The Richmond Register

Local News

April 19, 2013

Gavel used during PASS discussion

RICHMOND — After 17 minutes of debate about its cost-effectiveness, Madison County School Board Chair Mona Isaacs struck the sounding block with her gavel to end discussion about the success of PASS.

The conversation came after a 13-minute presentation about Positive Approach to Student Success, one of two programs the county school district began in 2007 to replace “alternative school.”

PASS is an intervention program that seeks to deal with behavioral, social and academic issues without removing students from regular classes, according to the video.

A second program, called “day treatment,” deals with students who are involved in the court system. It follows guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and has multiple funding sources.

Last year, PASS cost the district $469,000 and day treatment pulled $270,000 from the general fund. The total cost of day treatment is about $430,000, but the difference comes from DJJ funds and other outside sources.

Although day treatment is separate from PASS, the two programs collaborate to provide supports for children transitioning from day treatment back into the classroom, said Ben Winkler, who oversees both programs and is the director of the district’s Bellevue Learning Center.

“Alternative programs very often became dumping grounds,” said Winkler, who saw the transition of the district’s alternative school to day treatment. “In my experience, they (alternative programs) have not been successful.”

He said educators across the county are accepting responsibility for reforming behaviors instead of reacting to them.

“When you divide the number of kids into the grand total (cost), it gets to be a fantastic amount of money,” said board member John Lackey. “This is the problem with the program… Nobody is suggesting we lose the program, but we want to be able to cut back on the cost per student. If it averages out over a year’s time at 30 kids at a time, divided into the grand total, it gets way over $10,000 a year per kid. That’s just way too much.”

But Lackey’s equation only included the day-treatment students. “There are hundreds of students in PASS,” Winkler said.

The day-treatment program enrolls no more than 30 students at a time and up to 60 a year.

The PASS program employs 15. Each county middle school and Madison Southern High School has a PASS “coach” and one paraeducator. Madison Central High has a PASS coach and two paraeducators.

Each coach serves around 30 students “on paper,” said Christie Fain-Shanks, the PASS coach at Foley Middle School. “But we’re working with hundreds of lives per day.”

Technically, PASS serves approximately 450 students district-wide, about 30 students for each coach or paraeducator. However, coaches at the board meeting argued they touched many more lives than “what is on a piece of paper.” Many other factors cannot be calculated in cost per student, they said.

“You can’t replace that (PASS) with alternative school,” Fain-Shanks said. “Because I guarantee you, you will be suspending more than you’ve ever seen because the problems in our schools now are much greater than they were when I started teaching 16 years ago.”

The PASS presentation reported the percentage of countywide middle and high school suspensions in 2007-08 before PASS was 9.69 percent, or 868 suspensions. By 2012-13, it had been reduced to 4.96 percent, or 351 suspensions.

Winkler said PASS also prevents students from making “drastic decisions down the road” that would land them in day treatment.

Central’s PASS coach Brandon Fritz said he may interact with more than 200 students a day, not just his PASS students.

“They see us in the halls, they know they can come talk to us, they know we care about them. That’s what you can’t put on paper,” he told the board.

Even academically successful students can benefit from the counseling services of the PASS program, Fritz said.  

“And everybody would agree that’s a good thing, but when we add this extra layer of intervention with a 4.0 student, that gets pretty expensive,” Lackey said. “We don’t want to be the nanny for everybody. We expect people to take responsibility, and if they’re having a bad day, okay, tough it out.”

Both Fritz and Fain-Shanks disagreed. Some of these students have “bad lives,” not just bad days, they said.

“It is our responsibility to provide support for these students,” said board member Beth Brock.

Fritz told of a student addicted to drugs who had changed his life through the program.

“If there’s one success story, it’s worth it,” he said. “If we put a little more money into education to help the kids so we don’t have to pay for them when they’re out of school, that’s the difference.”

Lackey didn’t agree with Fritz’s reasoning.

“That argument just doesn’t wash when you look at it. There’s got to be a cost-effective balance,“ Lackey replied.

Superintendent Tommy Floyd said back in 2007, there were “initial considerations of what alternative schools were costing us back then.”

The district looked at the number of staff employed, the number of students served, as well as the number of students who ended up returning to the alternative program, he said.

“We were looking at high suspension rates and low success rates for many of the students,” Floyd said.

