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Dallas County Schools in talks with Selma Early College

The Dallas County School system is in talks with the Selma Early College High School Program to make Southside, Keith and Dallas County High Schools part of the program beginning with the 2009-10 school year.

Dr. Fannie Major-McKenzie and administrative assistants will meet with Wallace Community College-Selma President Dr. James Mitchell in April to discuss future action.

“We’re looking forward to that as another way to enhance our academic program,” Major-McKenzie said. “We want to provide our students with every opportunity to be successful.”

Students entering the 10th grade in August would be the first eligible group. Students entering the 11th or 12th grades would be offered dual enrollment opportunities.

The SECHS program was founded in January 2005 as a partnership between Selma City Schools, Tuskegee University, Alabama State University, Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering and WCCS. When students complete the program, they receive a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree, which amounts to two years of college credit.

While talks to join the program are in the preliminary stage, board members said they were excited at the potential relationship.

President Peggy Williamson said the early college program would put Dallas County students ahead of most others around the state. The programs could open doors for students who never thought of attending college, she said.

“I think that would really be encouraging to the students,” Williamson said.

Board member William Minor said he is happy to see the school system get the ball rolling. Minor said Dallas County students would have to play catch up with Selma City students, since those students have participated in an early college for four years now.

“The time has come,” Minor said. “I think we should’ve been doing it earlier.”

Major-McKenzie and Mitchell will discuss potential grants at their April meeting. Minor said funding was the last thing on his mind. He said he wants Dallas County students to have every opportunity available.

“The funding will be there,” Minor said.

The SECHS program is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates program. Johnny Moss III, director of marketing and college relations at WCCS, said the program recently received additional funding from the Governor’s Office of Workforce and Development. Moss said one of the program’s goals is to expand and serve students in surrounding counties. Adding Dallas County is the first step, he said.

“It’s just a great opportunity to be able to expand the program to be able to meet the needs of the students in our service area,” Moss said. “We’re fulfilling the purpose of the early college program, which is to increase the number of students entering college.”

Board member Mark Story said he is interested to learn more about the program. Story said a program that gives students a head start on college is a boon to the school system.

“In this day and time, every bit of education they can get is an advantage,” Story said. “Any opportunity for them to better themselves is definitely welcome.”