Students and staff at Carroll Academy in Huntingdon had a very special visitor Tuesday morning, Oct. 29.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee dropped by at the school, touring the facility and meeting with students, teachers, and administrators, as well as a sizable contingent of local officials and community leaders.
This, however, wasn’t the first visit that Carroll Academy has received from Lee, who came to the school back in 2017.
“Now I’m back because I want to know more,” said Lee.
Carroll Academy Principal DeAnn Spellings, Director of Mental Health John Roberts, School Director and Director of Carroll County Juvenile Court Randy Hatch, and Juvenile Court Judge Larry Logan all filled the governor in on the unique nature and history of the school.
As was detailed, Carroll Academy serves students age 11 to 18 who have been referred for placement in the school by the court from Carroll, Benton, Henderson, Weakley, and Henry Counties.
Hatch pointed out that Carroll Academy functions as a means of not only educating at-risk youth, but also keeping them out of state custody and helping them to get their lives on a more positive track – goals for which the school has an excellent success record (about 90 percent) and which also saves taxpayer money and benefits society as a whole.
Carroll Academy currently has 54 students enrolled and has served around 4,000 over the years.
Hatch also pointed out that the school, which is primarily funded and administered through the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS), has struggled to keep its program funded and the doors open since 40 percent of its state funding was cut back in 2008.
Hatch, who was diagnosed with a rare liver disease and underwent a life-saving liver transplant earlier this year, became emotional as he told how he felt God had spared his life so that he could continue to serve the students and staff of Carroll Academy.
As he addressed the entire student body in the school’s central hallway, Lee said that he believed that God has a special purpose for each of them, adding that with faith, hard work, and persistence, they can rise above their situations and achieve anything they set out to do.
During an interview with media afterward, Lee said that he would look into the matter of Carroll Academy’s financial needs and also give consideration for using the school as a model to possibly establish similar programs throughout the state.