GREENVILLE — The Greenville Public Schools Board of Education took a step closer to the Early College proposal.
During its regular scheduled meeting on Monday, the board of education authorized Superintendent Pete Haines to reach an agreement to provide additional opportunities for Greenville students through the Early College program. However, the decision came after much discussion from the board on whether the benefits outweighed the risks.
Early College program
Students would begin participating in the program in their junior year of high school. Students would commit to three years of study at Montcalm Community College (MCC), while continuing to attend their respective high school.
After five total years of attending the high school, with three of those years combined at MCC, a student will walk away with their high school diploma from their respective high school and an associate’s degree from MCC.
MCC President Robert Ferrentino said the first year of the program will be spent making sure the students are prepared to enter into the college curriculum.
Ferrentino said the area of the associate’s degree is completely up to the choosing of the student — and at no cost to the student.
The Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) will act as the fiscal agent in the program.
According to the contract, the MAISD will be responsible for “the proper and separate accounting by program of funds generated, received and expended in accordance with applicable law, state accounting requirements, this agreement, and any policies or procedures adopted by the Committee.”
“I will give you this, it looks like a good opportunity for a certain group of kids.”
Haines and other board members stressed the importance of the Early College program not being for every student.
The program, according to Haines, is designed for students who would not normally have gone to college.
“It’s not realistic for students to think they are going to have a foot at both (campuses),” Haines said.
Board of Education President Janet Ralph agreed with Haines, saying Early College is for a small group of Greenville students.
“It would be misleading to think it’s going to affect a large amount of our students,” she said.
Everyone agreed students who choose to participate in the Early College program will have a difficult time participating in extracurricular activities.
Greenville only has 15 seats available, and the students who are interested in the program will be picked at random.
Haines said parents have already started calling to ask about the program, but noted it has been parents of students who are already doing well in high school.
“I think that for those students, (the program) would not serve them well,” he stressed. “Truly, this is more like an intervention program for students who don’t expect to go to college or see themselves in a college setting.”
“It’s a financial commitment when times are rough,” Haines said.
The program will be funded from state aid that each district receives per student involved in the program.
That state aid comes in the form of the foundation grant from the state government, estimated at $7,000, which comes to the school district for each student and would be transferred to a separate education entity.
Haines said the cost to Greenville is $105,00 for the first year, $210,000 for the second and $315,000 for the third. However, in the third year — which would be considered as a 13th grade — GPS wouldn’t receive that money from the state, anyway.
“When I saw the contract, I had great concerns about the liabilities,” Board of Education Trustee John Raven said. “Can our budget absorb that?”
Haines said to make up for the loss, the budget will have to be looked as a whole to find where money can be saved.
Belding Area Schools has a similar program through Davenport University, and Haines said Greenville has lost students this year to be a part of the program there.
The board agreed the Early College program is a “fantastic opportunity” for some students, but the cost of the program is something that doesn’t draw them to the program.
“We will have to keep an eye on the budget because I don’t want to cut programs for kids,” Ralph said.
Before Haines signs the contract for the Early College program, he said there is time for them to talk through the contract, work out details and ask questions.
“That is where I am struggling,” Treasurer James Anderson said. “It’s a good opportunity for kids, but there is a part of (the contract) that seems sloppy. Why weren’t things ironed out before?”
Haines agreed the details are not all in the contract, but assured the board he is not signing the contract until he is comfortable with all the details.
“It’s a leap of faith,” Haines said of the program. “There are risks, but I think the benefits outweigh the risks.”
Haines said a contract has to be signed by the end of the month.