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Largest graduating class highlights Cumberland's year

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

(Photo)
Lisa Showalter
Since the Alternative Education Program began in 1997, the faculty and staff at Cumberland Academy, which opened in 2003, continues to make strides in meeting the educational and emotional needs of the students.

"Our program is small and we do have a waiting list," Principal Lisa Showalter said.

During the 2008-09 academic school year, Cumberland served 76 students, the highest in its history.

"We focus on meeting the basic needs both academically and personally of our students," Showalter said.

One of the highlights of the school year at Cumberland is the graduation ceremony. Of the 21 seniors, 17 graduated, which resulted in the largest graduating class in the history of the program.

"These students probably would've quit," Showalter said. "Half the graduates plan to attend Ivy Tech Community College this fall."

The General Educational Development (GED) graduates are invited to Cumberland's graduation, which she said is a very nice and emotional ceremony.

Students are referred to Cumberland by their "home school" principals or counselors. In some instances, students are referred through the courts. However, when it comes to testing, student's scores are still included in their home school.

"Students come to us for a variety of reasons," she said. "We have a smaller learning environment, or if a teenage girl becomes pregnant, then we work in conjunction with the LEAAP (Linking Educators to Adults, Adolescents and Preschoolers) Center."

Students are accepted at Cumberland who are eligible for expulsion from their home school or have attendance problems.

"We meet the needs of anyone who can't make it in their home school," she said. "We work with the kids to be able to get them back to their home school until graduation."

With very few dropouts, Showalter believes it's a testament to the students.

"The kids want to be here and they work hard," she said.

For the fifth year in a row, Cumberland had its Teacher Appreciation lunch. Students invite teachers from their past or present who have influenced and inspired them.

"There were 100 people here and it is very meaningful to the teachers who are invited," Showalter said. "I don't know who enjoys it more the teachers or the kids."

A new program, an imitator of the GRASP (Generating Responsibility Through an Alternative to Suspension Placement) program, currently in place in Putnam County, will allow for a different way of suspensions to be dispersed.

"We are hoping to have the program in place this fall for the students at Northview (High School) and Clay City (Jr./Sr. High School) with the possibility of adding North Clay (Middle School) in the spring," she said.

The program will require students and their parents to appear before a judge. From their the judge will tell them the amount of days they will be suspended and assign court costs. For the duration of their suspension the students will spend their mornings at Cumberland Academy doing homework that they would've missed in class. The afternoons will be spent working with community corrections.

"The days of having nothing to do during a suspension are over," Showalter said. "We really hope this will curtail students from doing something that would result in a suspension."

Cumberland will add another fulltime teacher at the start of the school year, which will allow for more students in the program.

"We have the best teachers in the corporation," Showalter said. "But it takes special teachers to work with at-risk kids."

Though the school year is over and the staff is preparing for next year, Showalter was very happy with the success of the students.

"We really had a wonderful year," she said. "We had a great group of kids."


Comments
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Cumberland is a wonderful school with a great bunch of teachers. Mrs. Showalter is what a Principal should be. It's to bad there aren't more like her. My hat is off to Cumberland.

-- Posted by claycountrygirl on Tue, Jun 23, 2009, at 9:24 PM

While this school has been able to "save" some students from dropping out, I wonder if its style creates a false sense of society for the student. Granted with special individual attention the student does better than in traditional setting, but eventually these students go on and are expected to function in our "normal dysfunctional society". Would also be nice if the higher teacher/student ratio was implemented in the other schools instead of waiting until a student gets into a situation where they can no longer function in their home school.

As far as pregnant teens go, sometimes I think it's better to leave them in their traditional school. It's no secret that they are pregnant and for the most part they have no physical impairment preventing them from attending regular school. Hiding them away just enables others to put blinders on about the teen pregnancy rate in the county and the social structure here that pairs up boys and girls at such a young age. Instead of rating a young person's [I am talking elementary school in some cases] social success with whether or not they have a boy/girl friend, instead instill independence and self reliance and then the students may not yield to the pressure to have sex in order to maintain a relationship until they are educated enough to be able to support a family. There is nothing cute about a 5th grader having a boy/girl friend. It is WAY too early but I hear parents here talk about it as an accomplishment. This is not the 19th century where there is a living to be made after 8th grade and it's time to take a wife at that time but too many times the example is still here to have that a goal.

