LCSD BOE votes to eliminate alternative high school program

After voting 5 to 4 last week to keep the program, the Liverpool Central School District Board of Education decided at a Monday night budget work session to get rid of the FOCUS program as part of the 2012-13 budget. The vote was 7 to 2.

The alternative high school program, which provided classes for ninth- and 10th-graders this year but was intended to expand to include juniors and seniors in the future, opened in September in the former Wetzel Road Elementary building.

Board President Patricia DeBona-Rosier said the program couldn’t be sustained in this economic climate.

“We don’t have sufficient funds to make this program successful,” she said.

More than 40 students attend the program for the 2011-12 school year. Once it is eliminated, they will either return to the main building or attend classes through Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES.

FOCUS stands for Free of Obstacles Creating Unlimited Success. The goal of the program is to reach students on the brink of dropping out and to reengage them in the educational system.

“The basic premise of the program is that we’re trying to find a way to reengage students who have kind of lost interest in school,” said Mark Potter, principal of the academy, in an interview at the beginning of the school year. “It is not students who have discipline issues in school. It is trying to find kids who have decided that school just doesn’t have any value to them, so we’re trying to reengage those kids back into education.”

Students who attended the FOCUS program are identified through counselors in the district’s middle schools and the ninth grade annex.

“The major criteria that we’ve used is kids who haven’t found success, kids who’ve shown the ability to do the work but just have decided not to,” Potter said in September. “Sometimes that’s demonstrated by poor attendance, or disengagement in a classroom – they just don’t engage in conversations or classroom discussions with the teacher or other students. They’re kids who haven’t really found success in a regular teaching model.”

Also discussed at the work session were cuts to transportation and moving from full-day to half day kindergarten. Both ideas were rejected.

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