By Jean Cole
The new superintendent for Athens City Schools is proposing a restructuring of the system’s alternative school, Eagle Academy.
Eagle, created for students who are not succeeding in the traditional classroom setting, provides individualized instruction and discipline for disruptive students.
Superintendent Trey Holladay told school board members this week an alternative school should be structured to help different types and ages of students with the goal of returning them to the regular classroom, if possible. Alternative should, he said, deal not only with children who have discipline problems but also with “at-risk kids with a bad circumstance.”
He offered as an example a student whose mother is ill who wants to drop out and take a job in order to care for his mother and sister. Holladay said these students need what he called a “non-discipline alternative assignment.”
Currently, students in grades 5-12 are assigned to the Eagle Academy for varying lengths of time; usually a minimum of nine weeks to a maximum of one year. Students are under contract to complete class work, maintain passing grades, attend all classes on time and exhibit positive behavior.
Board President Russell Johnson pointed out one problem with Eagle Academy is that some students want to go there rather than be in the regular classroom. The goal of the alternative school is to get students back in the regular classroom.
Holladay proposed a new alignment for Eagle Academy that includes the following:
• Athens High School would house the SAFE program (Students Alternative For Excellence), an alternative to the traditional classroom with minimum placement of 45 days.
• Athens Middle School would house the CARE program (Classroom for Alternative and Remedial Education), an alternative to the traditional classroom with a minimum placement of five days;
• Students in elementary school serving long-term suspensions would be served through after-school instruction;
• All students who commit Class III offenses that involve drugs, weapons or assaults would be housed in the AHS program;
• Highly qualified teachers at AHS would be used for the SAFE program and paid a supplement for using part of their planning period for the program;
• A school resource officer (typically a deputy sheriff) would be assigned to Eagle for safety and mentoring;
• Classroom space for Eagle would be provided at the high school but would be a separate program. In order to minimize contact with regular classroom students, Eagle students would be required to arrive after regular students and leave before them;
• An assistant principal would spend half of his or her time with the Eagle program and half with the AHS program.
Holladay suggests increasing the budget for alternative school from $184,434 for three teachers and curriculum to $215,653 for two teachers, current and part-time staff and a resource officer. The hiring of a resource officer is what would increase the proposed budget, he said.
If the changes he proposed are made, Holladay projects the following outcome:
• Stronger and more rigorous instructional program for the students;
• Minimal transition from Eagle back to the regular classroom;
• Better oversight by school administration;
• Cost-effective availability of a school resource officer.