The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 15, 2013

COMMUNITY CORNER: Do more study on Lincoln program before making decision

CLINTON — I read with great interest the article about closing Lincoln Alternative School and the letters by the former student and the former Alternative High School Principal, Dennis Duerling. They were superb.

I believe that the school board should study this issue for a long time before changing or eliminating this highly successful program.  I watched the creation and changes in the program from its inception in the 1980s, and I was surprised at how it has changed lately with the elimination of parts of its program, such as the day care and the principal’s position.

In the early days, Clinton schools worked very hard to establish this program. The drop-out rate was high at CHS and the alternative school concept helped to solve the problem. The typical profile of students needing the alternative school environment was that they were quiet, nice, bright, disoriented and lacked confidence.  Each of them had a common trait of not fitting in at the regular high school for a variety of reasons, mainly social issues.

Over the years I have visited the school many times and have found it to be a very effective educational endeavor. Some of my former students attended Lincoln and I would ask them questions about the school and their opinions were always positive. Also, I have tried to inform the public about the nature of the Lincoln students. Many citizens think that these are incorrigible students who are hard to handle in the regular school. This is far from the truth.

I am sure that Clinton High School feels confident that they can meet the needs of this type of student, but I don't think it is possible. I know that money is a problem, thanks to lack of support from the state. However, I ask the Clinton School Board to move slowly and do the research throughout Iowa and the nation as to how things are going in the field and not to just look at program contraction and the saving of money.

Weigh heavily the firsthand reports of ex-students and former administrators like Dennis Duerling and Richard Grugin.

They and the teachers have put their heart and souls into making Lincoln a quality place. Instead of closing a good program, think how to restore its effectiveness.

Gary Herrity is a retired Clinton School District administrator.

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