are examining alternative forms of education to address the needs and disruptive behavior of students who are not succeeding in a traditional school setting.
Superintendent of Schools James Willis raised the possibility of doing “something different” for such students during a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night. He emphasized that such an alternative “would NOT be a dumping ground for bad kids but something different in focus and function,” in a smaller, different setting with more individualized attention.
Willis suggested that such a program might start small as early as September as an extension of Peekskill High School, with perhaps 40 students based in two classrooms across Elm Street in the Administration Center. While he does not yet have a specific plan in mind, Willis said the goal would be “to make kids successful who might not be otherwise.”
Board members reacted favorably to the idea of an alternative educational program but raised questions about cost, staffing, proper structuring, scheduling, avoiding problems that arose with previous alternative efforts and how Willis’ idea differed from existing programs.
Regarding cost, Willis said no additional staff should be required since the total number of students in school would not change but said he would investigate. Board member Marcela Bobe, declaring herself “totally in favor” of the idea, said that, if there are additional costs, they should be incorporated into the budget for the 2012-13 school year. She also cautioned about potential scheduling problems for the program, which would operate during regular school hours.
Board member Tuesday McDonald emphasized that students in an alternative education program “should not be treated like second-class citizens,” a shortcoming of previous efforts. Colleague Douglas Glickert echoed her concerns about earlier efforts but added that, with proper structuring and parental involvement, a new program could be a winning formula for all involved and might even lower the dropout rate.
Board President Joseph Urbanowicz suggested that alternative education that engages students might include an occupational education component. He described Willis’ proposal as an “opportunity” to help make sure students “don’t fall through the cracks.” In response to Urbanowicz’s request, Willis said he would give the board examples of successful alternative education.
As outlined by Willis in response to a question from McDonald, alternative education would differ in several ways from the existing Twilight Academy and Hass’ Way. While acknowledging the potential for some overlap, Willis noted that the new program would address both behavior and academics and be held during regular school hours in a dedicated location.
Twilight Academy is an afternoon and evening academic program at Peekskill High School in which students, some of whom are dropouts, can successfully pass the courses needed to graduate from high school. Some attend the Board of Cooperative Educational Services Tech Center while enrolled in the academy.
Hass’ Way, based in a classroom in the Administration Center, is an alternative to out-of-school suspension. The program works with middle and high school students with the goal of providing a positive experience and successful reentry to regular academic programs.
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