Alternative school to be discussed

By Greg Gelpi

Two months after changes were made to the Clayton County Alternative School, a committee of the Clayton County Board of Education will receive an update on those changes tonight.

The Student Achievement and Support Services Committee will meet at 6:30 tonight in the executive boardroom of the Administrative Complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro, and discuss a number of issues, including changes to the Alternative School, changes which left teachers fearing for their safety.

At the beginning of the semester, the school system extended the school day at the Alternative School from a half day to a full day and changed its discipline policy to be more in line with what an alternative school should be, Assistant Superintendent Luvenia Jackson has said. The discipline changes included doing away with in-school suspension and implementing a point system, which enables teachers to award or punish students by giving and taking away points. Points enable students to earn privileges, such as computer access.

The changes, though, left some teachers feeling as if their "hands are tied," Donald Carson, who teaches at the Alternative School, said.

Committee member David Ashe, who has a background in psychology, said he favors the changes made, including the shift from punishment to using behavioral techniques to address discipline issues.

"I've actually so far been happy with the changes they've made, especially extending the school day," Ashe said.

He said that he was surprised to learn how teachers at the Alternative School felt.

"We're hearing that things are good from the school system, but we are learning from the school, teachers and the newspaper that they are afraid," Ashe said.

Jackson will update the committee on the changes and on the Alternative School in general during the meeting.

In other business, the committee will also hear an update of the school system's Career Academy, which is being constructed on the site of the former Jonesboro Middle School; changes in career and technical education and midyear assessments.