Anniston City Planner Toby Bennington said Rosetta Dean and her architect have approached city building inspectors with code questions. So far though, Dean has not presented a plan to the city, he said.
“I think she is gathering information to see what she needs to do,” Bennington said.
Dean submitted the winning bid of $50,000 for the old school in July when the city of Anniston advertised for a buyer for the property.
The building, which had been an elementary school for Anniston students, closed in 1973 under a court order during desegregation of the public school system.
Gadsden State Community College leased the building from 1981 until 2004. It has been empty since the college moved to its McClellan location in November 2004.
Dean, president and owner of the private school, declined to comment last week on her plans for the building.
Her current facility at 1910 Noble St. was last accredited in 2005 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as a kindergarten-through-12th grade school. At the time, enrollment was listed at 25. According to the report submitted by Dean, the school is a nonprofit, tax-exempt private school approved in June 1997. The school is registered as a nonprofit organization with the state. It enrolls “regular K-12 students” full-time as well as “atypical students ranging from 20 year-olds and above,” Dean’s report states.
Meeting a need
Alternative routes for students to receive high school diplomas, like the route offered by the Sharp-Dean School, can be important to them and their families. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, the median weekly earnings of a person 25 or older without a high school diploma or equivalent was $444. At the same time, high school graduates earned an average of $626 per week.
The school has expanded from the stated enrollment of 25 in 2005. On June 15, the school, a K-12 school and two-year college, had its third commencement exercise for 46 students, according to a program for the event provided by Dean.
Shana Popham, a graduate of the school, is one of the atypical students referenced in the report.
Popham, 25, was a new mother her senior year at Wellborn High School, she said. After taking six months off to have her baby, she was unable to get caught up and couldn’t graduate with her class.
Popham said she first looked at the Sharp-Dean School in 2006 but was unable to finish the program. She tried again for the 2011-2012 school year and earned the half credit she had been short in 2006 along with three other credits. Popham was a correspondence student, she said.
Dean allowed Popham to work at her own pace toward her diploma. She would give her assignments with deadlines, but Popham did occasionally have to request more time when one of her sons, who has autism, demanded more of her, she said.
“I would try to come in once a week or whatever to take my tests,” Popham said. “In my case, she definitely had a lot more patience.”
On June 15, Popham walked across the stage at the Anniston Meeting Center to collect her high school diploma.
“It was a blessing to me,” Popham said. “I highly recommend her,” she said of Dean.
Dean has been providing older students the opportunity to earn their high school diplomas since 1997, she said. An alternative to earning a general education development for atypical students is important, she said, because she believes high school diplomas are better-accepted in society. Some more selective universities won't accept a GED, she said.
“K through 12 is really the heart of what we do,” Dean said. “So, it's more favorably accepted.”
Recent U.S. Census Bureau information seems to support her point of view. In 2009, a comparison of GED holders versus high school graduates showed those with diplomas had a higher average income at every education level.
For example, GED earners who finished their education at the high school level earned an average of $2,922 per month, while their high school graduate counterparts earned an average of $3,222 a month. GED earners who went on to earn bachelor's degrees or higher averaged a monthly income of $4,852 while high school graduates with the same education attainment earned an average of $6,305.
There are some students for whom the GED is an important option — students who can't deal with a classroom day-to-day but do test well, for instance, Dean noted. But, not everyone tests well and a GED requires a student to test well, Dean said. It's best to offer both options, she believes and that is why the community has been so supportive of her program, Dean said.
Controlling the cost
While Dean says she tries to offer her program at a good rate, she said that for some people coming up with any tuition is a hardship. So, she uses a wide variety of sources to help fund her school. She partners with groups such as the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission to do her hiring with grant and government funding. She relies on volunteers, including recent graduates who can garner much-needed work experience at her school.
“A lot of them have not worked,” Dean said. “They need to start somewhere.”
She also relies on her family, including her husband who also helps at the school.
She and her husband also own a for-profit company called Project Development Service Systems.
“We have contracted, in education of course, on the federal side,” Dean said.
That work is with inmates in the penal system, providing GED education and testing, parenting classes and other testing, Dean said. The company helps fund the Dean-Sharp School, she said.
Popham hopes to volunteer or eventually work at the school when Dean makes the move to the new building, she said. She also plans to take college courses at the school.
“Whatever she offers, I definitely want to be a part of it,” Popham said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.