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Dickinson High working on plan to address discipline problem

Hagen (1).jpg
Hagen could soon be home to the Success Academy. (Stock photo)

Students in Dickinson High School who are struggling academically and socially may soon have another option to get them on the right path.

Dickinson High School principals have been working with Dickinson Public Schools administrators to create what they're calling the Success Academy and are in preliminary discussions as to the feasibility and structure of such a program.

Although the students who would attend the Success Academy may be experiencing behavioral problems that disrupt the learning environment, they would not be send there as a punishment.

"Kids won't get sent here because this is another version of detention or in-school suspension or anything like that," said DPS Assistant Superintendent Keith Harris. "These are going to be kids who have been identified through that RTI (Response to Intervention) process of having significant needs in skill development and because they're lacking in those skills, it's preventing them from being successful in the regular school environment."

It would be part of the school's Response to Intervention, a tier-3 intervention.

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"When we take a look at some of the experts that are on the leading edge ... these individuals have this kind of philosophical statement, that every student will be successful if they can," said Harris. "So the question that we have to ask when we experience students who have more behavioral needs than others is (not) how do we punish the behavior out of them; rather, how do we help them develop the skill set that they need in order to be successful?"

Harris said the Success Academy would aim to help students develop behavioral skills without getting further behind academically, as a student's chances of dropping out increase the with the number of credits they need to make up to meet graduation requirements.

While the details are still forming, Harris said they are proposing to provide group and individual counseling services to help students develop those skills. Students would also have smaller course loads with more control over the pacing of the schoolwork and would receive small group instruction, for which Harris said the ideal would be to have no more than five students per teacher.

It would run similar to the district's alternative school, Southwest Community High. Like the alternative school, it would also be in the old middle school, known as the Hagen building.

It would follow the same learning format as Southwest, as well, in which students would be following a self-paced online program with facilitators present to assist them. Unlike the alternative school, the Success Academy would be more short-term and could assist younger students.

"We're having some students who are having social and academic struggles that aren't 16 years old. You have to be 16 to enroll (in Southwest)," said DHS Principal Kevin Hoherz.

In preliminary talks, they've suggested that the students in the Success Academy be there for at least a semester.

"There would be an adviser group that would look at the (students') performance and how it goes, and it comes down to the group to decide," Hoherz said. "At the end of the semester, they would be reevaluated."

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The budget committee will be meeting prior to the next school board meeting, which will be Monday, Jan. 13, to discuss the feasibility of funding the Success Academy. If they determine that it is feasible, the committee will make a recommendation for the school board to consider it.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONDICKINSON HIGH SCHOOL
Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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