October 4, 2008

Session Focuses on Drop-Out Prevention

By stacey becker

News You can use The Community Open Forum on Early Childhood Education will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at The Forum, 2300 Chaney Road.

They could have been at homes with their eyes glued to the vice presidential debate or the Cubs baseball game.

Instead, they took a seat at The Forum to discuss dropout prevention in the Dubuque Community School District.

About 60 people gathered into nine groups Thursday night for an hour to brainstorm ideas to keep kids in school.

The Community Open Forum on Dropout Prevention was created after a controversial proposal to close Central Alternative High School and open another alternative programming center.

"This process will be inclusive and comprehensive," said Superintendent John Burgart to the crowd before members dispersed into groups.

The focus shifted from the future of Central to the solution of dropout prevention.

Burgart noted the 120 students who dropped out of school during the 2006-07 school year.

"One-hundred and twenty kids have a face, 120 kids have a story, 120 kids have a history with us somewhere, somehow," he said. "It's that number that I believe is more important and needs to drive the discussion."

The groups focused on those students with the following guiding question: What can be done to increase the number of youth who achieve a meaningful diploma and are prepared for success in postsecondary study and the 21st-century workplace?

The groups included staff from the three high schools and within the district, Loras College students and many others.

Lynn Helmke, director of special education for the district, lead a group of people in discussion that included Craig Beytien, a former school board candidate, and David Patton, a former school board member.

"There's a value in learning how to learn," Beytien said.

Patton stressed the importance of "hands-on" education for students in every grade level, which was discussed in many of the groups.

Beytien also talked about trying to discover the true reasons why students decide to dropout or stay in school.

Another group expanded that question one step further to include a discovery of when students decide to drop out.

That group included John Adelmann, a Central teacher. He, like Patton, also stressed the importance of teaching the trades within the schools.

The next step in the process will be the establishment of a Coordinating Committee and task force groups. After another community forum in January, the committee will give its recommendations to the school board in February.

Originally published by stacey becker TH staff writer/[email protected]

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