August 11, 2011

Summer program helps students stay on track

The Sebago Educational Alliance offers a half-day school as part of its day treatment program.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BUXTON - A lot has happened in Kat Seevers' life since she was an elementary school student at the Frank Jewett School.

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Logan Stout, 13, left, special education teacher Nicole Poole, center, and Travis Farr, 12, read parts in a play during the extended year Sebago Alliance program at the Frank Jewett School in Buxton.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Kat Seevers, 15, center, talks with fellow student Garrett Ferland, 16, left, during a game of Uno. At right is Tamber Woodman, an educational technician.

The 15-year-old, who admits she has a tendency to react with her fists, was kicked out of Bonny Eagle Middle School in seventh grade, has done two stints at the Long Creek Youth Development Center and has had more run-ins with police than she can remember.

This month, Seevers was back at Frank Jewet as a student in the Sebago Educational Alliance's extended year program, a half-day school for middle and high school students who need structure during the summer to stay out of trouble.

The summer school is an extension of the alliance's day treatment program, which moved in July from the former Little Falls School in Gorham to Frank Jewett in Buxton, where there is more room to accommodate the growing special education program.

Known to the students as Sebago Alliance, the five-year-old program accepts students whose emotional and behavioral problems need greater attention than a typical school can offer.

In its first year, as a program for middle schoolers, it served five students, said Director Jennifer Searway. It quickly expanded to include high school students, and will accept its first elementary school students this fall, the start of its fifth year. In total, Searway said, 32 students are enrolled.

The five school districts in the Sebago Educational Alliance -- Westbrook, Gorham, Scarborough, Windham-Raymond and Buxton-based School Administrative District 6 -- created the school as an alternative to similar programs, such as Spurwink, Sweetser and The Collaborative School. The purpose was to reduce travel time for the students, some of whom had hourlong commutes, and to lower special-education costs for the districts.

Linda Powell, special education director for Windham-Raymond schools, said the $32,000 cost for a student to attend Sebago Alliance for a year is about $16,000 less than the tuition for the other programs.

On average, Searway said, students spend six months to a year at Sebago Alliance before returning to mainstream schools.

Although that's the ultimate goal, she said, the staff doesn't push students to transfer back, and some need more time.

Kat Seevers is starting her third year at Sebago Alliance and doesn't plan to go anywhere else anytime soon. She hasn't stopped fighting altogether and, because of that, she spent two weeks at Long Creek about a month ago. But she has developed ways to cope with her anger, and that keeps her from getting into trouble as often.

"I'm able to control my physical impulses better," she said. "I use my words instead of my fists."

Seevers credits Sebago Alliance's attentive teachers and small classes for helping to improve her attitude and keeping her in school.

In addition to teachers and educational technicians, the school has a full-time clinical psychologist, Searway said. "They're willing to listen. ... They're willing to hear your side of the story," said Seevers. "It's a better place to learn."

It has gotten even better, she said, since the move into Frank Jewett, which was vacated in 2010 when the new Buxton Center Elementary School opened. Searway said there's more classroom and office space, as well as a cafeteria and a library, which Little Falls didn't have.

Powell said the expanded space and programming this year can only mean more of a good thing. She said the program has already proven itself through students' smooth transitions from Sebago Alliance back into their school districts.

"When you venture out into something like that, you sort of hold your breath," Powell said about creating the program.

"It has been everything, in terms of success, and more for our kids," she said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@mainetoday.com

 

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