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story.lead_photo.caption FILE PHOTO: Bobby Acklin speaks in 2014 at a state Board of Education meeting. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to remove Dollarway School District from state control effective this fall, clearing the way for the community to elect a school board.

The vote came two years after the state assumed control of the Jefferson County district over violations of state standards for school district accreditation, including employing teachers who weren't licensed and assigning students classes that didn't have them on track to graduate.

Superintendent Bobby Acklin, whom the board appointed last year, told the board of positive changes at the district including a steadying enrollment, a stable financial situation, an audit finding that student transcripts are now "in order" and improving academics.

He said before the unanimous vote to remove state control that doing so would be a "positive move ... to give our community a chance to see if we really want our district to stand on our own two feet again."

"The staff has decided that we want our school district," Acklin said. "They have gotten in the trenches and they have started working and working together to make our school district viable, to try and keep our school district population up instead of declining."

The locally elected school board is to be in place and trained when the state control ends effective Oct. 1, officials said at the meeting.

Some board members raised concerns before the vote that the decision on relinquishing control was coming the month after Dollarway High School was declared academically distressed.

Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell acknowledged there are still some "academic challenges," but he said there were questions about the "legal ground" that would allow state control to continue. And he noted that Dollarway is "a community that really wants to try and prove itself."

The state took over Dollarway in June 2012, removing the superintendent and School Board after the accreditation standard violations were revealed. No further violations occurred over the next two years.

Acklin was appointed last year after the first state-appointed superintendent, Frank Anthony, left the position. Acklin told the board Thursday that he hopes to retire from Dollarway.

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