Parents defend alternative ed

POULSBO — Parents came out in droves Wednesday night to defend their students’ rights to alternative education.

North Kitsap School District administrators are struggling to find ways to improve and expand alternative education in an era of shrinking budgets. District administrators hosted an open public meeting Wednesday to discuss options for the Spectrum and Parent Assisted Learning (PAL) programs with concerned parents and students.

“This is not about dismantling anything,” North Kitsap High School Principal Kathy Prasch said at the gathering.

The meeting was intended as a way of collecting ideas from the community on how best to reach high school students on both the north and south ends of the district.

“When I first came here,” said Prasch, “I looked at Spectrum and said, ‘Wow, I wish we had something like that at our end of the district.’”

Currently, PAL is housed in portables behind the North Kitsap Community Pool and Spectrum is located at the entrance to the Kingston High campus.

Spectrum parents wondered why funds were taken away from transportation and food while stadiums and pools were being built and improved in other parts of the district. Money raised through the 2001 bond can only legally be used for capital construction projects, preventing them being used for Spectrum and PAL.

Spectrum assistant principal Jackie Finckler explained that transportation and lunch programs at Spectrum were cut this school year because the cost of funding those services outweighed the number of students served.

Still, administrators expressed a desire to broaden the reach of both Spectrum and PAL.

“We want to do the best job we can, serving all [students’] needs,” said Kingston High Principal Christy Cole.

Spectrum teacher Bob Geballe said he would like to see the program remain in its current format.

Parents agreed that Spectrum works well mainly because of the dynamics of the teaching staff, students and atmosphere.

“The academic part is a large part of it, but the environment is important,” said Spectrum parent Tom Gagne.

A number of PAL parents also lauded their program’s instructors and insisted that a major part of the students’ successes in PAL derive from the individual attention they receive.

“These people [PAL teachers] are worth ten times what you’re paying them,” said Chuck Hagood, a parent of former PAL students.

Because PAL has proven to be so valuable to students, parents were less concerned than administrators regarding the program’s location.

“If it were 20 miles farther, I’d still bring them [to PAL],” said Ernie Largé, a PAL parent from Kingston.

PAL received a small share of criticism, but most parents spoke out to ensure that no matter what happens with funds and expansion, their students’ opportunities will not take a hit.

“I think we’re all on the same page as far as what we would like to see,” said Finckler, summing up concerns with both Spectrum and PAL. “The question is, how can we serve all the kids?”

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