Phoenix fights for survival

Published 9:52 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2011

As Selma City School officials are in talks of closing Byrd Elementary, School of Discovery and Phoenix Alternative School, the public is unaware that one school has already closed its doors.

The Phoenix School, which was once a thriving school on Plant Street, holding more than 90 at-risk students at one time, changed into a program less than three years ago after board members pronounced it “too costly” to run.

William Minor, former principal of Phoenix, said the program served the entire Selma City School System and contrary to popular belief, Minor said, the school is not for “bad” students.

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“It’s a school for children who just need a little attention,” he said. “We have counseling services, special education programs — just the full gamut. Ninety-five to 98 percent of students who came here were glad to graduate, have negative labels go off and be productive citizens.”

Once funded by the state’s Foundation Program, the school’s change in status caused the teachers and staff to be paid through local funding instead. With allegedly more than $2 million in grants going to the alternative programs throughout the city, Minor said his school has never seen any of that money and he wants answers.

“We weren’t included in all the decisions made about our school,” Minor said. “We haven’t enrolled any students this school year and we’ve been at Selma High School full time. I’m not trying to convince the system to leave the school open, I just want our story to be told and the facts to be known.”

Minor also said his school offers something others don’t.

“We were such a success because we had everything internal,” Minor said. “We use common sense measures and we instill in kids to come to school and learn because often times this is their last stop.

“We help students who are academically behind, have behavioral problems or are too old for their grade,” Minor said. “In a normal class that runs 45-50 minutes whereas we have four block periods which gives students a chance to complete a whole grade level five months at a time.”

Since students have moved over to the high school, Minor said, they are uncomfortable with the change.

“Our students don’t like it at all,” Minor said. “The children stay in a self-contained classroom all day long, which was something that didn’t happen at Phoenix. This will cause problems later.”