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School board moves forward with plans for new alternative school

The McDuffie County Board of Education is looking for a principal for the system's new alternative school, even though that school is still in the planning stages.

At their April planning meeting on Tuesday morning, members of the BOE discussed plans for a new alternative school.

Superintendent Mark Petersen said two meetings had been held with the three principals who would be involved with the alternative school - Claude Powell of Thomson Middle School, Steve Rhodes of Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School and Rudy Falana of Thomson High School - and Central Office staff to brainstorm ideas about customizing an alternative school based on the needs of McDuffie County.

The school board voted 5-1 at a called March meeting not to renew the contract with Ombudsman Alternative school program, offered through Educational Services of America.

No final decisions have been made or approved by the board on what type of alternative program will be available for McDuffie County. But the board did agree they need to hire a new principal as soon as possible to help in the decision-making process.

According to meeting notes, topics discussed at the principals' brainstorm meetings included the types of students who use the alternative school - disciplinary/tribunal students, special education students, and credit recovery, both voluntary and required - the resources, curriculum, and facility needed.

They also discussed a transition program to re-enter the students back into the mainstream school, an option of basing the program on ages rather than grades, and an intervention program that would target elementary students who show signs of eventually being placed in the alternative setting.

Discussion at the board meeting centered around how many staff would have to be hired for the school, and Dr. Petersen and the board decided that at least 14 faculty and staff members would be needed, including a principal, secretary, guidance counselors, teachers, security, custodial and nutrition members. Funding for the program has not been determined, but will be discussed at the board's budget planning session at the end of the month.

An ad for applications for the alternative school principal is on the system's website at and at The ad immediately was placed online after the meeting Tuesday morning, and will run for two weeks.

Web posted on Thursday, April 16, 2009

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