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Students succeeding at alternative school
After sharing treats with her students and sending her teachers on a scavenger hunt, Renee Robinson returned to her office to take a break from sharing the love on Valentine's Day.

As the principal of Jackson Learning Center, her day is never done. But since her arrival at the school just six months ago, things are looking up for the students.

Students who come through the Jackson Learning Center do so because of serious disciplinary infractions in the regular classroom. Oftentimes, the center is the last step before heading to a juvenile facility or being expelled from the Glynn County School System.

During Robinson's first semester, 19 of the approximately 25 students at the facility transitioned back to their base school. Not many return to alternative school.

"That's a wonderful success story to only have one return, believe me, but the one who did really didn't want to leave. We had another one who came back (last) week who said the same thing," Robinson said. "It's almost like we need another level."

In the nurturing environment Robinson and her three teachers have created, students are still held entirely accountable for their work and progress. They adhere to a point system, earning their way back to their base school.

Her goal this semester is to increase the number of students - she has 33 - returning to their regular classrooms.

"This is punitive. It doesn't look good on your transcript to have Jackson Learning Alternative School," she said. "You get minimum curriculum."

She said about 90 percent of the students need services beyond what the alternative school can offer.

"I understand they feel loved being here, but at the end of the day, they need to be able to function in any environment," Robinson said.

Students who transition back into regular education aren't left to fend for themselves, she said. She makes weekly or bi-weekly visits, making sure each child is on the right track, and stays in contact with administrators at the other schools.

"We make sure they have a safety net before they transition back to the base school so they know they have a go-to person there to check in with. They know the consequences and they're all on very strict behavioral contracts," she said.

Also, "for the most part, the schools have been very supportive of the returning students," she said.

One student in particular is a true success story, she said. After struggling at the Jackson Learning Center for almost two years, he finally made a transition back to his base school and is flourishing. Some of his notable achievements include a 98 percent in government and the passing of an End-of-Course-Test for credit in another.

Robinson and the center's staff, as well as the principal of his school, plan to take him to dinner at Red Lobster, his choice, as a reward.

Her hope is that students will see his example and not only want to make it back to their base school but flourish there.

"I enjoy what I'm doing. I really wish I could do more," Robinson said. "My huge concern is the kids that don't want to go back or the kids who return because they didn't want to go back in the first place. I think there's still so much more that we can do.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to work with kids that need that extra motivation. I want more than just one kid to be taken to dinner."

SBlt Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at slundgren@thebrunswicknews.com, or at 265-8320, ext. 322.



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