District reports Alternative to Long Term Suspension is working
Opening Union County’s Alternative to Long Term Suspension program at Cuthbertson High was an idea that was originally met with opposition, but reports show that the program is working.
Board of Education members heard a presentation on the ALTS program during their Tuesday, Feb. 1 meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Ed Davis said he was pleased to report that the fall semester of the ALTS program at Cuthbertson generated positive results, and educators predict that this will continue through the spring semester as well.
The Alternative to Long Term Suspension program allows students who have been suspended to earn classroom credits while away from their home school. The program has been in existence since 2005, but was not housed at Cutbertson until the fall of 2010.
Of the 30 students who were eligible for the ALTS program in the fall, 16 decided to enroll. 12 of the 16 enrolled students completed the program, with four being dismissed for various violations.
Davis cited various reasons that the other eligible students chose not to enroll. Some of the students moved to distant locations or decided to go to South Piedmont Community College instead, while others were not convinced that the program was worth their time.
The freshman grade level had the highest number of participants, with nine of the 16 enrolled students being ninth-graders. Three were sophomores, and the junior and senior levels had two students each.
According to statistics stated at the board meeting, the grade with the highest number of high school retentions—and the second highest number of retentions overall—is the ninth grade. Davis said that the ALTS program was the one thing that prevented those nine freshmen from being retained.
“If we did something to save those nine students, this program has been worth it,” said Davis.
Overall, Parkwood High had the largest number of students in the program, with four, while Cuthbertson High was in second, with three students attending as part of ALTS. Forest Hills, Monroe High, Porter Ridge and Sun Valley High all had two students work with the program.
The Cuthbertson project did not evolve without opposition. In August 2010, five applicants, all parents of Cuthbertson High students, appealed the board’s decision to host the program in Cuthbertson’s unused G wing. The parents were concerned about the ALTS students using Cuthbertson’s facilities and interfering with the education of the school’s enrolled students.
During an Aug. 26 hearing, the Union County Board of Education voted 5-2 to deny the appeal, and the case was dismissed. With the help of attorney Michelle Morris, Davis argued that the program was not new and merely an extension of a current program, and therefore did not need approval from the board.
Reached Wednesday, Feb. 2, some of those Cuthbertson parents declined to comment, saying while they hadn’t seen the presentation, they were sure the district touted the ALTS program as a success.
Contrary to the original fears and reservations, parents have been generally pleased with the results of the program, school officials said. The district polled parents of each child entered into the program, asking how they would rate the intake process, instructional and procedural parts of the project. On a scale of 1-10, the average response was around a 9.4 to each question.
“It’s a good opportunity for students who have been (in) long term (suspension) and are trying to get their credits,” wrote one parent as part of their poll.
Likewise, students have responded positively as well, district officials say, adding they also polled the kids who were involved. The majority rated their experience between good and okay.
“We have had no problems with the student body at Cuthbertson,” Davis said.
Five students were eligible to enroll in the spring semester of the Cuthbertson ALTS program. Two have already begun the program, and, according to school board officials, the remaining three are in the process of getting started.
“I feel that I had an experience that I don’t want to approach again, but I would like to say thank you,” wrote one student who took part in ALTS, as part of his poll. “This has made me a better person and has taught me a lesson that is necessary for me to soak in.”
The board has not made any decisions regarding whether or not the program will stay at Cuthbertson for the 2011-2012 academic year. Officials will continue to study and evaluate the program throughout this semester and make their final decision later in the spring.
The school’s ‘G’ wing was selected only because Cuthbertson High doesn’t have enough students to need that part of the facility this year. The district’s own projections however show that won’t be the case in 2011-12. Currently, 922 students are enrolled at Cuthbertson, but that number is expected to jump to 1057 next year and 1216 by the 2012-13 school year.
Davis is confident that the right choice was made regarding the Cuthbertson location. “As something that lacked popularity in the beginning, we should feel a lot of pride at the success of this program,” he said.
Board member Carolyn Lowder agreed. “I have definitely learned something from this,” she said. “I think we all can learn a lesson from the success of this program.”