Commonwealth Journal

May 20, 2013

Dwindling numbers close Pulaski Central as education alternative

By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

Students needing instruction in an “alternative education” setting will no longer be going to Pulaski Central High School, according to county school officials.
With dwindling numbers at the facility on Bourne Avenue, the Pulaski County School District has decided to transition any students using its services to similar programs at either Southwestern or Pulaski County High Schools. 
“It’s a new era in alternative education,” said Pulaski County Assistant Superintendent Sonya Wilds. “It’s just much better for students to be at their home schools. There’s more access to extracurriculars and opportunities that other students have.”
Pulaski Central Alternative High School was established in 1995 with a goal of providing special assistance to students who experienced academic or disciplinary struggles at other schools, sometimes from other counties. These issues might have included “truancy, underperforming academically ... or general adjustment problems,” according to the school system.
However, the school faced scandal in 2011 when principal Dan Price was removed amid allegations of grade fixing by the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability, which led to lawsuits against the school system from Price and others who claimed they were treated unfairly following Price’s hearing over his removal from the school’s principal’s office.
The enrollment numbers have been dropping in the wake of that matter. Wilds said that the other high schools only sent about 15 students this year to the alternative program. A corresponding factor is the rate of change in which schools address the way they meet students’ needs.
“Our need for off-site programs continues to drop as our high schools focus on developing individual learning plans for all children,” she said. “We will continue to have an off-site alternative program, but with reduced staff in relation to the reduced student need.”
The school’s Day Treatment program will remain in the Pulaski Central facility, where it is now. Other students who might have otherwise gone to Central will, however, be receiving alternative education within their own home-base schools next year and beyond.
 “In fact, our graduation rate will be better than it’s ever been,” said Wilds. “Students have been very successful where there are many more resources and supports.” 
Wilds said that the teachers who will not be in the alternative program in the coming year are returning to the regular high schools in order for our high schools to provide more services for all students. 
Part of the reason for the move comes from changes in state legislative guidelines to be implemented in the upcoming school year. 
“The Kentucky Department of Education has advanced new guidelines and regulations regarding alternative education,” said Wilds. “SWHS and PCHS have embraced the idea that all students deserve the most opportunities and resources possible. Our high schools continue to establish on-site intervention and alternative services, courses, and pathways.”