Cuts force alternative program to find new home

HUDSON–On April 14 members of the Hudson school board and administration sat down with Alternative Learning Program (ALP) students in a classroom at the Greenport School to discuss the program’s uncertain future. One thing is sure: ALP will not remain in Greenport, its home since the program began in 2006.

The program in some form will move to the high school, a decision made by the school board in 2008 long before the arrival of current Superintendent John Howe.

“It won’t look like it has the past couple of years. I’m not trying to be vague. A school within a school is a possibility. It’s not an easy task to develop,” Mr. Howe said. He emphasized that nothing will be the same in the school district in the next school year because of the enormous budget cuts.

“There is no doubt that the kids who have been going through the program are benefitting academically,’ board member Peter Meyer said in an e-mail. “Since most of the students in ALP have been failing in the regular school, their success is all the more extraordinary, and a big plus for the district. The last thing the district should do is kill a program that works for students, teachers and the taxpayer.” Mr. Meyer tried unsuccessfully this spring to get the rest of the board to back a plan to fix part of the empty Greenport Elementary School for the ALP program. That building is currently for sale after the district consolidated its operations during the current school year. The ALP program is housed in trailers at the site.

In 2008 then-interim Schools Superintendent David Paciencia sought cost estimates for new trailer classrooms for the ALP at the high school campus on Harry Howard Avenue. But companies did not respond, and the matter was dropped. The district has no plans to move the old trailers from Greenport to the high school.

Separation from the main high school may play a part in the success of the ALP program. Students seem to feel safe in the rabbit warren of trailer classrooms. The individual attention they get from teachers and staff is another aspect of the program cited for its success. Students at the meeting also said they worried that a stigma associated with being in the ALP program might cause problems for them at the high school.

Students expressed feelings of disbelief and betrayal. The program has helped many students find the academic and behavioral success that had eluded them in the regular school in a program that costs $300 less per student than it costs associated with the regular high school program.

Until this spring ALP students and staff had thought that the $400,000 grant that had supported the program in the past would be earmarked for them again this year and were shocked to learn that the funds have been rolled into one package to support the entire school.

“Can’t you find money somewhere else?” a student asked.

“I am looking every day for state, private or federal money. Title money is being cut,” Assistant Superintendent Maria Suttmeier said.

“Why do we have to fight to keep something that’s working? Many left the high school because it did not work for them,” said Danielle Gilleo, ALP student body president.

“I have one year left…. I can’t make it in the high school. There’s no point in me going back,” said Clair Cousins.

“We need to focus on what we can do to be successful this year and next,” said ALP Principal Tom Gavin. “We’ll get past that other stuff. We’ve taught you a lot. This is the time you need to see what we see: you are leaders now.”

“I don’t see you as ALP students; you guys are smart, you have all the skills you need to do well there. The board is behind you. You are individuals. You’re determined to learn, you will learn because you want to learn. You’ll become the kind of student who will be a leader in society. You can do that. You can be successful anywhere,” said school board member Pat Abitabile.

Comments are closed.