By David Prenatt
The alternative education/GED program at Westfield Academy and Central School has aimed at helping students return to mainstream education for 18 years, board of education members learned last Tuesday, Nov. 12.
A poster in the elementary school illustrates the Red Ribbon Run program. Students taking part in the program sign the poster as a way of pledging to not take part in bullying and to remain drug-free.
Alternative education director Robert Dyment told the board that he began the program in 1995 after noticing how many students were experiencing suspension. At that time, many students who could not succeed in mainstream education were being serviced by BOCES.
"I thought there has to be a way to try to get these kids back into education here at Westfield," he said. "We've always said: 'If you can, keep them here.' We emphasize to them they have got to be a part of this community because that's where you are going to live," he said.
The program originally classified students into three areas of need - those with behavioral problems, apathetic students and those with high absenteeism, he said. Originally, sessions were held wherever space could be found.
Then in 1999, the program moved into the Wayside building. "That was a godsend," he said.
Today, the program identifies six categories of need, Dyment said. "Recovery" helps students make up lost days. "Scheduling" focuses on students who miss school because of other aspects of life that interfere with regular attendance. "Medical" deals with students who miss school because of chronic medical problems.
"Behavioral" tries to help students with severe behavioral problems to "get back on track." Parents of these students have to understand that this process will not happen quickly, he said. "It takes a few years for these kids to turn their behavior around."
"G.E.D.", which began in 2008, is a "last-ditch effort" to help students who had opportunities but failed to graduate with a diploma. "With G.E.D. a lot of kids will go to Community College. It offers them the opportunity to go to the next level," he said.
"Other" is a category that serves as a catch-all for students experiencing a variety of problems, he said.
The program serves about 40 students a year, Dyment said.
Board president Jeff Greabell credited the alternative education with helping many Westfield students to succeed. "If not for your program, we would probably be sending our kids to BOCES," he said. "Your program has saved a lot of our kids in terms of where they are now."
The board also heard a presentation from third-grade teacher Mike Putney on the progress of the Common Core program as it is being implemented in that grade. Putney said the students have been responding well to the changes.
"Is it working? In my eyes, in my classroom yes, it is," Putney said. "I am seeing them do things I have never seen them do."
Elementary principal Shanda Duclon reported on the school's Red Ribbon Run, a program designed to help stamp out bullying and to help students remain drug-free.