He has already seen a decline in the number of students served and has seen an increase in the number graduating from Bradley County high schools. He sees these rates as due in a large part to the success of the program.
Page first started at Horizon School as a teacher’s assistant. He was basically hired to enforce and manage behavior in classroom and “it worked out well,” he said.
Page came to GOAL during its first year at Sunset. The pilot program materialized in the spring of 2009 on the present site. (GO-Graduation Opportunities and AL-Prgram for At-Risk students.)
An alternative school for Bradley County had operated some 20 years. In 2008, Page, who served as the special education teacher and football coach at Walker Valley High School, was approached by County Superintendent Johnny McDaniel about overhauling the traditional alternative school.
Until that time, the school dealt only with students with severe behavioral problems — the expelled or suspended.
A pilot program was launched in spring 2009 — the first for county students who were on the way out of the school system.
The first year saw 72 graduates and this past year’s fall semester graduated 28. The decline in the amount of students served, Page said, means they are getting what they need in their regular schools.
Funds were initially allocated by the Bradley County superintendent to overhaul the program — bring the building up to code — rejuvenated from top to bottom — besides hiring staff.
In addition to Page, the school now has 12 staff members, including two secretaries.
The first challenge the school meets is home stability and involvement of parents
The second is “retracing mindset” necessary to be successful, which can take a full semester.
But there are success stories. Last year, a young lady, 18, came from the court system. As a senior in high school and a young mother, her three years had provided her only nine credits. However, in one year at GOAL, she retained 11 credits to graduate while working and receiving no support from home.
She graduated from the GO program, and found a steady job, becoming a working member of the community. The young lady had been headed to be a nonproductive member of society.
“At Risk” students come with severe issues, but some show the greatest success. An eighth-grader, a young man from BCHS, was sent to the alternative school because he could not be controlled. He was atni-social, destroyed classrooms, destroyed computers, cursed teachers and students and would not bathe or wash hair.
The school got him in the fall of 2009 and he was placed in psychiatric care for several months. He returned to GOAL and the staff began working with him in a steady, consistent behavior pattern. Healing, continued stability, discipline and support have changed his life. Today, Page said, he is an office aide working toward a high school diploma. “(This is) the greatest success in education I’ve ever seen,” he added.
The school is involved also in the Newspaper in Education program sponsored by the Cleveland Daily Banner and local businesses. Students use newspaper for current events every morning — keeping up with what’s happening in town and what’s going on in the world. Other sections such as want ads and stories are utilized to teach practical living.
“School is real life,” Page said. “If we lose these kids, we’ll be paying for them the rest of their lives. So we try to dump in daily living skills.”
In dealing with past lives and with addiction, the TREK program was introduced to teach responsibility and educate students.
The program services three major things:
- Monday morning: Helping Paws Pet therapy/anger management. The school partners with the city in this program.
- On Wednesday: Leadership classes are held at the YMCA teaching how to be good parents, leading to leadership in home and community.
- Friday is the day for AL juveniles in need of intervention. The JADE (Juvenile Addiction and Drug Education) program teach how drugs impact checkbooks and the home — addiction’s effect on lives.
Other programs to guide at-risk students include the BICC Wednesday morning courses taught by a staff member on parent leadership — be involved, healthy parenting, how to get support — “not return cycle.”
On Thursday, a Hiwassee Mental Health staff member teaches a course on Positive Action membership.
The academy breaks down each student individually two ways in order to give the help needed.
1. At risk some way academically or behaviorally or both. The student needs to get back on track to graduate from school or GOAL.
2. Behaviorally past issues: It is determined what group the student is to be plugged into. Needs are identified based on evaluation
The first four levels are for the AL-at-risk students:
1. Middle-schools ages are taught in separate area.
2. Short term high school: Sent to GOAL instead of suspension for three weeks or less.
3. Zero tolerance: Facing drug problems or has imposed severe injury.
4. Students going into or out of an institution — psychiatric, rehab or prison system.
The GO Program reaches out to young people, who for one reason or another, will not graduate on time.
The success story the school wants to hear is that a student is working and going to school on his own initiative. And that, said Page, depends on what program he is plugged into.
The Partnership Program
No other county in the state or country has done this, said Page. The school is partnered with the court system and they have come alongside through the behavioral unit in holding parents and students accountable to obtain education. In addition to local judges, several supporters back partnership in this different approach. Although it is punitive, it is also positive.
A first-time student is assigned to a certain level. The second time, more stringent dress codes are enforced — change appearance — not the same person. It is more structured and isolated.
The question is asked, “Why is this student back here?”
The third time, the program is changed to a military-type school with rigid structure (“tough love”). Their schedule is different. They come in and exercise first thing in the morning, salute, read creed and serve.
If help is needed, a petition is filed to the court. However, most of time these students are already in the system.
Page said they have a holistic approach to education. Last year, 308 went through the program. “We want to see numbers drop,” he said.
Lee University is a partner also in that it places students/role models at GOAL and this has had tremendous impact. The vision is to be able to place productive members of society in the community — students to be able to stay on the school campus.
In May 2010, there were 60 graduated; in December 2010, 25 graduated; and in May 2011, 23 are anticipated.
“That’s what we’re wanting to see.”
Page gives much credit to McDaniel, who acted in face of political challenge and was willing to step up to the plate and take ownership for students who don’t have a voice.
“He has made sure GOAL has bee provided with a first-class building and staff. We pray the end of this school never comes to fruition,” Page said, “because the reality of it is, ‘We are going to pay one way or another — the community will pay.’”
“Consistency and love,” he said, “makes the difference.” The staff wants to be here, he added, and “I love what I’m doing.”
He said you have to like kids in building relationships. The staff happily agreed, “We get to be here every day.”
“We take pride in where they end up,” he concluded, as he told with joy about seeing a difficult student who is a host now at a major restaurant. He said that is what they want to see.