Keep those pregnant girls in the highschool if at all possible where they can take AP courses while at the same time show other students there that choices have very real consequences. I feel that the girls who stay at the high school are actually making a good choice to get the education they will need in this day and age to cope with today's financial demands.

Cumberland Academy has graduates, but how many go on with successful careers? A local educator recently told me that THAT was the measure of success in the schools. Not graduation rate.

How much money are we putting into the students there for how high a real success rate when it takes away from educating the main student body? does it really save them or does it just get them to a point where the school no longer has responsibility for them? Maybe some of the past graduates can reply?

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Wed, Jun 24, 2009, at 7:20 AM

Jenny,

They don't just ship the girls off to Cumberland Academy if they are pregnant. It's a alternative place for them to go if they choose or are having problems in their home schools. Trust me, there are pleeeenty of pregnant girls at Northview for everyone to see. As for the graduating students and successful careers comment realastically how many kids who graduate from any high school go on to be successful and who's place is it to determine what a successful career is? Yours? Mine? I don't think so. Life shouldn't be about who has the best job, house, or car. It seems that you are questioning these students achievements. Be happy for them and pray that they have a good life. Whether that be working at McDonalds or Microsoft!

-- Posted by ugotitdude on Wed, Jun 24, 2009, at 8:13 AM

I am so glad the community has this program for our youth. People often look at things so cut and dry but they arent life is complicated and many of us have troubled childhoods. GOOD JOB to all involved in this program. May God keep and bless you for all the days of your life!

-- Posted by ibclean76@yahoo.com on Wed, Jun 24, 2009, at 10:01 AM

This is a wonderful program. I have worked with students who were previously enrolled at Cumberland. They always talk highly about the program and the staff. They describe it as their family. Miss Showalter's leadership is invaluable. She is truly among the best professionals I have ever worked with.

-- Posted by scwh1974 on Wed, Jun 24, 2009, at 6:58 PM

Great job Cumberland! I can tell you just because you go to an Alternative school doesn't mean you won't be successful in life. I had my daughter at 16, went to Washington Alt. and married her father, had a son at 18, graduated high school with 2 kids, went to college, 2 years, had a 3rd child, was married 15 years and joined the military. I am now in Iraq, and when I return home, I will be going back to school, majoring in criminology, so I have so far succeeded in a career and as a mother of 3. So I give kudos to Cumberland for giving these "troubled" kids a chance and not setting them up for failure, instead setting them up to succeed in life.

-- Posted by proud mom and soldier on Wed, Jun 24, 2009, at 8:03 PM

Jenny, if the student can't function in their home school, they won't attend. If they won't attend, they quit. Cumberland gives them just that, an alternative. Sometimes, there are problems that the "home school" can't fix. It's a different environment over there. Some of the kids go part of the time to Cumberland and part of the time to their home school too.

ugotitdude is right, there are lots of pregnant girls at Northview, they aren't hiding them away at Cumberland.

Everyone measures success differently. To some, just to graduate with a diploma is a lifelong dream. They tried and studied hard to get to that goal. That was a success to them.

I don't think we are taking anything away from the "main student body", and they do learn responsibility at Cumberland.

Maybe Jenny, you should talk to the teacher, staff and students at Cumberland. You might be surprised. They are all a great bunch that work well together. And don't get the praise they deserve.

I was at the graduation and there was so many proud faces there. From the graduates and families to the teachers and Mrs. King that gave the speech. It was a very touching ceremony. Clay County needs a place like Cumberland and I for one am glad it's here.

-- Posted by claycountrygirl on Wed, Jun 24, 2009, at 10:28 PM

Cumberland Academy is a remarkable program! If it wasn't for Cumberland and the wonderful staff there, I don't know where my son would be! The staff there is wonderful! Miss Showalter and Mr. Bryan are on top of their game when it comes to these kids!! Kudos to the whole staff!!!

-- Posted by CCmom1972 on Thu, Jun 25, 2009, at 1:42 PM

I graduated for there a few years ago. I believe its a wonderful program! Because my scores were so high I could go to any state school I wanted. I now have a beautiful home and car in a wonderful neighborhood. Two children that I take care of without help from the government. I was pregnant with my first while attending but that's not why I went northview never once asked me to leave it was the best choice for me while working full time. I would like to add her father and I are still very much together and happily married. My husband also went there graduated went to school and now has a great job.

-- Posted by lilmomma on Tue, Jun 30, 2009, at 6:01 PM


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