School Board Postpones Vote on Eliminating Alternative Education Program
The Woodland Hills School Board listened to students' and parents' comments about an alternative education program.
More than 50 people turned out to support the Boyce Campus Middle College Program in the Woodland Hills School District at the regular school board meeting Monday.
The board is considering withdrawing from the BCMC program at the end of this school year.
Alumni, current students, faculty and parents spoke out in support of the school, stating it helps struggling students receive an education better than public schools and faculty helps the students to get back on track, both in and out of the classroom.
The board voted six to three to table the issue until the January legislative meeting when the high school principal, Daniel Stephens, is in attendance.
BCMC is an alternative high school students can attend if a regular public school education is not working out for them individually, either academically or socially. Located on the Community College of Allegheny's Boyce campus, the program provides students with the opportunity to take high school and college level courses. It also boasts a closer relationship between students and teachers, along with smaller class sizes.
Woodland Hills joined the BCMC program in 1996. Currently, the district hosts 39 students at the program and spends almost $400,000 a year for them to attend the school.
But with new programs put in place at the high school, some administration members believe they can provide the same education BCMC is offering inside Woodland Hills High School.
Deputy Superintendent Terry Wallace said among the new programs are a seven-to-seven component that leaves the school open for 12 hours a day and a college promise program that provides Woodland Hills students with educations at Point Park University or CCAC.
"We have more of a range of options than we used to," Wallace said, "We custom- make programs for students all the time."
Superintendent Walter Calinger said more in-house programs to help the students is better than sending them to a different school because the administration can better control the programs and learn more about the ways different strategies affect students.
"We are not against BCMC and in its day it was good, but the emphasis that that kind of caring is not available at Woodland Hills is wrong," Calinger said.
But alumni of the BCMC program and employees of the school think differently and do not want the administration to cut the program.
Several students and parents shared their own stories of how BCMC helped them learn to enjoy school again and how the program changed a son or daughter's life. From the BCMC graduating class of 1999, Julie Harris drove from North Carolina to express her concerns about the district cutting the program.
"I didn't have the social skills [to deal with high school]," Harris said. "I felt like when I asked for help, I just couldn't get what I needed."
Harris went to Plum High School, another school district involved in the program and was going to drop out of high school at 16 until she discovered BCMC. After graduating, she went to college at Chatham University and is now studying for a doctorate degree in psychology.
Carol Hilliard, the cafeteria worker at BCMC for the past 15 years, has watched a number of students, including Harris, come and go, all with similar problems in their own high schools.
"Some kids have hard times at home and some they just need to be loved and know people care," she said. "Sometimes people look at me with the face 'why do you care?'"
And although the board does not doubt the benefits of the program, it wants its students to try the options Woodland Hills has to offer first.
"I was on the board when the [BCMC] was brought in," said Marilyn Messina, school board president. "I'm a full supporter of it but a lot of changes and programs came to Woodland Hills in the past two to three years and maybe they should be given a chance."