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Lead the Way joins open-enrollment options

May 25, 2011 - For some parents, Project Lead the Way is leading Clarkston schools into open-enrollment trouble.

"A lot of parents are coming to me about open enrollment," said Clarkston Board of Education Trustee Joan Patterson. "We need to verify we have the support. Parents are concerned our students have the first opportunity. It is our responsibility to our students."

"Increasing school of choice may not be in the best interest to the community and the students," said Pat Callahan, parent. "It has not been an unfavorable result to other districts. Some are closing it out. Additional feedback is needed. To do something the district does not agree with is not advisable."

The school board approved the addition of Project Lead the Way Career Pathway Program, for pre-engineering students, to the district's open-enrollment offerings. It joins CSMTech Academy, Advanced Studies Program and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme as School of Choice programs.

Patterson, as well as board Treasurer Rosalie Lieblang and Secretary Susan Boatman wanted a few more weeks to discuss open enrollment for Project Lead the Way.

They succeeded in amending a proposal to approve all four programs as school-of-choice with a 5-2 vote, with Trustee Barry Bomier and President Steve Hyer voting no. A motion to table the Lead the Way proposal failed.

One of their concerns was Oakland Technical Campus Northwest off Big Lake Road also offered engineering.

"It seems to be similiar," said Patterson. "Did we take a look at what their positives are and how they will work together?"

The programs fit together, said Deputy Superintendent Shawn Ryan.

"(OTC) is a solid build for students that want to go into something more specific,"Ryan said. "Project Lead the Way is more all-around and gives a more well-rounded look, besides just one look. Both programs at OTC and Clarkston are great. Ours is more elongated."

Patterson also noted she would like to see the district do something with the medical field since it is also a growing field.

Another concern was funding, although the district has applied for grants.

"I am concerned about offering a program when we aren't 100 percent sure the grants will go through," said Lieblang, who requested a one page summary for costs and grants covering it.

"We are making sure it is covered by grants," said Ryan.

Dawn Schaller, one of the parents in attendance, also shared her concern about open enrollment.

"I am happy to see the board separate Project Lead the Way from the orginial action," Schaller said. "I think the district should be asking the public about how they feel."

"We are at a point we are not communicating case in point, open enrollment," said parent Bridget Gibbs. "Begin an open forum with the community. Redo this program with parent involvement."

Ryan and Hyer firmly stated approving the programs for open enrollment would not make Clarkston an open district.

Clarkston students would get the first opportunity to apply to Lead the Way. Students from other districts would have to go through an application process and committee review, with up to 10 accepted. Once in the program, they have to maintain a GPA of 3.0.

The other programs will be unlimited so the district can see applications in an ongoing manner, Ryan said.

Clarkston PTA President Kelli Horst disagreed parents weren't involved with the process.

"The suggestions tonight that parents were not consulted or communicated with during the strategic planning process is ludicrous," she said, adding Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock holds a Parent Advisory Team meeting with parent leaders every month and parents share information with other parents in their schools.

"Dr. Rock tweets," Horst continued. "He sends frequent e-blasts to parent via clarkstoncalendar.org. He writes guest columns for the local paper. In his every outreach he invites parents to respond to him directly."

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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