Santa Fe schools to try to get dropouts to return

March 15, 2014 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe Public Schools hope to turn around low high school graduation rates by teaming up with a Florida company that will use public money to recruit students who dropped out and try to get them back to class in the coming months.

The district will allow Atlantic Education Partners, a private firm, to use state funds for the new Engage Santa Fe program, which is aimed at recruiting high school dropouts and will launch next semester, The New Mexican reported ( ).

The program will allow [auth] returning students to go to class at a separate facility, away from existing high schools, but learn online, too. Every student also will be issued an Amazon Kindle.

The school board approved the program last week in a 4-1 vote. Glenn Wikle, who cast the dissenting vote, said the program is an example of the privatization of public education and giving state money to an out-of-state party.

According to the district, each Santa Fe Public Schools student generates $6,700 in funding. That money will fund Engage Santa Fe. Santa Fe district Superintendent Joel Boyd said the district won’t benefit financially or have to help pay.

Atlanta Education says it will hire recruiters to reach out to dropouts with the goal of enrolling at least 75 students by fall. Their focus will be on teens between ages 16 and 19. Company founder Joe Wise said four similar programs are underway in the U.S. and that Engage Santa Fe will help students overwhelmed at the idea of going back to school full time.

“When they come back and educators say, ‘Here’s seven courses, here’s all the books, get going.’ A lot of students can’t chew that,” Wise said.

Boyd, the superintendent, and Wise worked together in Florida’s public school system, and Wise worked as an unpaid member of Boyd’s transition team when he first became superintendent. Boyd said his past relationship with Wise did not influence the program getting approved, adding that he didn’t offer any recommendations when officials were taking proposals for the project.

Santa Fe ranks in the bottom 10 of the state’s 89 public school districts.

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