Carlynton cuts ties with Alternative Center for Education
By Doug Gulasy
Published: Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, 9:44 a.m.
Carlynton became the latest school district to end its relationship with the Alternative Center for Education at Parkway West Career and Technology Center, as the school board voted Thursday night to stop sending students there at the beginning of next school year.
Citing declining enrollment and increasing costs, Carlynton joined a growing number of school districts that stopped or will stop sending students to the center. The school serves students in the sixth to 12th grades who require behavior modification and individual academic instruction. The number of Carlynton students attending the center would drop to one by the beginning of next school year.
“The question is really for per-pupil cost basis for what we send to Parkway, with the rising costs and what we get out of it, is that something we want to continue with?” Superintendent Gary Peiffer said. “My recommendation, honestly, would be no.”
Before Carlynton's vote, seven of the 12 members of the partnership had voted to end their relationship with ACE – including West Allegheny and Quaker Valley earlier this week.
Carlynton's Director of Pupil Services Lee Myford said ACE's enrollment declined partially because of districts looking into creating their own alternative options and partially because ACE lost an alternative school license and could no longer keep students for a full day.
Instead, the cost per student increased to more than $20,000 for a half day, on top of what a student would pay to go to the Parkway West CTC for the rest of the day.
“Really, you have to be fiscally responsible,” Myford said.
Solicitor William Andrews said the board needed to make a decision Thursday because under the agreement with the center, districts must give notice of their intent to withdraw before Jan. 1. Otherwise, the district would automatically be “rolled back in” for the 2013-14 school year. The board's next regular meeting is scheduled for Jan. 10.
Andrews said ACE may fold, but if that didn't happen, the district would be locked in for next school year.
“If you don't make a decision tonight, then no decision truly is a decision,” he said. “You will be in for 13-14 unless the program folds in and of itself. That's a possibility, but that's a gamble.”
Board member Sharon Wilson said with the increased number of students who need alternative placement growing, the possibility of one such location closing was “troubling.”
However, Peiffer and Myford said there were other options for students in need.
“It's not a question of would we be able to provide alternative services for students because there are other schools and other avenues to do that,” Peiffer said.
Though ACE is in danger of shutting down, Parkway West CTC itself should be unaffected. Myford said the Parkway was still a good option for students because it allows them to learn valuable trades.
“It's an exceptional option,” she said. “I wouldn't take away from that at all.”
In the reorganization phase of Thursday night's meeting, the board instead chose to keep the status quo, re-electing President David Roussos and Vice President Betsy Tassaro, reappointing Andrews as solicitor and maintaining the same representatives to the various boards Carlynton belongs to.
Roussos said the board is doing “great things,” and Thursday's moves show the directors want to keep the momentum going.
He hopes to keep renovation projects at the district's three schools going in the next year, and the board will meet sometime in January to discuss the next steps in that process.
“We're looking at a multi-million dollar (project),” Roussos said. “I don't want to throw a number out because I don't know what it's going to be, but it's a big number because we're going to do a lot of work.”
He also hopes to increase academic achievement in the district.
“With all the good work we've done so far, we can achieve more,” he said. “Gary Peiffer's an amazing educator, and we're very lucky to have him as our superintendent. He's been leading this effort with bigger thinking.”
Hockey club update
A Carlynton hockey program could be on its way.
The board voted Thursday to allow the Carlynton Ice Hockey Club to use the district's name, colors and mascot in competition. The club needed the district's approval in order to play in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League.
Four members of the club attended Thursday after originally bringing up the idea at the November meeting. They now will disseminate surveys at the junior-senior high school in order to determine interest from the students.
The club, which will be for Carlynton students only, would begin with developmental, freshman and junior varsity programs, with the hopes of eventually fielding a varsity team. Organizers plan to begin in time for the 2013-14 season.
“We're going to make this work,” said club member Nick Cindrich. “You'd be surprised how much interest there is in hockey in this area.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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