BOE approves Sunset School for at-risk students
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – Sylacauga High School will implement a Sunset School program to provide at-risk students the opportunity to recover lost credits. The program was approved by the Board of Education at a called meeting Tuesday morning.

Sunset School is designed for students who are at least two or more credits behind in core classes. Ten students will be accepted to the program starting next semester, said Student Services Coordinator Bobby Hall.

“We have so many kids who are dropping out or losing the most important thing, and that is hope,” Hall said. “Once they lose hope, they stop doing everything, so this is designed to give them a chance to recover those credits and get them back on track toward graduation.”

The program will employ two tutors and use PLATO Learning computer software to direct the course. Students must attend nine consecutive weeks for three days a week at three hours per day after regular school hours. Unlike summer school, the program is free to students. All they have to provide is their own transportation.

The work done in Sunset School will be averaged with their regular class grades to equate to a passing grade, Hall said. For example, if a student has a failing grade of 55 in Algebra, but they make a 65 on PLATO, it will average out to a passing grade of 60.

Hall said the program, which tentatively begins Jan. 14, 2013, will be referral only because of limited space. Eligible students will be recommended by administrators, counselors and teachers using Response-to-Instruction data that closely tracks student progress throughout the school year. It is not open to students with disciplinary issues. If a student misses three days of the classes, they will be dismissed and cannot make up the credit.

This is the first time for the program, though similar techniques have been used before. Hall said Sunset School will provide smaller classes and more one-on-one teaching than other distance learning options.

“It’s a great opportunity if students will take advantage of it and come in here serious about moving their educational career forward,” Hall said.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the BOE:

• Held an executive session for a student disciplinary hearing to discuss the good name and character of an individual.

• Was notified of a financial transaction concerning the federal Qualified School Construction Bonds received for school construction projects in 2010. The $5 million bond was designated for the SHS Phase I renovation. In August, it was discovered payroll documents were not reflective of the Davis-Bacon Act that must be followed when using federal funds. This arose is because QSCB funds were not designated in the bid documents for the project. The BOE agreed last month to set the wages right with contractors. CFO Lisa Dickerson said this notification was simply stated for the record, and nothing has changed since that time.

• Approved the retirement of Indian Valley Elementary Nutrition Program assistant Rosie Hamilton, effective Jan. 1, 2013.

• Approved employment of: Lauren Ogle, Pinecrest Elementary fifth-grade teacher, effective Jan. 4; Cathy Phillips, Indian Valley head custodian, effective Jan. 1; Melissa Bowen, Indian Valley instructional assistant, effective Jan. 4; Paula Renzi-Callahan, SHS French teacher, effective Jan. 4; and Hamilton Brady Mitchell, full-time bus driver, effective Jan. 8.

The BOE has another called meeting Thursday at 7 a.m. at the Central Office.

Contact Emily Adams at eadams@dailyhome.com.

© 2012