Thursday, May 30, 2024

ALPHA Program Staff Members

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ALPHA program a guiding light for students!

Dear Stratford School Board Members,

We write to you to share our sincere concerns about the proposed closure of our program, ALPHA. Over the last decade, the only regular education option for students in need of credit recovery has truly been elevated and transformed into a program that functions to serve both students and families. We are not ignorant of the community’s misconceptions amongst those who do not understand our program and its crucial role within the Stratford School District.

Students who attend here all share three things in common. Firstly, they are credit deficient. Secondly, conventional high school has not been the right educational fit. Thirdly, all of them have faced a great deal of adversity in their young lives. ALPHA is able to offer our students a different option to obtain their high school diploma, while remaining in the district. Our program and its staff uses a restorative and collaborative approach to educate and support our students’ unique needs and learning differences. ALPHA underscores the district’s emphasis on building social-emotional intelligence alongside students’ academics. Due to our ability to provide both work study credit and credits earned quarterly, our students who are credit deficient are able to make progress toward earning their diploma from Stratford Public School District. Whereas if they hadn’t enrolled in our program, they would be at risk of dropping out and/or aging out of public school.

ALPHA’s smaller setting allows for our staff to build strong and meaningful connections with our students and their families. This foundation permits us to support students in rewriting their stories. Each year we have the honor of watching our seniors receive their high school diplomas. We get to witness their families light up with pride as their child walks across the graduation stage. Many of our students and their families will testify that ALPHA was a guiding light. ALPHA has also built strong community connections in pursuit of growing our students’ interests and strengths. We have long-standing relationships with Stratford Community Services, PAL, Sterling House, VFW and American Legion. Over the last ten years, our staff has been committed to continuing to learn and strengthen our school climate through training and education. Our staff can attest to how much our program has evolved to meet the diverse academic, social, emotional and behavioral needs of our students. Especially given that our vulnerable population was impacted disproportionately by the Covid pandemic, it is remarkable that our program has not only grown, but flourished. You can see this evidenced in our attendance improvement, increased graduation rate, both of which exceed SHS and BHS, and enrollment growth. Ten years ago, we had about 20 students enrolled (currently 41 enrolled), more full time staff and more course/electives options (i.e. art, culinary), yet despite continued resource cuts to our program, we have demonstrated undeniable growth.

Eliminating ALPHA is simultaneously eliminating a pathway for students to obtain their diploma from Stratford Public Schools. In a school district that strives for inclusivity and equity, it would be in direct opposition to our district’s values to cut our program. Further, it is unlikely that closing our program would offer any meaningful financial benefit to the district or town. During the recent BOE meetings, it was mentioned our program’s staff will be reassigned within the District, if closed. This will largely not impact staff’s current salary or benefits, therefore the assumed savings appears inaccurate. Additionally, our supply budget this year was $150 dollars and we have no operating budget. I think it is also important to highlight that our staff finances the majority of our school wide activities and celebrations to further enhance our students’ educational experiences. Some examples are our annual cultural potluck, wreath/Christmas tree event for veterans, and EOY senior celebration. It’s also worth considering the possible costs that could accumulate for students whose special education needs would require them to be out-placed, if ALPHA was no longer an option. This school year, half of our students have IEPs or 504 accommodations. It’s unlikely, for many of our students with IEPs, that a return to their home high school or AIP (the suspension/expulsion/ homebound placement) would be appropriate or educationally in their best interest. Similarly, out-placed high school students with IEPs are also sometimes referred to ALPHA, when they are not having success at their outplacement. Where would these students go if ALPHA were no longer an option?

We urge you to consider the implications of cutting the District’s program which serves the most vulnerable students. It will be removing the most resources from the students with the greatest need for them on the secondary level. Children should never have to pay the price for budgetary shortcomings and lack of proper financial planning.

Sincerely,
ALPHA Program Staff

2 COMMENTS

  1. It is good to have the description of the ALPHA program. Much of the public doesn’t know what some of the programs that teachers are fighting to keep entail. This definitely sounds like a very valuable and necessary program. It would also help to know WHERE it happens and how many students and staff are currently involved.

    • Thank you for your feedback, we appreciate it.
      I had no knowledge of the ALPHA Program until Dr. David Chess, who is a Stratford School System parent.
      Barbara

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