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Laurie Montgomery teaches freshman English at Lawrence County High School. She said it would break her heart to see the school close if the Board of Education moves forward with a consolidation plan.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Laurie Montgomery teaches freshman English at Lawrence County High School. She said it would break her heart to see the school close if the Board of Education moves forward with a consolidation plan.

Consolidation: the pros and cons
Mom doesn’t want her child behind in college

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com · 340-2443

MOULTON — On Amy Thrasher’s first day of college, a professor told her it was unlikely she would pass English 101.

What could possibly make a professor doubt a student’s capabilities to that extent?

Being a graduate of the Lawrence County school system, said Thrasher.

“At the end of the first day of class, (the professor) said she wanted the people from Lawrence County to stand up,” said Thrasher.

“She said, ‘I just want you guys to know that no one from Lawrence County has ever passed my class because they don’t know how to write theme papers.’ ”

Thrasher graduated from Lawrence County High School in 1985. She said her high school education was inadequate and put her at a disadvantage compared to students from outside Lawrence County.

Her professor was partially right. Thrasher didn’t pass English 101 — the first time.

“I would get all my papers back with red ink from all the things I had done wrong,” she said. “So I took it again and got an ‘A’ the second time around.”

After four years of struggling to catch up to her peers, Thrasher graduated with a double major in marketing and business.

She now has a 5-year-old son who she said will not attend Lawrence County schools.

“We’re looking at private schools right now because I don’t want him to go through what I did,” she said. “I’d rather not send him out of the county, but I definitely won’t send him through this public education system.”

Thrasher said she would consider sending her son to public school, if the county were to consolidate its high schools and increase course offerings.

“I just don’t see it happening,” she said. “They were talking about consolidation when I was in the first grade. It just keeps going around in circles.”

Increasing the quality of education Lawrence County students receive is the No. 1 reason Lawrence County schools Superintendent Dexter Rutherford and the Board of Education have agreed to pursue a realignment, or consolidation, plan for the county’s seven high schools.

The school board approved the motion Dec. 11.

Rutherford said one of the best ways to improve education is to provide a broader spectrum of courses.

While Decatur high schools offer elective courses like applied dramatics and advanced chemistry, Lawrence County high schools are only able to offer a “bare-bones curriculum,” said Rutherford.

That means few fine arts courses and few advanced placement classes.

The problem lies in the distribution of funding to the county’s seven high schools. Maintaining teachers for basic courses at each school drains the system’s budget and prevents it from hiring additional teachers for elective courses.

The lack of advanced courses is causing problems for Tyler Draper, a 2005 Lawrence County High School graduate who is now a sophomore at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Draper said his high-school grade point average made it easy to get accepted to a university, but, now that he’s there, he realizes he’s at a major disadvantage compared to his peers.

“I had a 4.3 GPA in high school, but it really doesn’t compare to those around me because their classes were so much harder,” said Draper, who is majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry.

Draper took advanced courses while he was in middle school and completed all of his ninth-grade classes in the eighth grade. By the time he was a senior, he had completed most of his required classes, but the school didn’t offer enough elective courses to fill his schedule.

“My entire senior year, I spent the first half of the day in regular class, and the last half I was a teacher’s aide,” said Draper. “We basically sat on our butts and did nothing — a complete waste of our time.”

He said the school would often list an elective or advanced placement course as an option when planning school schedules for the coming year. But they rarely happened.

“We’d sign up to begin with, and they’d say ‘Oh, we don’t have enough money or teachers to have calculus,’ so we’d get moved into an extra (physical education) class, anything to occupy our time,” he said.

Tyler Draper was one of 753 names Saturday on the online petition supporting Lawrence County consolidation started by Barclay Key, a former Lawrence County teacher and the son of former Superintendent DeWayne Key.

The online petition is at www.petitiononline.com/LCact now/petition.html.

Forum

The Lawrence County Board of Education will host a countywide forum to discuss realigning the county’s seven high schools Monday at A.W. Todd Coliseum in Moulton at 6 p.m.

The forum will follow the regularly scheduled board meeting at 5.

Kristen Bishop

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