BOE to review Alternative School change

Published 5:01 pm Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Butler County Board of Education may soon be looking into alternatives for the school district’s Alternative Schools.

At Tuesday night’s special called meeting, Butler County Board of Education members Linda Hamilton and Joe Lisenby expressed concerns about the current Alternative School arrangement.

“I think we need to take another look and make sure we’re doing the best thing for all of our stakeholders,” Hamilton said.

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Prior to the start of the 2010-11 school year, the BOE elected to move the district’s Alternative Schools from a separate location to areas on the campuses of Greenville High School, Greenville Middle School and Georgiana School.

According to Butler County Schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt, the move was a cost-cutting measure that saved the school district approximately $114,178 last year by eliminating an administrator position. The move could save an additional $98,060.35 in the coming year with the elimination of the counselor position and a part-time Child Nutrition Program worker. According to figures released by the Superintendent’s office, the school district also saved $13,337.15 in electricity costs and another $783.75 in water costs.

The district’s Alternative Schools are currently staffed by three teachers.

“That move saved us a lot of money, which comes in handy right now,” Douthitt said. “I think we did ourselves a whole lot of justice by saving more than $100,000.”

The savings may not be enough of a justification for sticking with the current arrangement, according to Hamilton.

“We don’t believe this choice we made was an effective one,” Hamilton said.

The Board raised several concerns with having the Alternative Schools housed on the other campuses, including disruptions to the learning environment and the safety of the staff and other students.

“On three occasions during this past spring when I was at Greenville High School, the administrators were busy dealing with problems created by students at the Alternative School,” Lisenby said. “I don’t know if that was coincidence or if it’s indicative of what goes on every day, but it became a very big concern to me. I know we moved it back onto the campuses because of the cost factor, but I think it has created more problems having the Alternative School scattered among three settings.”

Hamilton said she had heard complaints from teachers about three students that had been arrested for armed robbery returning to the Alternative School after being released from jail. Lisenby also mentioned receiving negative reports from staff members about the current arrangement.

“I haven’t heard those complaints,” Douthitt said. “I haven’t heard a complaint from any administrator or teacher in this county. If anyone has a concern, I want to hear it. It doesn’t matter to me whether they work for us or not. If they know of a problem or of something that will benefit our kids, I want to know it.”

Douthitt assured the Board that he would meet with his administrators and take a “hard look” at the situation.

“This move wasn’t just about saving money,” he said. “Part of the reason we placed the Alternative Schools back on campus is that it expands the educational opportunities for these students by three or four times, but if it’s going to cause a disruption to the learning environment of everyone else at the school, it’s something we need to look at.”

There was no action concerning the Alternative School taken at Tuesday night’s meeting.