OSWEGO, NY – Ben Halsey, Oswego school superintendent, is seeking ways to improve the educational experience not only for students in his district, but all over Oswego County.
He serves on a committee exploring how to better assist at risk students through partnerships with other institutions, including the Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation.
“Career Technical Education programs throughout the county; we’ve done a lot of work and we’ve made some headway,” the superintendent said.
They are to the point now where they’ve determined that the county and the districts within the county are in bad need, he said.
“Our basic priority right now is three programs that need to be created from scratch. They may mimic some programs that have existed … but there will be some changes based on recommendations by our committee,” he said. “
The first is an alternative elementary setting.
“It’s going to be a transitional behavioral school or setting for elementary students throughout the county,” Halsey said.
The focus will be on students, that due to their circumstances in life, for whatever reason, that are coming to school with problems that are preventing them from being able to fully engage themselves in their classes, he explained.
It could be their behavior, the behavior of their family or a combination of the two. It could be emotional stresses that are a burden to them that won’t allow them to focus to become an engaged learner.
“This is county-wide. It’s not an Oswego problem; it is an Oswego County issue that schools need to address,” he pointed out.
Part of that classroom would be a complete wrap around of services provided to the families as a whole, “Because as we all know, we can do the very, very best we can with the child but until we improve circumstances and a provide help to families in need, the problems tend to increase and perpetuate themselves,” Halsey added.
The elementary program is being priced out by CiTi as to what it would cost the individual school district.
It would be devised and housed in an area where all schools in Oswego County could participate in it.
“It is far more efficient for a school district to share the cost with our neighbors than try to run a program like that by ourselves,” the superintendent said.
The second tentative program is a seven through 12 program, for the “disengaged learner.”
They don’t have to be a special needs student.
“Quiet honestly, it’s a program that would mimic our Buc School program (which was eliminated at the end of the last school year). The difference being that it would be a shared program throughout the county, working in conjunction with CiTi and their staff” the superintendent explained.
Things they’d be working on would include regenerating their interest in school, getting on track toward graduation and being a success as a high school student.
“We’re going to be able to be flexible in how we structure this. The success of this program, financially, would be that it would be developed in conjunction with CiTi and all of us as component school districts to help share the costs,” he said.
The third proposed program will deal with incarcerated youth.
“It takes those students who are the most disruptive and volatile, most likely have an arrest record already – but have also accumulated some credits toward graduation but their extreme behavior and their status with their prior arrests or an on-going court case is preventing them from being able to be educated appropriately within the tradition setting,” he said.
The elementary program is rather revolutionary in this area, recognizing the need to start earlier, he said.
“We are in the process of starting a small snapshot of the first program for elementary students. We’ll start with just one classroom – a district-wide classroom to provide a classroom to address students and families that are having a difficult time succeeding in school due to behavioral issues,” Halsey said. “We will be starting that program using existing staff. We thought long and hard about this – we’ve listened to a lot of feedback over the year that I’ve been here. We feel that now is a good time to do this.”