By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Board of Education agreed to continue with a program that serves as an alternative to sending suspended students home. However, the board plans to monitor its performance.
At its Aug. 15 meeting, the board agreed to contract this school year with the YMCA Juvenile Justice Program – Positive Alternative Learning for Students (PALS) for $127,680.
The PALS program enables the district to place the students at an area YMCA where they must complete school work and be accountable.
According to Groveport Madison Communications Director Jeff Warner, “PALS provides tremendous assistance to students, as without it they would be home while on suspension. The students still have to complete their school assignments and they can be removed from the program if they do not adhere to a behavior contract.”
Warner said students are provided with counseling support to help them understand why they are acting out in class and how to handle conflict situations in a more positive and productive way.
“Before returning to school, a re-entry plan is developed so that the student and their teachers know what is expected for the student to return to school,” said Warner.
According to Warner, PALS is for middle and high school students. He said the district has 10 slots reserved for high school students and 10 spots reserved for its three middle schools.
“I’d like us to keep an eye on it and evaluate its effectiveness,” said board member Libby Gray of the PALS program. “I’m concerned that last year there were 95 repeat students in the program.”
However, board member Mary Tedrow said she was impressed that two thirds of the students in the program only needed to use it once. She also noted that temporarily removing students who are discipline problems “gets them out of the classroom” and enables other students to continue to learn without disruption.
Board member Chris Snyder said, “There were 288 students in the program last year. If we did not have PALS, the students would have just been suspended and sent home.”
Gray questioned how much school work the students in PALS are completing.
Groveport Madison Deputy Superintendent Jamie Grube said he met with the PALS director who assured him the PALS students were completing their academic obligations.
Grube said district officials can continue to watch the PALS program and, if they are not satisfied with its performance, they could consider other options.
Warner said other area districts using PALS include South-Western City Schools, Columbus Schools, and Whitehall.
Other Groveport Madison news
•The board approved the purchase of 700 Chromebook computers and management console software at a cost of $159,700.
Groveport Madison Chief Technology Director Peter Dotson said the new Chromebooks will go to mostly elementary and some middle school students. He said the district has about 6,000 Chromebooks currently used by students in grades K-12. He said the 700 new Chromebooks will replace five-year-old Chromebooks that will be retired and possibly used for parts.
“The Chromebooks are an important tool for students to have,” said Dotson.
•The district received a one year $100,000 Innovative Strategies for Developing the College and Career Readiness of Students with Disabilities grant. The grant will help students with disabilities from ages 14 to 21 better prepare for college and career planning and for independent living.
•Groveport Madison Superintendent Garilee Ogden said the district received a one year TeachArtsOhio grant that pays for professional artists to come to the high school and teach art skills, such as in the school’s ceramics program. The grant pays for the costs of the artists’ fees.