Carroll Academy officials are hoping that with State Commissioner of Children’s Services Bonnie Hommrich’s visit to the facility on Thursday that state funding will be continued and possibly increased.
If funding is not granted for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the facility that has been in operation for 23 years will more than likely close.
“We wanted her to see what we are doing here for these kids and how structured our program is,” said Carroll Academy Senior Administrator Randy Hatch.
Carroll Academy is a day treatment prograam for children ages 11-17 that are remanded to the program through juvenile court. Students are transported from home to school and then home each day by vans from the counties of Carroll, Henry, Benton, Henderson, Weakley and Gibson.
The $643,884 annual funding for the last nine years is up this fiscal year, according to Carroll Academy Senior Administrator Randy Hatch. At one time, the school received an annual amount of $1,058,512 before being cut.
Arriving at the facility at 11 a.m., the group spent more than an hour visiting with Hatch and principal Dee Ann Spellings and checking out classrooms.
Also in the party with the commissioner were Russell Marty, director of legislation for Children’s Services and legislative liaison Krysten Velloff.
State House member Curtis Halford, County Mayor Kenny McBride and state senator John Stevens also toured with the group.
The commissioner complimented the program upon concluding the tour and said she would certainly keep in mind funding for the program when work begins on next year’s budget.
“I appreciate what you are doing here,” she said.
To close the facility would mean that students have to be placed in state custody that would cost the state much more money, according to Hatch.
The program currently has 50 students, but as many as 75 are expected further into the school year. At one time there were 140 in the program at one time. As many as 4,000 students have graduated over the years. Most stay about nine months.
Halford mentioned that parent involvement is a part of the program as well. Parents are threatened with a court order if they don’t agree to become involved in activities with the student.
“The biggest and best thing about our program is the structure,” said Hatch. “Everybody is treated the same and students are drug tested randomly.” They all wear black trousers and white shirts. The program has a real success rate with many of the students continuing their education in college, earning their diplomas and working in professional jobs. In fact one has wound up teaching at the Academy.
The school has basketball teams and is a member of the TSSAA. Hatch manages a big smile when he
says proudly that the Academy Jacquar teams are the only ones in the state that does not have an
unsportsmanlike infraction against another player.
He says there is a lesson in playing the game even though the teams have never won a game.
The school is so unique that it attracted a New York Times reporter a few years ago who won a Pulitzer Prize on his series about it.
In discussing the budget, Hatch says it’s becoming more and more difficult to operate with the current money the state is providing.
He says in looking at the future of Carroll Academy this question comes to mind: “Are we going to leave it to the next generation because the ones who started it are coming into the fourth quarter of their lives, age wise.”
“I live with the situation nightly wondering how the bills are going to be paid,” he said. “We can’t keep doing it at the same level because we need more money.”