Funny, Superintendent Wardynski and I might have been looking into the Pinnacle School at about the same time this fall. According to an article for the Huntsville Times by Crystal Bonvillian, Wardynski and the Board are considering Pinnacle as an alternative to the HCS’s alternative school, the Seldon Center: Wardynski “estimated that the Pinnacle contract would cost between 70 and 80 percent of the $1.3 million annual price tag of the Seldon Center.”
Somehow his estimates are typically wrong, have you noticed?
Red flag alert: “Students would be referred to the program by a designated representative of the school system.” Really. I wonder which socio-economic and racial populations would land at Pinnacle. Would you expect a program that chooses its participants by “a designated representative of the school system” rather than through publicly available guidelines to be equitably available to all?
Troubled Teens. Some Cause Trouble. Others Bear It.
I was looking for alternative schooling situations for my daughter who had been brutally beaten by a Huntsville City Schools high school student (not at the school, but at his home). The school knew all about it, however, since a teacher first noticed the bruises on her face and strangulation marks around her neck once her make-up began to wear off the day after the attack. She took her to the counselor, who called in the principal, and then she was taken to the School Resource Officer to fill out a police report.
A few days before the hearing, when the Assistant DA tried to get in touch with the principal and counselor, it took the principal two work days to get back to him. The counselor never returned the ADA’s calls.
During the 78 days that passed between the August 28 crime and the November 15 hearing, the boy, who did not plead not guilty, went about his life at school as if all was well with the world.
My daughter went to doctors, ERs, hospitals, neurologists and counselors and was treated for post-concussive syndrome, acute anxiety, depression, concussion-induced migraines, and a bruised optic nerve as the result of blunt force trauma that resulted in temporary full loss of vision in her left eye (now she only has no peripheral vision and floaters occassionally).
She tried to return to that school in spite of this because she was in a one-of-a-kind program that she excelled at. But never knowing when she would round a corner and see this defective sickened her in ever way imaginable. She needed to be in school, but in one which could make accommodations for the neuropsychological damage caused by an HCS student. Home schooling was discussed, but finally, enough time passed, and she transferred out, leaving behind the program she so wanted to take, and entered another HCS high with a much more cooperative, supportive, ethical, and professional administration and faculty.
Meanwhile, the kid who beat her up continued happily ever after at the school she had to leave.
More Questions than Answers. Not that Answers from the Board Are Expected, Of Course.
When I looked at Pinnacle Schools the first time, I thought, maybe this would work. Now I look at it again, I realize it is a means for keeping the well-to-do out of the d-home or away from not-as-well staffed free-standing behavioral units, aka psych shelters.
One thing I noticed on the Pinnacle Schools site is no statement of cost. There are plenty of suggestions on where to seek loans for your kid’s stay and suggestions you check your insurance (good luck with that one).
You know that saying, if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it? Do you eat at restaurants that don’t list their prices on the menu? I don’t. Should HCS? Gimme a break.
“the district would have a guarantee that students were present and getting their education and treatment. There is no such guarantee at Seldon. ‘There are days when we have no kids there and a bunch of teachers present,’ Wardynski said.
What am I missing here? Does Pinnacle have a private security force more effective than the Huntsville City Police Department? Or does the “guarantee” mean money: if students don’t show up, Pinnacle doesn’t get paid?
Why are there “days when we have no kids there and a bunch of teachers present” at Seldon?
“Board members agree that The Pinnacle Schools could be a good program for the district. David Blair, vice president of the board, has said that he’s heard complaints from parents that the Seldon Center not only punishes children’s behavior, but also hinders their academics. . . . Board member Topper Birney said, “We have some students whose only purpose for going to school seems to be to disrupt things.”
Imagine that. The Sheldon Center, the alternative school for “students whose only purpose for going to school seems to be to disrupt things” “punishes children’s behavior.” Perhaps their academic progress is hindered because they don’t show up, and the HCS can’t make them (but Pinnacle could? how?).
Maybe if all HCS were required to co-operate with the Office of the DA, Seldon could work. That is, if the Office of the DA came to court prepared to try cases against violent juveniles. Two big if’s.
I expect Pinnacle Schools does marvelous things for the privileged population it serves. More power to it.
But until the HCS has so much extra cash lying around that it can meet all special ed IEPs, reduce class size, stop running double buses, etc. maybe it ought to make what it already has functional instead of diverting public funds for a specially hand-picked few to attend an upscale private facility that had a 147% increase in revenue in the three years between from 2007 and 2010.
If the $1.3 million that has been going annually to Seldon has been wasted for years, why has the Board allowed this?
And finally, don’t forget that for every violent troubled teen in the HCS there are likely victims in the HCS. Maybe their needs might be considered someday.