Information about the cost of the alternative program prior to 2007 was not available when requested from central office Friday afternoon. Documents containing those numbers are stored away and are not included in the databanks of the district’s currently used computer system, said Erin Stewart, the district’s community education director.

The conversation Thursday night continued back and forth between Lackey and the PASS coaches, who were joined by many of their colleagues in the audience, until Isaacs pounded the gavel and thanked Winkler for his presentation.

“There are a lot of kids that we work with, that when they come to us, it’s the only time during the day they feel loved,” Winkler said in closing.

Board member Becky Coyle said she appreciated the testimonies of the students.

“It’s good to know the majority, if not all of them, in their testimonies said they appreciated somebody standing up for them, being there for them, having confidence in them and showing them that someone cared.”

A few videos were included in the PASS presentation, one of which was of a middle school boy who said he got into seven fights last year, but this year, he has been involved no fights.

“I was disrespecting my peers,” he said. “And now I get along with all my peers.”

The student said last year, his grades were mostly F’s. “And now I have three Bs, a D and an A plus.”

The student said he plans to raise that D to a B.

“PASS showed me that I need to stay out of trouble for various reasons,” he said. “I like to stay out of trouble because it makes me feel better as a person.”

See Sunday’s paper for a second story about Thursday’s school board meeting.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or at 623-1669, Ext. 6696.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 8-2 Quilt Extravaganza 1.jpg Quilting stitches history, friendships together

    Within the first two hours of the 10th annual Quilt Extravaganza at Berea Community School, more than 200 people had already signed the guestbook.

    Colorful displays of quilt collections lined the school’s gymnasium.

    August 1, 2014 6 Photos

  • 8-2 EKU gift.jpg Dizney gift lets EKU begin $15 stadium addition

    Eastern Kentucky University athletics has received its largest-ever single gift.

    President Michael Benson announced Friday that Donald R. and Irene Dizney, of Ocala, Fla., have committed a lead cash gift toward a $15 million multi-purpose facility to replace the grandstands on the east side of Roy Kidd Stadium.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 8-1 St. Mark door.jpg Arabic letter N painted on church door

    Throughout its history the Roman Catholic Church has been associated with Latin language and lettering, so passersby on West Main Street were surprised Thursday to see a strange symbol emblazoned on the church’s door.
    Some were even more surprised to learn it was an Arabic character.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fire damages Southern Hills building

    A building in the Southern Hills shopping center at the corner of Commercial Drive and Gibson Bay Drive was damaged by a Thursday afternoon fire.
    Contractors had been working to update the vacant building but were probably not the cause of the fire that began in the bathroom, Richmond Fire Chief Buzzy Campbell said after the fire was extinguished.

    August 1, 2014

  • 8-1 demo derby 1.jpg Demolition derby at the county fair

    The emcee, firefighters and paramedics race to help the driver of an over-turned car in Wednesday night’s Madison County Fair demolition derby. The driver was unhurt and the vehicle was quickly righted.

    August 1, 2014 3 Photos

  • 8-1 fair pageants 3.jpg Royalty crowned at Madison County Fair

      

    August 1, 2014 3 Photos

  • 8-1 Bees 2.jpg Bee-ing in the know

    Bee lovers were buzzing around Eastern Kentucky University this week for the Eastern Apicultural Society’s 2014 conference.
    Hobbyists, scientists and apiarists traveled from as far as Canada, France and New Zealand, as well as many states, to spend the week exploring numerous aspects of bees.

    July 31, 2014 8 Photos

  • 8-1 Tanya R. Horn.jpg Store employee charged with taking $10,000

    Tanya R. Horn, 33, of Darlene Court, pilfered $10,196 in cash from Posh Tots on Meridian Way over the course of two years, according to a Richmond Police report.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-30 Candids 1.jpg Madison County Fair paid admissions total 10,000 by Tuesday

    Approximately 10,000 people had purchased tickets to the Madison County Fair by Tuesday evening, Billy Tudor, fair board president said Wednesday morning.
    The count does not include Sunday’s Family Fun Day, which offered free admission, Tudor said.

    July 31, 2014 10 Photos

  • 7-31 Pageant Toddler Girl Winners.jpg Babies, toddlers crowned at Madison County Fair

      

    July 31, 2014 4 Photos