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Kingsport considering nontraditional high school program

Christan M. Thomas • Feb 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Goals of the program would be to prepare students to eventually attend D-B or to allow students to obtain the 22-credit Tennessee high school diploma.

KINGSPORT — Kingsport City Schools might soon be home to a new nontraditional high school program.

Though nothing has been officially decided, Carolyn McPherson, KCS assistant superintendent for academic initiatives and support, presented a budget and plan for the proposed program during the KCS budget committee meeting Friday.

“There are a lot of decisions to make,” McPherson said. “But I do think there’s certainly a population that’s yearning for help. They may not know it yet. We’re serious about wanting all students to graduate. I think we’re going to have to be innovative in how we do that.”

“The sets of circumstances that we see in today’s world are so different,” said Superintendent Richard Kitzmiller. “We need a variety of ways to address those circumstances. We’re getting lots of ideas on the table.”

McPherson said if the high school program were to begin in 2008-2009, it would serve approximately 100 students.

The nontraditional high school, she said, would not duplicate services now provided at New Horizons. Instead, the program would target those students who are currently members of the ninth grade academy at Dobyns-Bennett and do not meet criteria to move on to 10th grade; those eighth-grade students not meeting the criteria to move on to ninth grade; students who prefer smaller student-to-teacher ratios; students who need intensive learning care; older transfer students with few credits; juniors and seniors who could potentially graduate with a 22-credit diploma; and students not academically ready to take algebra I.

The goals of this program, McPherson said, would be to prepare students to eventually attend D-B or to allow students to obtain the 22-credit Tennessee high school diploma. Students could also be dually enrolled in the school and D-B, she said.

Kitzmiller said the program would have all the required credits for the state diploma but require fewer elective credits.

The nontraditional approach, McPherson said, could help students excel in a different environment from the regular high school setting.

“They (students) have had ‘business as usual’ for the last nine or 10 years, and it hasn’t worked. So it’s got to be a much more personalized and hands-on environment where they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it would be a meaningful diploma,” McPherson said.

In order to make the program work next fall, McPherson requested a total of 19.5 positions: 10 regular education teachers, three regular education assistants, one literacy teacher, one office assistant, one special education teacher, one nurse, one principal, one assistant principal/administrative assistant; and 0.5 vocational education teacher.

A location for the nontraditional high school is not yet set, but McPherson said there were several options — including holding the program with flexible hours at another school — that can be explored.

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