Budget woes to shutter Central High School; students will attend neighborhood schools

cnudi@bradenton.comMay 18, 2013 

BRADENTON -- The Manatee County School District will close Central High School at the end of the school year, moving the program designed to help struggling students into other district schools.

The school's students will be transferred into their neighborhood schools. The move is expected to save the district $1.4 million.

"We're redesigning Central High School," said Diana Greene, deputy superintendent of instruction for the district. "We looked at what we're doing at Central High School, the data, the costs and opportunities to serve these students."

Greene said the district has spent $2.4 million this school year for staff, transportation, supplies and maintenance.

"We're serving only 231 students," Greene said, "and if you do the math, that's about $10,344 per student."

That is $2,000 to $3,000 more than the cost to educate a student in traditional high schools, she said.

Superintendent Rick Mills said it doesn't make sense to keep Central High open when it costs $2.4 million and only graduates "11 or 12 students a year."

Under the plan, the Central High students will still be counted under the Central High banner and will have a Central High principal, but will be assigned to attend classes in the district's other high schools.

Omar Edwards, now principal at Johnson Middle School, will take over as Central High principal. Only some of the teachers will be moved

with the program, Greene said. There will be seven or eight Central High teachers to teach classes at the other schools, Edwards said.

To make the transition, students will have personal development plans they take with them to their new schools.

"Over the summer, guidance counselors will meet with each student," Greene said, "and develop a personal plan."

Edwards was the first principal of Central High when it opened in 2007. He moved to Johnson Middle four years ago.

He said he will work with the principals of each high school to make sure Central High students' needs are being met.

"Our goal is to teach them a skill and get them a high school diploma," he said.

Greene said Edwards' experience with Central High School and its predecessor program, Community High School, will benefit the transition plan.

Central High's current principal, Carl Auckerman, has been named principal for Johnson Middle School, the position Edwards is vacating. Greene said the move made sense because Auckerman has experience with the International Baccalaureate program. Johnson is an IB magnet school.

Central High was opened to help students who were over-age for their grade level, behind in the number of credits needed and in jeopardy of dropping out, Edwards said.

Students identified at being at risk of dropping out were recruited to attend Central High, he said.

Edwards said when the school began, they were targeting mostly seniors for the program and had high graduation rates.

That changed when the district began targeting ninth-graders to attend Central High and then taught them through 11th grade, only so they could move to their home high school to graduate.

With the all the students attending area high schools next year, the students can benefit from the programs, and still be able to mix with their peers, he said.

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