Principal reintroduces concept of in-house alternative school

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – High School Principal Terry Charlton presented the details on a proposed in-house alternative program called “SCORE Academy” at the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Charlton told the board his plan is slightly different from a similar proposal presented last year, noting that key changes came about after he visited Cape May County’s COMPACT alternative program for disaffected students.


“We were very impressed with their program,” Charlton said. “They have gotten good results and rectified behaviors.”

Some best practices from the Cape May County program – such as consistent staffing that fosters trust between the teachers and students, and daily exercises as a way to manage stress in students who struggle with anger and attention issues – would be included in the township’s program if approved by the board.

The board took no action on the proposal, but unanimously agreed to discuss it further at its next work session on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Charlton told the board that the district should want to keep these students in-house.

“These aren’t bad kids. They are just misplaced in environments that aren’t letting them become successful,” he said.

By bringing them back into the fold of the high school, they will have the opportunity to return to mainstream classes if they can improve their behavior.

“We want them to know that they are still EHT students and that they have the possibility of returning to the school.”

The SCORE Academy would be separate and in addition to the district’s Eagle Academy, Charlton explained. The Eagle Academy is more geared for “disaffected youth” who may be suffering from substance abuse or depression rather than combative students, which the SCORE program would handle. “This would not be replacing the Eagle Academy.”

 Costs were not discussed during the presentation, for which the scope was only the proposed curriculum of the SCORE Academy. But, during the board’s Aug. 14 meeting, Superintendent Scott McCartney said the district was looking to bring alternative placement students back into the school by renovating a now-unused metal shop to create self-contained classrooms.

McCartney said that Charlton’s presentation would delve deeper into the way these students would be educated within the school through the proposed SCORE Academy, which stands for Students Capable of Realizing Excellence.

“SCORE Academy provides our most severely at-risk students with a second chance to graduate, as well as an evidence-based possibility of returning to the high school,” Charlton said in his presentation.  “The academy utilizes a combination of career transition programs, wellness education and academic coursework to fulfill its mission. A supportive environment allows these students the greatest chance of becoming productive citizens, both in the community and the economy.

“These are our most at-risk students,” he said. “They may be the students who have had multiple altercations or criminal records. It’s not a well-known fact that the other alternative programs don’t always take them if they don’t meet specific criteria.”

Some of the alternative placement students currently attend the Atlantic County Alternative Program in Mays Landing, while those who are not accepted because they are deemed too aggressive are given homebound instruction, he said.

“That can cost up to $20,000 per year for each student,” he said.

The presentation states that SCORE students may be categorized as having anger issues or a possessing a defiance of authority. These are students, he wrote, that may adversely affect the education and safety of the other students if they remain in the mainstreamed high school population.

The SCORE program would aim to provide job training, daily exercise, stress relief activities as well as help them meet state coursework and testing requirements.

The proposed daily schedule for the SCORE students would be from 8:34 a.m. to 1:07 p.m., rather than in sync with the high school’s schedule. A maximum of 40 students would be admitted.

“A more practical number would be around 30,” he said.

A variety of courses would be offered, including main content areas such as language arts and mathematics as well as Spanish, financial literacy and exercise science and nutrition. Job training would range from the culinary to automotive industries. There would be one supervisor assigned to the program as well as one teacher from each content area, a security guard and other support staff.

Board member Thor Himley questioned how much of the proposed staffing would need to be new hires if the program is approved.

Charlton said there would need to be two new teachers added and one new security guard, a position that could be part time. The cost of the staffing is expected to be discussed at the Oct. 16 work session as well.

If approved by the board, the school would need to convert the metal shop to classroom space, which Charlton said is “prime square footage” at approximately 3,000 square feet.

“It’s a wonderful space that is now being used just for storage,” he said.

The costs were briefly discussed during the board’s August meeting, when the renovation of the space was estimated at about $1 million by architect Scott Downie of the Spiezle Architectural Group. That night McCartney said the construction costs would be recouped by the amount of money the district could save by not paying for out-of-district placements.

The proposal would create three new classrooms, a faculty area, an open space for group instruction, a secured entrance, security system and a kitchen-dining area, Downie said.

McCartney said the cost of the proposed work could be recouped within three years as the district saves the money now spent on tuition and transportation. He said the project could be funded through money the district already has as well as other funding sources such as legal settlements.




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