The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Officials talk early ideas for alternative school


February 28, 2018

CLOVIS — Changing times mean time for change.

At Tuesday’s Clovis school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Joe Strickland presented the idea of the district introducing an alternative school for students with behavioral or emotional problems.

“I’m going to preface this with this is a brainstorming session,” Strickland said. “This is by no means a plan ready to go, it’s an idea of what we possibly could do. ... We felt it was time to bring it to the board just to see if it’s something you even want us pursuing.”

Called the Clovis Municipal Schools Academy, Strickland envisions an alternative school that would better suit the needs of children with emotional or behavioral problems who otherwise might drop out of school all together.

Borrowing on concepts already introduced at school districts in Rio Rancho and Frenship, Texas, the proposed second- through 12th-grade school would include a mix of virtual and in-class education.

Strickland said the CMS Academy would include a focus on STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, and attending students would still be able to participate in the district’s extracurricular activities.

“I always believe that you have to have some kind of hook to want to be in school and for a lot of our kids it’s athletics or music or whatever. We need to have those available,” Strickland said.

Clovis National Education Association President Stephen Reynolds addressed the board regarding the proposed school and expressed concerns with its ability to properly meet the needs of students who could benefit from alternative education.

“I’m coming before the board tonight not as NEA president, but as a concerned educational professional who has experience working with alternative students,” Reynolds said. “Personally I am against the plan as described because it first relies upon the student being intrinsically motivated. These students in an alternative setting are rarely intrinsically motivated, they rarely take it upon themselves to push themselves through. They need the assistance of one-on-one education from an educator.”

Board Vice-President Terry Martin encouraged Strickland to keep working on the plans and said Reynolds could be brought in for advice.

“I think Mr. Reynolds had a good point because he has some experience. You might want to include him and get some of his ideas to see whether or not it would be something that we needed to do,” Martin said. “Of course we know all this still has to be approved through (the Public Education Department) so it’s just a good concept and I too commend you for trying to catch some of those kids that slip through the cracks.”

Board member Cindy Osborn also expressed her approval for Strickland and his team to continue to work on the plan for the proposed alternative school.

“I agree that there are lots and lots of children based on my experience that we miss and I think this is a good opportunity for us to do that,” Osborn said. She said her concerns would be mixing students who have emotional problems with students who have behavioral problems as well as the mixing of different grade levels.

Though Strickland was encouraged by the board to keep working on the project, that does not mean it will be brought to fruition anytime soon.

“I think that if it’s something that we wanted to really pursue and look at and, depending on the finances, and we don’t really know what that would be, the earliest would be the 2019-20 school year,” Strickland said.

After the meeting Superintendent Jody Balch said the district needs to consider changes like this as it adapts to the modern world.

“I think we need to address today’s students because the traditional school setting, look how old that is — that doesn’t fit today’s kids,” Balch said. “Things have changed and I think it’s time we sincerely address alternative education in a proactive manner that really benefits kids.”


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