MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The head of the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama is scrambling to secure funding to continue educating at-risk youth at two locations in Mobile. He’s asking the Mobile County Commission and City Council for emergency funding while a state licensing issue is fixed.
POINTE Academy and Strickland Youth Center are two places that educate students in Mobile County who are either incarcerated at Strickland Youth Center, on probation, or long-term suspended or expelled by their school system — where a traditional classroom wouldn’t work.
A July audit from the Office of Specialized Treatment Centers from the Alabama Department of Education determined that POINTE Academy lacked a license and Strickland had a license but lacked the Education Endorsement. As a result, neither location can get funding from the Alabama Education Trust Fund until those issues are fixed.
The programs are administered by the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama. CEO Robert Kennedy Jr. appealed to the Mobile County Commission Monday and asked the city council in Tuesday’s meeting for emergency funds totalling to $2.1 million. The funds would help keep the schools functioning for the rest of the year.
“Well, everyone has said that they will help me. No one has said they will help me with money,” Kennedy said. “Up to $2.1 million that will go towards the specialized treatment center is already sitting there in an account, ready to flow to us.”
If the organization can’t get the proper credentials before September 30th, the school would be locked out of the $2.1 million they had set aside to operate during the school year.
“I figured that from a communication clarity standpoint, it would be best to use the whole number so that everybody had complete transparency in terms of what we are asking for,” Kennedy said. “Obviously they can distribute it whatever the normal distribution pattern is.”
Time is running out in the budgetary year. Kennedy says an alternative would be to switch to virtual learning–which has significant drawbacks.
“That for our normal students, virtual learning, particularly over the medium to long term, is not a viable solution, and given that these particular children are the most vulnerable, children are our society because they’ve already had interaction with the criminal justice system. It is absolutely not the correct thing to make sure these children are positioned for long-term success,” Kennedy said. “[These students are] not in traditional public school because the traditional public school setting has not been good for them or the other students in that environment. The second is we need to give these young people hope. And by putting them in a facility like this, we’re able to keep them on track towards graduating.”
Kennedy said he’s optimistic all parties involved can come to a resolution to keep these programs running. They provide services to dozens of students across Mobile County–most come from the county public school system and others come from city school districts.
Kennedy has been Boys and Girls Clubs CEO a little more than a year and says this is the first time this issue has been identified despite operating under this framework for more than a decade.
Between the two schools, 170 students are enrolled in total. That includes 70 students at Stickland and 100 at the POINTE Academy main campus.
“Hopefully, with all these different agencies working together, we can all figure out how to move forward and make sure we still have those types of services,” District 1 Councilman Cory Penn said.
In the worst-case scenario, Kennedy said the schools would be able able to operate into October before funds fizzle out.