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Homestead students get a Second Chance through district/business partnership

Jan. 23, 2013

Mequon - A program designed to provide real-world, hands-on learning opportunities will be offered in the upcoming school year to a select few Homestead High School students.

The Mequon-Thiensville School Board on Monday voted in favor of entering into an agreement with Second Chance Partners for Education, a Pewaukee-based nonprofit organization that provides student participants with an alternative high school program.

Second Chance seeks out students who might be considered academically disengaged from a traditional classroom environment. The program requires a two-year commitment from participating students, and the curriculum is rigorous.

Students enrolled in the alternative school program still take core subjects, but attend school at a work site and study alongside only a few classmates. Most of the hands-on applications fall within the manufacturing sector.

"The idea is this is an immersion into the working world," said Eric Decker, partnership development manager with Second Chance.

Second Chance has relationships with school districts throughout the Milwaukee area. A location for Ozaukee County and the North Shore region is being sought to try to put the program within close proximity to students in each participating district.

Too much for too little?

Each district is able to enroll about three students into the program during a school year, but Decker said the number is fluid, depending upon commitments from other districts.

The cost to the district for each participating student is $6,867 - a scenario that sparked conversation as the board deliberated on the proposal.

Board member Gary Laev lauded the program and its mission, but questioned the logic of allocating the amount of financial resources toward a program that would benefit such a small portion of the district's student body.

"This is a rarified program that obviously has some impact," Laev said. "The concern I have is we're offering this to only a few students in a privileged spot."

Board member Mary Cyrier said she recognized the financial impact, but also noted the money would be put to good use. One of the district's goals has focused on offering programs that meet students' diverse needs and interests.

"Every decision we make is a trade-off with something else," Cyrier said.

Strong support

When she ran for her School Board seat a year ago, Cheryle Rebholz was an advocate for increased opportunities for students who might not go on to four-year colleges and universities, and she reiterated her support this week.

"I'm very familiar with this program, and I'm a big supporter, Rebholz said.

Based on past data, 60 percent of students graduating through Second Chance go directly into the work force. The program itself touts a 90 percent graduation rate and 98 percent attendance record.

Student participants are required to go through an extensive process before being admitted into the program. Preliminary steps include interviews with students and parents.

Eric Dimmitt, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said Mequon-Thiensville administrators went through an extensive process before providing a favorable recommendation to the board.

The process included meetings with Homestead's career and technical education staff and faculty in the career and technical education department.

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