It’s too late, the contract has been signed, and nothing I say is going to change anything.
There is one thing it is still possible to do, however, and that is for Wardynski to stop consistently linking the Pinnacle Schools contract with the threat of living in a teepee in his public statements. By doing so he is harming another group of students this contract is supposed to serve: those who previously were enrolled in the HCS’s homebound program. These kids are recovering from serious injury or illness, and while they are capable of making up missed work and keeping up with classwork, they are not yet able to attend school 7 hours a day, 5 days a week.
As I understand it, the Pinnacle Schools’ Huntsville campus combines coursework delivered on-line with counseling. I imagine those who attend for non-disciplinary reasons aren’t involved in the anger management or other counseling sessions. I certainly hope not; I can think of no two groups who are more ill-suited for interaction than those who are recovering from traumatic illness or injury, including violent crimes, and those who have been removed from their schools because of their behavior.
All you have to do to see the disservice Wardynski is doing to those who are at Pinnacle because they’ve been hurt or ill is to consider his statements in the Huntsville Times.
Wardynski is pleased with how the Pinnacle Schools contract is working out: “The children over there are working diligently.” Now, I don’t understand why the HCS itself couldn’t manage to deliver customized curricula on-line, unless, as Wardynski suggests, the kids in the program are doing their work to avoid Elk River Academy and Treatment Programs: “Those who do not comport themselves according to the regulations and rules of Pinnacle Schools will find themselves living in a teepee. And they won’t be coming back until they can behave. And if they can’t behave, they won’t be coming back to our schools.”
In other words, the threat of being sent off for an indefinite period to the teepees is what Pinnacle has that the HCS couldn’t provide.
Now imagine how you’d feel if your kid was at Pinnacle because of a serious illness or injury. Imagine the pride you’d have in your school system driving up to the Pinnacle campus each morning after reading that.
The HCS is paying Pinnacle $750 a day, every day, seven days a week for five “beds” in the teepees at the residential Elk River Academy and Treatment Programs.($159,688 for . . . January 1, 2012 – July 31, 2012), used or not. This is money I would be happy to see wasted, so to speak.
The Pinnacle Schools people may all be well-meaning, honorable, and dedicated to improving the lives of young people. But those professionals aren’t the ones out in the wilderness 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I hope the place is wired with close-circuit TVs on every tree and the tapes viewed daily because the potential for abuse in these therapeutic wilderness programs is staggering.
Basically, too, I have a big problem with situations where what would be a crime to do to an adult is acceptable to do to a child. I praised Wardynski when he did away with corporeal punishment in the HCS. He reasoned that if it wasn’t legal to strike a prisoner, it shouldn’t be legal to strike a student.
Pinnacle Schools’ Elk River Academy and Treatment Programs accept kids who arrive via transport companies, for example, Safe Passage. Parents hire these firms to send in muscle men in the middle of the night to remove their child from their home and cart them off to a secured, private facility. Once at the facility, the kids are cut off from the world. They don’t even get the proverbial one phone call an arrested adult is entitled to. At Elk River, after a while, they get one phone call home each week.
I believe if you did the same to an adult, it would be considered kidnapping and false imprisonment. If you do it to your own child, it is legal.
Let’s be clear here. Elk River Academy and Treatment Programs are, as the website says, “unlike traditional boarding schools.” The use of the term “beds” in the contract should be noted. Boarding schools, for example, Indian Springs outside Birmingham and St. Bernard’s in Cullman, don’t use that phrasing. They have addresses, welcome visitors, hold open houses, have alumni, and so on.
“Beds” is a term used by hospitals and detention centers.
What is it, then? Well, the website says, “Elk River programs are a medical model with therapy and academics as key components to recovery.” I haven’t a clue what “are a medical model” means, do you?