruction and equipment, they attract teachers of distinction who have compiled resumes that go beyond education in their various fields of instruction.

The recent tour of the C.H.A.T. campus included a visit to the Broadcast Arts class and studio (WCAB Studio 78) where students work in a control room which has equipment equivalent to that used by Channel 8, according to teacher William T. Bryant III. The studio also has a news-anchor type desk and all the digital cameras and related equipment that one would find in a broadcast studio. Discussions are under way with Charter Cable to provide broadcast capability on a local access channel, that would enable all Selma schools to be linked to C.H.A.T. Academy, as well as giving local cable subscribers access to Selma city schools activities. For example, football games are currently being filmed and broadcast internally in C.H.A.T. Academy.

Selma Magnet Schools attracts strong parental support. For example, Griffith said that in the past three years, participation in C.H.A.T.’s PTO has increased from 10-120.