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End of night school will affect graduations
Brandon Tasciotti wonders about the priorities of the Glynn County Board of Education.

He is one of 148 students enrolled in a night high school that will be discontinued in May.

The board of education decided Tuesday to end the Coastal Education High School program at the conclusion of next semester, because of its cost, as well as a fear that it might be pulling students away from regular high schools.

"It seems like they care more about money than the students in their schools," Tasciotti said.

When creating the program, designed to help dropouts earn high school diplomas, the board stressed that it would continue Coastal Education High School as long as it did not require local funding.

Board members recently learned that the system will have to dig into its own pocket to cover some of the program's expenses, after all. According to a funding formula of the Georgia Department of Education, based on enrollment, the school system will have to pay $22,000. The state will cover the rest.

Tasciotti may be one of the luckier students. He may have time to complete requirements for a high school diploma. "I hope I can finish by May," he said.

Rebecca Royal, program director for Coastal Education High School, wishes the school board had been more patient. The formula used by the state to determine funding it will provide would have likely worked itself out over time, she said.

Royal is saddened to see the program get cut so soon after being started this calendar year.

"I do believe the program is a valuable asset to the district and to a certain segment of the population," she said.

It has been a help, school officials acknowledge. The night school has graduated 31 students since it was started in January.

Because night school graduates count toward the graduation rates of their regular high schools, the program played a role in raising graduation rates at both county high schools this past school year, said Ricky Rentz, assistant superintendent for student achievement.

Rentz doesn't know exactly how loss of the night school closing will affect future graduation rates, but it is safe to say it will have an impact, he said.

It will in more ways than one, indicates Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority. Sparks said he uses factors like graduation rates to help recruit companies for the Golden Isles.

Any thing that boosts the rates in Brunswick and the Golden Isles is beneficial in the search for employers, he said. "I am disappointed that it was cut, because it was beginning to show results," Sparks said.

However, he also understands that tough economic times mean making tough choices. "I don't think all is lost," Sparks said. "There are still several innovative programs in place."

That includes Performance Learning Center, a program similar to the night school, that operates during daytime.

Royal doesn't expect many students who attend the night school will take advantage of it, though. "The very same things that kept them out the first time will keep them out again," she said.

Michael Tasciotti, the brother of Brandon Tasciotti, said the night school will be missed. "I am so much more comfortable here than I was at regular high school," he said.

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