By Casey Hans
Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti school districts are collaborating on a tuition-based program allowing Ypsilanti students to attend alternative programs at Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and Stone High School in Ann Arbor.
Ten students are already enrolled at Roberto Clemente, starting in the summer school program so they can effectively transition into the 2010 fall semester.
A number of students are also expected to enroll at Stone as school begins this fall, said Joyce Hunter, administrator for secondary education for the Ann Arbor Public Schools and a member of the committee that formed the partnership. There will not be a rolling enrollment, she said, but students will be able to sign up at the start of each semester.
“These schools have a smaller, individualized setting and can really make a difference for students,” Hunter said. “This is about people coming together to combine resources to create the best situation for kids.”
Kwame Stephens, assistant principal at Ypsilanti High School, said he referred a number of students for the summer session at Clemente after identifying those he thought would be successful there and meeting with parents and students to present the option. Ypsilanti does not have an alternative high school program.
Stephens said he thinks the partnership will be a good one. “All of these are just alternative methods of reaching students,” he said. “It’s an excellent opportunity for the most obvious reason: It’s another chance to help students be successful.”
Stephens said the two Ann Arbor alternative programs, as well as Ypsilanti’s New Tech High School @ Ardis are all good ways to assist students who are looking for a different learning environment than a large, traditional school setting.
The sharing partnership came into being when officials from Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Lincoln Consolidated Schools met during the 2009-10 school year to discuss the option of sharing resources, Hunter said. Lincoln also considered the program but is not sending any students this year, Hunter said.
Ypsilanti families must work through their own school counselors, teachers and administrators to apply to attend one of the Ann Arbor programs. Although the Ypsilanti students will retain their home district status, Ypsilanti will pay tuition to Ann Arbor for each student.
Clemente is a non-diploma program that prepares students to earn a diploma at their home school in Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti; Stone is an accredited high school that serves students in grades 11 and 12 and allows students to earn a diploma. Hunter said she has met with staffs at both schools to discuss transitioning the new students into the programs.
At Clemente, Principal Ben Edmondson said he wanted the Ypsilanti pupils to start in his program this summer to get them acclimated and ready to go in the fall.
About 80 students are attending summer school at Clemente, taking mostly math and English and credit recovery classes. Students continue to wear uniforms – white shirts and black pants – as part of the Clemente experience.
Edmondson said what Clemente offers is critical for non-traditional students. “This school is needed,” he explained. ‘Every student is at risk here.” The program is designed to help students and then transition them back into high school setting for graduation. Since it is a non-diploma program, the staff works to build student confidence, control behavior and encourage good choices, improve grades and prepare them for a successful future.
Heading into the fall, Clemente has a waiting list of about 40 students for the first time in the program’s history. The school will enroll about 110 for the fall semester, including the new students from Ypsilanti.
Co-lead teacher Barbara Malcolm said she is proud of the program she has worked for during the past 7 years. “I love to come to school,” she said, noting that each school day brings a new challenge and a new way to reach students. She said parent involvement with the program is key. “”We treat these kids exactly like our own,” she added.
The other co-lead teacher is Derrick Bird said his 6 years at Clemente “has been a positive experience.” On a recent weekday, Bird and Edmondson were having a heart-to-heart talk with one student who had gotten into trouble outside of school. They used a tough, but caring, approach.
“For many of our kids, their home life is really tough,” Bird said. “That’s why we can really help them here.”
The partnership committee will next look at visiting other alternative programs to determine how they can best strengthen the Ann Arbor programs. There are at least two such programs in the state – Mott Community College in Flint and Kent County Schools in western Michigan – that they are considering for site visits, Hunter added.
Ypsilanti students attending Clemente’s summer school are able to pick up a bus at the Meijer store on Carpenter Road to get to class and Stephens said he was working to arrange transportation for students this fall, as well.
Students or parents interested in these alternative programs may contact one of the following people:
• Sheila Brown, principal at Stone High School, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-997-1237.
• Benjamin Edmondson, principal at Roberto Clemente, email@example.com or call 734-997-1236.
• (For Ypsilanti students) Kwame Stephens, assistant principal at Ypsilanti High School, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-714-1004.
Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her or call 734-994-2090 (internal ext. 51228.)