July 17, 2008

Orangeburg, S.C.-Area Districts Approves Alternative-School Agreement

By Dionne Gleaton, The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.

Jul. 18--The Bamberg School District 2 board of trustees unanimously agreed to enter into an alternative school agreement with Orangeburg Consolidated School District 4.

Under the agreement, BSD2 students will attend the district's alternative school, the Star Learning Center.

During a Monday night council meeting, the board received a disparaging report on the state of it's own alternative school program from Dr. Thelma Sojourner, director of instructional services. She said it resembled more of an 'in-school suspension" rather than a full-fledged alternative school program.

Sojourner said following a visit from Aveene Coleman, director of the alternative school program at the state Department of Education, the news was not favorable.

"She was not pleased with what we had set up as an alternative school. One of the things that troubled her the most was the fact that... we are serving the middle school and high school students in one building, in one classroom," Sojourner said. "On top of that,... we only had that one teacher (a business major) to act as a supervisor over there."

Certified teachers in core subjects of math, science and language arts, however, are required by law to work with the students.

"We did have one eighth grade teacher serve as a math teacher for the students in the program. That was getting us through, but that teacher as not certified to teach beyond eighth grade," said Sojourner, noting that the majority of students assigned to the alternative school program are special service students. The district's was having them seen by a high school teacher twice a week in the mornings for one hour.

Sojourner said Coleman noted that that was not enough instruction time for special service students, who required individualized education plans.

Under the agreement, OCSD4 will enroll BSD2 students in grades 6-12 and provide all equipment and supplies needed for instruction. BSD2 will pay $78,000 to defray those and other program administration costs. The money is what the state Department of Education already allocates Bamberg School District 2 to provide alternative education.

"It will definitely be beneficial for our children," BSD2 Superintendent Dr. Secaida Howell said Tuesday. "Even in light of the fact that they (BSD2 board) accused me of an agreement that I didn't enter into and that Orangeburg 4 didn't enter into, I appreciated the fact that they changed their minds."

Howell had initially brought the proposed partnership agreement to the board during its June meeting. At that time, Trustee Loretta Goodman had said it was her understanding that Howell had already approved the agreement without first consulting the board.


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