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Today’s News Headlines from Alabama 810 News

  • Students expelled from Guard Academy following fight
  • Federal Funds for counties in jeopardy
  • Oxford council seeks candidates


Students expelled from Guard Academy following fight 

The Alabama National Guard's Youth Challenge Academy at Fort McClellan has nearly half its original number of students, largely because of expulsions that followed a fight last week in the academy cafeteria.  About a dozen students were injured, none seriously, during the Thursday evening fight. The academy, designed primarily to provide high school dropouts with free academic training to earn a high school equivalency certificate, opened its doors Jan. 21 to 117 students. On Tuesday, that number was down to 65. Officials said that between 30 and 40 students were expelled as a result of the fight. Others left voluntarily because they were not comfortable staying after the incident. Alabama's Youth Challenge program is run by IIF Data Solutions Inc. of Centreville, Va., under contract with the Alabama National Guard. The academy is in Anniston, at the Army National Guard Training Center at Fort McClellan, and is in the second half of a two-week orientation session. Those who successfully complete the session will become cadets in a ceremony Friday and will be eligible to stay in the program until it ends in June. The orientation period is heavy on military-type discipline, and some students left the program before Thursday night's disturbance. Officials said the fight started with two and it just grew into five, six, seven kids. Youth Challenge program staffers and National Guard members who happened to be in the cafeteria helped bring the fighting under control, and Anniston police officers were called.  A dozen students were treated for minor injuries at Regional Medical Center and Stringfellow Hospital. One of them was kept overnight at Stringfellow and released Friday morning.



Federal Funds for counties in jeopardy 

Calhoun, Cleburne and Cherokee counties are among seventeen Alabama counties and their school systems will lose a significant part of $2.1 million in federal funding this year if Congress doesn't renew a national forest money-sharing law.  The Secure Rural School and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 expired Dec. 31 and with it most of the $2.1 million in annual funding for 17 counties with national forest acres.  Since 2000, counties with national forest acres got money based on the best three-year average value of timber harvests in the 1980s.  The Bush administration favors renewal, but it faces several political and financial obstacles. But if the law isn't renewed, some counties and schools will get far less than the $2.1 million.
Alabama counties getting money are Bibb, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Covington, Dallas, Escambia, Franklin, Hale, Lawrence, Macon, Perry, Talladega, Tuscaloosa and Winston.  Counties use the money to repair rural roads, usually in the national forests, and for schools. Some use part of the money to pay for student field trips into national forests. If the law isn't renewed, national forest counties will revert to funding based on the "25 percent rule" established nearly 100 years ago by President Theodore Roosevelt. The rule gives counties 25 percent of logging revenue from the state's four national forests.  The Forest Service wanted to sell 300,000 acres nationwide to raise $800 million to continue funding last year but that fell through.  About 3,220 acres in Alabama's Talladega, Bankhead and Conecuh national forests were proposed for sale. Only Tuskegee National Forest would have been protected. 


Oxford council seeks candidates 

The Oxford City Council is beginning a search for a city resident to fill Place 1 on the council. Longtime Council member Johnny Bentley announced his resignation two weeks ago and is set to retire on March 2.   Council members say they are looking for someone who is opinionated, possesses a clear vision for the future of the city, and a desire and love for the city.  Oxford residents who are  interested in the position should contact council members in person to have their names added to the list of potential candidates. Council President Mike Henderson said that 15 residents have already expressed an interest in the job.

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