The Herald Bulletin

March 12, 2013

ACS looking at partnership with new alternative school

By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — The Anderson Community Schools board voted 4-1 Tuesday evening to look into a partnership with The Crossing, an alternative school that would focus on ACS’ most struggling students.

The board made its decision after lengthy discussion during its monthly meeting in Anderson High School’s cafeteria.

The difference between The Crossing and Anderson’s Excel Center, Crossing Executive Director Rob Staley said, would be the age group. While the Excel Center targets adults who are seeking high school degrees, Staley said The Crossing would focus on students under 19 years of age who have either dropped out, been expelled or just aren’t cutting it in school.

“When they check out, that’s when we step in,” he said, adding the school would be a “tool in (ACS’) educational tool chest.”

Students would still, essentially, be a part of ACS and receive a diploma from the corporation, Superintendent Felix Chow added.

He said the alternative school would be both complementary and affordable as it would refund 90 percent of a student’s Average Daily Membership (ADM).

Board Vice President Irma Hampton Stewart had concerns about The Crossing siphoning students who still have a chance in the school system.

There needs to be a focus on those already in alternative schools like Anderson High’s ACE program and Highland Middle School’s Success Academy, she said, rather than yanking them out. Sometimes, she added, schools “give up on kids too early.”

After giving the Pledge of Allegiance, some of Highland’s Success Academy students gave testimonies that Stewart pointed out as success stories.

One student said he raised his GPA from a 1.5 last year to a 3.85 this year. Another said she had gone from having 28 disciplinary referrals to none this year.

“Teachers are doing literally whatever it takes to motivate students to succeed,” instructional coach Kristal McCorkle said.

The Success Academy contains nearly 200 students and McCorkle said the teachers foresee improvement in ISTEP scores.

Out of 12 teams, one, for example, saw 4 percent of its students pass ISTEP last year. This year, on an acuity test, 46 percent passed, she said.

Staley said ACE and the Success Academy are great programs “all about building relationships.” But, he added, The Crossing would focus on those who are not doing well or are not allowed in ACS’s current alternative programs, like some of those who have been in the Department of Correction.

Board member Ben Gale said he believes The Crossing would provide an “extra safety net.” Yes, there are kids who are doing better in the new alternative schools, he said, but there are still those dropping out.

“They’re failing, we’re failing them,” he said, adding The Crossing would provide another option.

The school board will have to give final approval before The Crossing ever becomes a reality for Anderson.

If it does happen, Staley said, the school hopes to enroll 100 to 150 kids.

In other board business:

Chief Operations Officer Joe Cronk proposed turning the Administrative Building’s gym into a big meeting area to hold board meetings, principal meetings and other events. The room would fit about 100 people and the changes would cost about $50,000. Curriculum Director Ryan Glaze gave a presentation on what will be occurring during summer professional development, including a new literacy summit, common core training, a focus on making instruction rigorous and a beginning teacher boot camp.

The board congratulated Anderson High School’s Rube Golberg team on its second consecutive trip to nationals. The group will be heading to Wisconsin on Saturday for the competition.

Superintendent Felix Chow also thanked St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital for its donation of the Indian Walking Man.

An HR report was given and the board voted to allow staff members to volunteer as security officers. Chow said the details will be worked out in the near future.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.