Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Academy Plans Unveiled

A presentation Tuesday (Aug. 5, 2008) at the school board’s work-and-study session highlighted plans for an alternative school called the “Plainfield Academy for Academic & Civic Development.”

This is the proposed replacement or upgrade of the former Alpha Academy in the old Lincoln School.

“It won’t be a dumping ground,” Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III promised as he and others detailed aspects of the new program to be located at 1700 West Front Street.

Gallon and a team of educators described a process of evaluation and placement of students needing intensive help to meet educational goals. The process would start early and with frequent assessments, verify that an individual student was on track to return to regular classes or succeed with special help. Direct instruction as well as technology-based “credit recovery” tactics will be used.

Presenters gave statistics showing that Plainfield’s graduation rate of 84 percent is below the state rate of 93 percent. And the attendance rate is only 91 percent, meaning 165 students per day are not coming to school. The team that will tackle the problem includes new Plainfield High School Interim Principal Brian Bilal, Student Intervention & Family Support Services Director Anna Belin-Pyles, Vice-Principal Kevin Stansbury and Guidance Director Lisa Clark, all of whom took part in Tuesday’s presentation on the new alternative school.

Clark said students will be empowered to “identify their own weaknesses” and that those working with the student will express interest each student’s outcome.

“Programs don’t work,” she said. “Relationships work.”

Stansbury said the school will feature small class size and students will be paired with positive role models. Counseling will also be available.

Belin-Pyles said community involvement will be sought and the school will also seek to connect families with local providers of services.

“We all have a role – we all can make this successful,” she said.

The Plainfield High School curriculum will be used at the academy.

“Understand this, we are not going to be dumbing down the curriculum,” Bilal said.

The students themselves will be held responsible for making the most of the opportunity to be helped at the academy and changing the direction of their lives.

“The children are going to have to put their shoulders to the wheel, but they have to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Gallon said.

Among questions from the board, Lisa Logan Leach asked whether additional funding will be needed for the academy. Gallon said the district will implement it without asking for more money.

Logan Leach also questioned the logistics of having high school-age students in the same building as an elementary school.

The former office building at 1700 West Front Street has been used as a “swing school” while elementary schools were demolished and replaced. It still houses Jefferson School and the vacancy will be created as Emerson School students leave the swing school to occupy a brand new building.

Gallon said district officials will conduct a “walk-through” of the space to identify any possible issues.

Several members of the public raised hands to ask questions, but the format of the work-and-study session does not include questions from the floor. Gallon directed them to Doris Williams, whose new title is Principal/Special Projects District Affairs.

Gallon also introduced Angela Kemp, the new assistant superintendent for Educational Services; Leslie Borge, coordinator of Professional Development Support Services; and Lalelei B. Kelly, supervisor of Assessment, Data Collection and School Improvement. The three, along with Clark, are new to the district.

Approval of the new academy and other matters will be voted on at the board’s business meeting, 7 p.m. next Tuesday at Washington Community School.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read Jerry Green's blog. Boy, what does he have against you? He does not get it - that you really are a reporter, and not a spin doctor. But also, he spends alot of time bragging about all he has done. What is that line "Methinks he protests too much" I his case, he brags too much. Oh, election time is approaching....

Obviously you are doing something right!

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like a plan! I hope that Mr. Stansbury and Ms. Belin-Pyles will be in charge! We can certainly use an accomplished educator like Mr. Stansbury to head the school if it is to succeed. Ms. Belin-Pyles will finally get to show people what her expertise can do. These two have to be in charge!

On another note, 165 absent students per day seems ridiculously low! Divide that number by only ten schools and that amounts to 16.5 students per school. Someone is faking the numbers and that's FRAUD!

Who is in charge of student accounting? I hope you have a good lawyer!

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds great. HOWEVER I DO NOT like the idea of the little kids next door. HS school "at risk" children will easily find the cut thru from building to building. I would be having a FIT if my kid went to Jefferson. What is wrong with the adult learning center?
And Mrs. Johnson Tucker is going to be the principal of this new venture when she has absolutely NO experience with HS?

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad that the previous writer clarified that the students won't be in the same building as suggested by the question posed by Logan Leach. Dr. Gallon appears to be a thorough and craft educator. I am confident the logisitics will be worked out. At least the issue facing two of the Plainfield's Schools most pressing issues are being addressed. The issue of keeping students in the district with k-8 and the issue of dropout with the new academy. Kudos to Gallon for not only identifying the problems but offering what appears to a be solid plan for addressing them. Thanks Bernice for the updates.

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question posed by Logan Leach was asking about High School age children and Elementary age children being on the same campus. The Swing Site has two schools on the same site. Currently there have been two elementary schools there. That is a different question.

11:12 AM  

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