The Bullitt Alternative Center has been operational for over 30 years as a place to serve students who have made poor choices at their home schools. For most of those years, it was fairly well funded by the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children, but that funding has fallen by over $60,000 over the last three years. There have been two other efforts at reforming the program in light of changes in court placement guidelines and in response to high cost versus less than desired student outcomes. These efforts have not had the desired effect – essentially we are in the same situation as we were five years ago regarding both truly assisting our regular schools in maintaining discipline and helping the assigned students learn more successful behavior. The recidivism rate of student assigned to Bullitt Alternative Center program completion is high, the eventual drop-out rate is very high, and the successful high school completion rate of those assigned is very low (in the 15% range). The cost per child is very high – around $16,000 per student when measured on average daily membership. This is not meant to cast blame. For the most part, the staff is doing the best they can under the circumstances and, frankly, the die of failure for many of these students is cast many years before they arrive in the building. That said, we believe we can do better with a different approach.
Our current staff –
Principal paid at high school level for 240 days
Three Social Workers at 197 days
Four Teachers at 187 days
Two Instructional Tutors at 183 days
Three Instructional Assistants at 185 days
One Bookkeeper at 205 days
One Clerical Assistant at 190 days
The total cost, including fringe benefit costs for the staff for this year is $682,451.89. In addition to this, the staffing plan was adjusted – with agreement of the high school principals – to free up three teaching positions which adds $156,181.41 and by tightening up some of the special needs load, the Director of Special Education can contribute two special needs positions, which adds another $104,120.94. The grand total that is available for personnel is $942,754.24
Aside from the problems outlined above regarding success rates and cost, the placement process is extremely cumbersome dominates the time of several key central office staff members, including the Secondary Director, the Director of Pupil Personnel, and the Safe Schools Coordinator usually along with one of more Social Worker and school administration. Other districts do not have such a cumbersome process and we wish to free these people to do the important work that their job requires.
The recommended reorganization makes several changes to staff positions, but most importantly, it intentionally changes the philosophy of the program from one where an offender is placed at the alternative school for a specified period of time to one where treatment outcomes and a successful transition back to the home school determines the length of a child’s stay. We also desire to create, as part of the overall treatment program, a focus on a very defined and rigid set of behavioral expectations, careful data monitoring, and consequences that encourage compliant, controlled student conduct.
Finally, we are recommending the creation of three rooms that are staffed with experts in emotional and behavioral disorders as our most restrictive environment for our most critical students, including those with a history of mental illness and behaviors that make even the most restrictive regular school setting insufficient.
To do this, we are recommending the following positions, along with an approximate cost.
One Principal paid at elementary level for 220 days
One Assistant Principal paid at elementary level for 187 days (no extended days)
Three Social Workers for 197 days
Four Regular Education Teachers
Three Special Educations Teachers
Three Instructional Assistants
Three Special Educations Assistants
One School Resource Office
One Clerical Assistant/Receptionist
The approximate cost for this arrangement will be $875,979.12. The remaining $65,000 will be held in reserve for additional costs related to the program.
Some savings have been achieved by reducing the number of extended days and the supplement amount of the principal, as well as eliminating a secretary/clerical position. The very limited bookkeeping duties will be handled at the central office by the finance department. In addition, the Back on Track program will be eliminated.
There is a need for an assistant principal. The principal of the program is charged with overseeing Bullitt Alternative Center, but also Riverview Opportunity Center (CRC & BAMS) and Spring Meadows Children’s home. There are also several meetings and trainings that are required of the principal by the district and by the grant funding authorities. Another administrator on duty will assist the staff with order and discipline, as well as free up the social workers who have been serving as de facto assistant principals for several years. Their skills would be better used in helping develop relationship with students and removing barriers to success.
A School Resource Officer is needed to provide a secure environment and assist with criminal violations that occur in the facility. The students assigned to that program must understand that order will be maintained and law violations will very likely lead to their arrest. We are teaching them nothing of the “real world” when they can curse staff, break things, assault others, and refuse lawful directions without significant consequences.
Students who require discipline for particular offenses committed at school, such as drug offenses, theft, vandalism, and assault, may be excluded from all school functions and property and be provided services via technology under their parents’ supervision. The transition teacher will monitor the progress and utilize the social workers to make contact with these students. The student will be allowed to re-enter school through the transition room at BAC after a specified period of time that includes sufficient academic progress and making amends for their actions (such as restitution, community service or completion of an outside drug treatment program).
The building capacity will be 55 regular education students and approximately 30 critical special needs students. There will be three rooms in the main building for regular education students, each containing 15 students (total of 45). We need content specialists – especially in English and mathematics to assist with higher level content and are exploring the possibility of making one room a READ180 class (an intensive reading intervention program used in several of our middle and high schools) to help students improve their reading skills to a level that gives them a chance to be successful in the regular school. There will be a transition room constructed in the gymnasium/lunchroom facility staffed with one teacher who will work with 10 students who are transitioning from the very restrictive program back to the home school. Three special education rooms will provide space to serve up to 30 critical special need students.
Current teachers and staff members who do not meet certification guidelines will be transferred to other positions in the district for which they are qualified and certified. The instructional assistants will start their day at the regular high school and ride the bus to and from the alternative school to monitor student behavior. Until a new principal is hired, Mr. Roberts will be responsible for the hiring in conjunction with me and Mr. David Marshall.
For regular education students to be assigned to BAC, the placement decision will move from a district level expulsion review committee to a consultation between the alternative school principal and the home school principal. The principals will review the documentation regarding the offense, discipline history, interventions undertaken, and student academic progress. Once they make a recommendation for placement, the Director of Secondary Education will review the recommendation and approve the placement before the child is enrolled and will mediate any disputes. For special needs students, the regular school principal will involve special education staff members (consultants or director) after consultation meeting with the alternative school principal. For students who need to be assigned home-based learning, a procedure similar to the current Expulsion Review Committee process will be developed over the summer due to the more serious nature of the offense and to ensure parental understanding of their responsibility to help their child.
Upon intake to any of the levels of the alternative program, an individual success plan will be developed and approved by the alternative school principal. It will be detailed and specify the data-based treatment goals for the student. Upon completion of these goals, the students will transition to the next level toward returning to home school.
The intent of this proposal is to simultaneously become more punitive and more treatment based. These students, like all our students, deserve as many chances as we can give them. In order to teach them academics, these children must learn that appropriate behavior is required for success in our society. We believe that this recommendation will result in increased success for these students and a more orderly learning environment in our regular schools.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or any of the others who worked with me on this proposal. They are Debby Atherton, Christy Coulter, Rob Fulk, Dave Marshall, Jeff Marshall and Greg Schultz, along with assistance from Monica Tharp, Pat Smith, Denise Smith, and Patty Whitney.
We recommend and ask for your approval for this proposal.