Warren County alternative ed. teachers recognized for ‘stellar’ performance

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Warren County School Board recognized members of the district’s alternative education team on Monday. From left are: Principal Amy Stimmell, Olivia Zapel, Michele Petrishen, Amy Morrison, and Tammy Hagg. Absent from photo were: Michelle Johnson, Jeff White, Tom McClelland, Pam Durnell, Kim Hunter, Adam Vincent, and Art Anderson.

A group of Warren County School District teachers have been recognized for their excellence by everyone from their students to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The result of a recent audit of the district’s alternative education program was “phenomenal,” according to Superintendent Amy Stewart.

“Our alternative ed program is one that we have to have audits in periodically,” Stewart said. “The report that they received from the auditor was absolutely stellar.”

“We have no critical areas,” Alternative Education Principal Amy Stimmell said.

“These folks don’t get a lot of kudos,” Stewart said. “The comments in the report were absolutely amazing.”

Some of those comments were from the most surprising sources.

Students in the program have demonstrated a pattern of persistent disruptive behavior in the regular classroom setting.

“Alternative education is a specially designed program that serves the purpose of temporarily removing persistently disruptive students in grades 6 through 12 from regular school programs,” according to the district’s student handbook. “Alternative education placements are temporary in nature, and should be considered only when severe or persistent behavioral problems require more intensive intervention services and after all other avenues have been exhausted.”

“Placements in alternative education programs are temporary with some students exiting at the end of the expulsion period,” Stimmell said. “Other students may only stay in placement until they have met their behavioral goals to transition back to the regular education setting.”

“Our alternative education contract with PDE allows up to twenty students placed in the program at one time,” she said.

Those students were among the people giving positive reports about the program.

“You never know what you’re going to get when you interview kids,” she said.

The fact that students often do not stay in the program long represents a challenge to establishing relationships and learning the best teaching methods for each student.

“It’s about getting to know those kids… and what do we need to change, we are constantly changing program components,” Stimmell said. “Building those relationships with the students is a key piece.”

Four members of the alt ed team — Olivia Zapel, Michele Petrishen, Amy Morrison, and Tammy Hagg — attended Monday’s meeting and were directly recognized by the board.

Other members include: Michelle Johnson, Jeff White, Tom McClelland, Pam Durnell, Kim Hunter, Adam Vincent, and Art Anderson.

“It really does take a team,” Stewart said.

“We really want these teachers to know that we appreciate it and it is commendable,” Stimmell said. “We all felt awesome that PDE recognized the program.”

“It’s not just PDE that’s noticed the strength of your program,” Board Member Arthur Stewart said.

He cited a comment from a parent of a student in the program. “We want our child in the alternative education program,” he said. “You’ve gone from something the folks didn’t like to a resource.”