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Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

'The Bridge' program prepares to get underway...

... The NY State Education Department gives go-ahead to Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy's new program to help at-risk teens succeed in school and beyond.

A new partnership between Berkshire Union Free School District, Hudson City School District, and Catskill Central School District, is gearing up to begin its special program to help teens stay in school and to become college and career ready after they graduate.

The New York State Education Department has approved the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy’s plan to begin its Day Services Special Education and Alternative Transition Program (ATP) in Hudson. The new program is known as “The Bridge”. Teachers from Berkshire Union Free School District (BUFSD) will teach a select group of students from all three districts.

“These students were selected because they lack the necessary credits to be on track to graduate on time, and are at an increased risk of dropping out of school,” said Bruce Potter, superintendent of Berkshire Union Free School District (BUFSD). "In addition to smaller classes, the faculty will utilize an alternative approach. The students coming to The Bridge have already been unsuccessful in the traditional High School model."

Some of those selected for the program include special education students.

“We are very pleased that the ATP can now get underway,” said Timothy Giacchetta, president of the BUFSD Board of Education. “Statewide, only 43 percent of special education students graduate from high school. Berkshire High School has a remarkable 100 percent graduation rate of our students here over the past several years. Our teachers certainly know how to help these students succeed.”

Giacchetta is also the CEO of Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth, a leading statewide child welfare agency. Berkshire Union Free School District is located on the agency’s residential treatment campus in Canaan, New York.

“The work the Farm Center and the School accomplish together as ‘One Berkshire’ has helped us to develop a unique educational and behavioral management program that is proving to be highly effective,” said Giacchetta.

Earlier this year, the three districts comprising the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy agreed to open the facility and leased a property located at 364 Warren Street from the Galvan Foundation. The building is the former headquarters of the Register Star newspaper. Their original plan was to open in September of this year on a larger scale. However the State Education Department (SED) was unsure about the academy’s ability to do so without a voter referendum.

Last Tuesday, the SED notified Mr. Potter that it had granted permission to run the scaled-down program.

“We are gearing up to open the classes for the second semester of the 2013-2014 school year in late January or early February,” said Potter. “This is a great start for us all, and I appreciate the steadfast commitment by Hudson and Catskill to this important initiative,” he added.

Potter also credited the SED, saying that, despite blocking the Partnership’s original plan, it was equally committed to helping the Academy begin teaching area students.

“Everyone worked together on this,” he said. “No one quit…this was a total collaboration.”

Potter praised the hard work and commitment by Hudson City Superintendent Maria Suttmeier and Catskill Central Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Farrell, as well as the help they received from Questar III BOCES. He thanked Dr. James Baldwin, the district superintendent of Questar III, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services for Rensselaer, Columbia, and parts of Greene counties.

“The importance of Questar III can’t be overstated,” Potter said. “BOCES helped us coordinate this initiative and ensured that we all understood all aspects and intricacies of state laws.”

Initially the Academy will serve approximately 35 students. However, the superintendents from all three school districts are still eyeing their original plan to serve more students in the future.

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