Just for Girls will be able to keep educating elementary school children, if the Manatee County School Board signs off on a contract Tuesday.
“We’re required to follow statute, however, we do have students that need an environment that is customized just for them,” Manatee County Superintendent Diana Greene said.
So instead of dismantling the program completely, Greene is proposing the board allow the organization to continue educating elementary school students through a contract agreement for an alternative education program. Just for Girls already runs a similar contract-type program for middle school girls in the Jane B. Pratt Alternative Education Center.
“I can just sum it in in a simple sentence: these girls matter to us and we did not want to give up on them,” said Just for Girls CEO Becky Canesse. “We were all committed to not giving up, no matter what.”
In addition to the elementary program and the middle school alternative education center, Just for Girls also offers after-school and summer programs.
Canesse pointed to a number of other indicators, which aren’t captured in state grades, that show the students at Just for Girls are making progress, including better attendance, fewer behavior issues and academic increases inching the students closer toward being on grade level.
“They come to us far, far behind. We are showing greater progress than some of the other schools,” she said.
A new principal and new staff are being hired, Canesse said, and Just for Girls will continue to work closely with district officials to monitor student progress. The curriculum will still be aligned with the state and the students will still sit for state tests.
The change gets the program off the hook from some of the state’s strict standards for charter school performance, including the mandated charter revocation if charters earn two F grades in a row.
But, Greene said, the district has high expectations for student achievement in the school. The alternative education center is not given a grade by the state, but the student scores are factored into school grades at their base schools, Greene said.
“There will still be expectations and accountability,” she said.