Central Montcalm schools listen to Early College pitch

By Lori Hansen • Last Updated 11:39 am on Friday, February 22, 2013

STANTON — Two new opportunities for students to learn were introduced to the Central Montcalm Public School Board of Education Wednesday night. One was excitedly welcomed while the other was hesitantly tabled one month.

Montcalm Community College President Bob Ferrentino and Montcalm Area Intermediate School District superintendent Scott Koenigsknecht presented an overview of the new Early College Program, and option for all seven districts in the MAISD.

“There are a variety of reasons for offering this,” Ferrentino said. “We are not moving away from dual enrollment but are offering another option for students. The students would apply and would get a complete immersion into college. There are some students that just are not into the high school scene of football games, dances and plays.”

The Early College Program would be offered to this year’s sophomore class. Beginning in the fall of their junior year, the students would begin the three year program where they would work side by side completing their high school graduation requirements along with earning an associate’s degree.

“It is truly a 13th grade,” said Ferrentino, explaining the students would walk with their high school class at graduation, yet receive their high school diploma, along with their college diploma at the completion of the three-year program.

All tuition, fees and books would be covered through a newly established board, so there would be no cost to the family or student. The student would be allowed to participate in high school extracurricular activities, such as band and sports and would also have available all services offered to MCC students.

The program, however, comes with a price for the local district, who would forego about $7,000 per pupil in state funding for each student who joins the program.

With 45 slots available the first year, Central Montcalm was given seven slots, where qualifying students would be picked by a lottery system.

“I find this kind of hard to swallow,” Board Vice President Bill Simpson said. “When we already offer dual enrollment, why would we want to send seven kids down the road?”

Ferrentino explained the difference is dual enrollment students focus on general education classes where the Early College Program would be more specialized.

“Is it fair for the rest of the students to give up something for seven of their peers?” Simpson asked. “Are we going to have to cut back a teacher or a service from 1,700 to cater to seven students?”

The five board members in attendance then voted to table the agreement offer until the next meeting on March 20.

Dallas Bell, of West Michigan Virtual School, presented yet another opportunity for the district’s students.

“The students participating are from your community and would earn a high school diploma while doing internships at local businesses, thereby giving back to the community,” Bell said. “The virtual school would be by reference only and would likely begin with students where other, more traditional methods of schooling do not work.

“This would be kids were we have tried interventions, and have exhausted all other possible routes to succeed. It could also be an avenue for home schooled students.”

After more discussion, the board agreed in a 5-0 to enter into agreement with Bell.

The program would be housed at the former Stanton Elementary School building. Students can work on gaining their high school diploma or work on learning a trade, Bell said.

In other matters …

• The Central Montcalm Board of Education approved, in a 5-0 vote, a three-month trial period for a temporary Resource Officer at the cost of $6,000 to be re-evaluated at the end of that time.

• The board also gave a favorable superintendent review to Kristi Teall, and also approved, in a 5-0 vote, to extend her current two-year contract, which would expire June 30, 2014, for one additional year to June 30, 2015.

• Approved, in a 5-0 vote, an amendment to the valedictorian and salutatorian policy. In order to qualify for the position, a student must have the highest grade point average, must have taken the MME or ACT and must have attended Central Montcalm High School for a minimum of five semesters.

• Went into closed session to discuss bargaining strategy.

Correspondent Lori Hansen is a Greenville-area resident.

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