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School district creating new program to replace Four Oaks

Published: Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:19 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:45 a.m. CDT
(Ty Rushing/Daily News)
This room may be a work in progress now, but when the 2014-2015 school year begins it will house the Newton Community School District’s new Disciplinary Alternative Program. The DAP program will be housed on the Emerson Hough campus and be a self-contained unit.

While room 115 at the Emerson Hough building may lie dormant right now, when the 2014-2015 school year begins, the room will house the Newton Community School District’s new Disciplinary Alternative Program, or DAP.

The district developed this new program to serve two purposes: to save money and ensure that even its most trouble students are still being given a proper education.

NCSD Associate Director of Secondary Services Tina Ross said she and the secondary campus principals came up with this concept during the district’s recent financial crunch. In the past, the district had been paying Four Oaks about $212,000 a year to handle its students with more severe disciplinary issues.

“We had a huge budget deficit. We started looking at places where we could reduce without reducing people. That was important that we kept our people under contract,” Ross said.

SY15 will serve as the pilot year for the program, and Ross said she had a short list of candidates she wanted to help launch DAP. Berg Middle School at-risk teacher Karen Hurt was one of those people and she will be transferring buildings to take part in DAP.

“Obviously, the students coming to this program are at-risk — it’s a disciplinary program. Karen was a great addition because she has the right attitude: ‘The kids aren’t bad, they’re making bad choices.’ We can’t teach that kind of attitude. That attitude cannot be taught,” Ross said.

The other two transfers, Randy Young and Jennifer Wright, are coming from Newton Senior High School. Wright is a graduation coach, and Young has certifications in social studies, special education and English/language arts.

Ross feels this team’s collective abilities are very well-rounded and that by having people who’ve been at both the middle school and high school — DAP’s serves students from grades 7-12 — they can meet a majority of students needs.

She also emphasized that this program is different from Basics and Beyond Alternative School — both facilities are located on the Emerson Hough campus, but DAP is self-contained.

“Basics’ focuses on academics, entirely on academics and getting the kids to graduation in an alternative format, if you will. You have different types of classes upstairs — all focusing on the Iowa Core still — but delivered in a different method,” Ross said.

“Our program, the kids are here because of disciplinary reasons, not because of academic reasons. These are the kids who are going to be potentially looking to be expelled. These are the kids who have already been suspended three times at the high school for fighting. It’s the disciplinary side of it. Obviously, we’re still going to have the academic side of it but that’s not how they get here. They get here because of the discipline.”

For this upcoming school year, she foresees the program starting with about five students and knows that the number may grow throughout the year. She said students who attend DAP will do so in various increments of time. Some students may need a full year and others a few days.

Although this program is going to be new, she said the district has been researching this extensively. Earlier this year, she made the trip to Omaha, Neb. to visit the boy’s home there to learn about its curriculum and discipline techniques.

Ross, along with Hurt and Wright, will make another trip to the boy’s home where they will undergo five days of training on various items. Some things they’ll learn are how to set-up a classroom environment for students with discipline problems and how to teach corrective behaviors.

DAP will operate on the same calendar as every other Newton school. Ross admitted that DAP has had a mixed reception amongst district staff members, but that she is excited about the process and feels this is what’s best for the district.

“It’s different. It’s something that we haven’t tried before … We think we have a pretty good plan in place.” Ross said.

Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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