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No help to alternative schools

South Bend school board decides against partnership. By JOSEPH DITS Tribune Staff Writer SOUTH BEND — After a long and emotional meeting Monday, two alternative schools walked away from the South Bend Community School Corp. board without the partnerships they each needed to stay open past this summer. The two separate schools, each facing financial hardships, had asked the school corporation to share most of the money it receives from the state per child. “I think it’s a real shame to lose either of these,” said board President Sheila Bergeron, who said each school had its strengths and weaknesses. “What happens to these students in the meantime?” In a 4-3 vote, the board decided against a partnership with The Crossing alternative school, which only takes dropouts and kids who were kicked out of high school. As a result, Director Rob Staley says the South Bend site will have to close for lack of funds. For the next year, he plans to buy used buses and transport his South Bend students to The Crossing’s school in Elkhart, which has a similar partnership with Elkhart public schools. The issue wasn’t on the agenda for a vote — only discussion of The Crossing. But Staley said he couldn’t delay with a decision since orientation would start in the next week. It also caused the board to debate a similar proposal by the Central Academy, a school within the Frederick Juvenile Justice Center. The academy’s director, Vicki McIntire, offered a list of comparisons. Among them, her school teaches for seven hours a day and for 213 days, compared with The Crossing at 180 days. Eventually, trustee Bill Sniadecki made a motion for a one-year agreement with The Crossing for 25 to 32 students. It failed 4-3. That would have been far fewer students than The Crossing envisioned. Staley said the South Bend school has typically taught about 70 students in a year, and he was ready to expand that to hundreds if possible. In fact, he was preparing to make a bid to buy the North Village Mall as the school’s site. Trustee Marcia Hummel said the procedure for bringing it to a vote didn’t follow proper procedure. But she also said The Crossing program is too similar to the district’s RISE Program, which the board decided to eliminate this year to save money — and because the board felt it was ineffective. “I think The Crossing does a lot of good things,” said Hummel, who prefers Central Academy. “I just don’t think it gets the results we’re looking for.” She also pressed Superintendent James Kapsa on whether the district can afford the alternative-school deals. Kapsa said the corporation has delayed making a recommendation, first wanting to see what the state schools budget would be. He worries that there would be extra costs. But he also said he feels the corporation could come up with an even better alternative by September. Bergeron was concerned about that, saying, “I don’t want to fail because we put together a program too quickly.” Trustee Dawn Jones said both alternative schools are good. Her problem is with the way this came to a vote. The usual route is for the superintendent to place items on the agenda for the board’s consideration. “I don’t know why we are overstepping the superintendent,” she said. Trustee Roger Parent made an earlier motion to put both schools up to a vote. It failed. But he argued throughout the meeting that it’s well within the board’s role to make such proposals. Sniadecki, Parent and Bergeron voted for the measure. Voting against were Ralph Pieniazkiewicz, Stephanie Spivey, Hummel and Jones. The board also voted to approve some new administrators. Otha Reese will be the principal at Adams High School. She was assistant principal there and until now has been interim principal. Joseph Somers will be principal of Brown Intermediate Center.Walter Ballard will be athletic director at Riley High School. Staff writer Joseph Dits: jdits@sbtinfo.com (574) 235-6158]]>