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December 16, 2002

Middle school charter approved

The Hamilton School Board extended the charter on an experimental middle school that serves at-risk students in the Milwaukee area. The School Board approved a 5-year renewal on the Alternative Middle Charter School, which is run by Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) #1 and provides placement for student from 10 school districts.

The idea for the charter school came more than three years ago from a consortium of school districts. Under state laws, CESA was not able to hold the charter for the school, so the Hamilton School Board officially requested the charter in February, 2000.

Enrollment in the program has ranged from 14 to 18 students each year since it began in the 2000-2001 school year. Classes are conducted in Wauwatosa, with each district paying a per-pupil fee to refer students to the program. In each of the last three years, Hamilton has had one middle school student enrolled in the program. Other school districts that have enrolled students in the program include Brown Deer, Cudahy, Franklin, Greenfield, Hartford, Menomonee Falls, Shorewood, Wauwatosa and West Allis.

The alternative school serves severely disenfranchised at-risk middle students with a program that has a proficiency-based curriculum and includes youth service learning, career exploration, anger management and behavior skill components. Instruction includes small group and tutorial approaches.

The program’s ultimate goal is to transition students back to their home schools where they can be successful. Last year 15 of the 16 students enrolled in the program were reintegrated back to their original school districts.

CESA #1 Alternative Programs Director Heidi Thuli told board members that state and federal grants that were available in the first two years helped get the program off the ground by providing the start-up funds to purchase equipment and get established.

Thuli said CESA staff are concentrating now on having a comprehensive follow-up process in place to ensure that students are supported and can be successful after they leave the program.

Hamilton Superintendent Kathleen M. Cooke, Ph.D., said the charter allows the program to operate in different and creative ways that a regular school is not able to because of mandates and regulations. She said CESA staff offer students a combination of resources so that they are successful in the long run.

“They are successful with the most challenging kids,” Cooke said.

Personnel changes approved

In personnel business, the School Board:

  • accepted the resignation of Hamilton associate kitchen employee Sandra DeKarske;
  • appointed Christine Jakubic as a Hamilton associate kitchen employee.