By Jamie Mazzotta
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Arnold chief of police Eric Doubt and fellow school board member Bob Pallone say they need more funding to help set up new educational programs will allow for the money to stay in the district.
They both said that the biggest problem is students leaving the district to go to cyber or charter schools. Out of a $12 million budget, 1.2 million is going to vouchers for those alternative schools.
“That money does not include the fact that we are responsible for bussing the students to the alternative schools,” Doubt said.
Doubt and Pallone said that they have both have been on the school board for three years and have children in the district, which raises their concerns. The vouchers for alternative schools are taking away from the education the school has to offer and penalizing students who do not deserve it. According to Pallone, about 100 students left the district last year, and half were due to behavior problems.
“We lost $960,000 because of students with behavior problems,” Pallone said in a phone interview.
The district has since developed an alternative education program for students with behavior problems that has cost $100,000. The program included hiring a new teacher to get the program up and running, but still saved the district about $800,000 per school year, the school board members said. The alternative education program forces the students to stay in the district. Students no longer have a choice to leave, are in one classroom with the same students and teacher all day, and are unable to distract students that want to learn, Doubt and Pallone said.
There are still about 50 students whose parents choose cyber or private schooling. Some people make this choice because of the distractions at the public schools, and some simply don’t want their child in public schools, according to Pallone. Pallone said that the school board has yet to find a way to solve these particular problems.
The Valley school board members have said that they are working towards getting a cyber program that would allow for the students and the money to stay in the district. This would mean having several classrooms with teachers and computers to provide the cyber school to the students. Being able to meet the district’s parents’ wants and needs for their children will help to keep the funding in the district, Doubt said.
“The big problem I see with these cyber schools is that there is no checks and balances,” Pallone said, “The teachers are not necessarily certified teachers, and the students are not supervised all day.”
Doubt pointed out that cyber schools present other problems. There are no progress reports, there is no testing implemented in the program, and students are still failing the state standardized tests due to the unsupervised schools, Doubt said..
“My son used to hate going to school because of the behavior problems in the classrooms, but this year he has said there have been less students distracting him and his teachers from learning and teaching,” Kim Hill, a mother of a junior at Valley High School said, “We are both glad for the alternative education program that have made this possible, and my son no longer says he hates school.”
Doubt and Pallone say they are proud of the success the alternative education program has brought the students and parents but are still eager to get a cyber program together to continue to help the students succeed even further.