New Plan For Tulsa’s Alternative Schools

Wednesday, March 28th 2007, 6:07 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa Schools’ superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski's is proposing another alternative for Tulsa's at-risk students. The Tulsa Public Schools superintendent is proposing closing two alternative schools and replacing them with his own program. It's another part of Zolkoski's plan to improve Tulsa Public Schools.

Between 500 and 600 Tulsa Public School students are involved in some sort of alternative education program every year. TPS says the demand is growing, but News On 6 education reporter Ashli Sims reports some say that some programs aren't working.

It was just last year that Tulsa teachers were planning and parents were visiting the newest alternative in alternative education at Lindsey Elementary. Now superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski says it's time for another change.

"Well, we have a 40% return rate on our alternative students,” said Tulsa Public Schools superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski. “In other words, if we send two kids to alternative one is going to return again. We've got to do better with our alternative schools."

Zolkoski says he has a better way, it involves sweeping changes at several programs. He wants to close several programs that deal with suspended students, Lindsey Learning Academy, Phoenix and Pershing. Zolkoski would replace those programs with a new Tulsa Academic Center or TAC at Lindsey. This new center would house two different programs, one aimed at short-term students; the other for students on long-term suspension.

"The big difference between alternative schools is time is not always a measure of ability, performance is," Zolkoski said.

Performance is the cornerstone of the long-term program. This plan is modeled after a system Zolkoski put in place in his former district in Brownsville, Texas. According to the Brownsville Herald, students in the long-term program would stay a minimum of 45-days. And they wore fatigues and did two hours of physical training in the morning.

"Highly structured with a lot of discipline,” Richard Palzaao Tulsa Public Schools Alternative Ed Director said. “And it will be performance-based, and what we mean by that is students will have to earn their way out of a program."

"I've had ‘em as short as two months or as long as two and a half years,” said Zolkoski. “Until, we can get them back on course, they're not going to be successful."

Zolkoski's plan also calls for Franklin Youth Academy to become strictly a middle school. Franklin's high school students would attend Project 12, Street School, or the new Tulsa Academic Center. Younger students who are having trouble would attend an expanded version of Project Accept.

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