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Schools get grant

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER Managing editor
Gov. Bob Riley awarded $81,443 to the Escambia County Board of Education for a program that holds juvenile offenders accountable for their actions, and helps them to overcome their problems and encourages them to complete their education.
This is the second year the grant has been awarded to the ECBOE. Last year, $31,234 was awarded. The significant increase for this year was due partly to the "dramatic effect" of last year's program.
According to Project Director Donna Revel, who wrote the grant, "the first year we had the grant, during a six month period, there were 251 participants that were written up in the school incident report. That number has decreased during the last three months of last year's school year to 58. We served 152 students during the last school year from March 4 to May 21, 2004."
The comparison analysis is due in June 2005 when newer statistics will be released.
The program serves as an alternative to suspending or expelling students from school and seeks to motivate them to continue their education. It provides juveniles with specialized counseling that enables them to accept responsibility for their behavior and refrain from committing additional offenses.
Participants in the program are required to meet with victims of any offences they may have committed and they are also required to do community service work or obtain a job as a means to make restitution to victims or the community.
The grant will enable the program, which was first implemented in 2004 at W.S. Neal High School and middle school, to expand to Escambia County High School.
Last year's program focused primarily on academics. According to Revel, the competitive grant process allowed a community service proponent to be implemented, allowing the schools to partner with several local agencies.
For instance, students have set up food drives, helped give out ice for the hurricane relief and raised money for the tsunami relief efforts. Saturday students at W.S. Neal High School helped work on the campus after Hurricane Ivan hit. Other community options to be implemented in the future are to partner with East Brewton Parks and Recreation, Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.
At W.S. Neal High School, Jim Fountain works with the kids on Saturday afternoons. Students involved in the Saturday program received minor violations including excessive tarries or failure to go to recessed detention, Revel said.
Ava Crutchfield is the suspension referral officer and certified teacher.
Crutchfield is currently working with eight students by providing individual assistance, supplemental programs and developing social skills with the students.
Riley awarded the grant from funds made available to the state through a program of the U.S. Department Justice. He has designated the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to administer the grant. ADECA Director John Harrison notified Melvin Powell, superintendent of Escambia County schools, that the grant had been approved.