The Phoenix Learning Center branch of Alternatives Unlimited recently received an honor from the Arizona Department of Education for being rated a 5 by the local public education districts.
Public districts were asked a series of questions regarding the services provided by private schools in the area. The questions were rated on a scale from 1-5 with 5 being the highest degree of excellence. The overall average rating for all private schools this year was a 3.5. We were one of only 10 private schools in Arizona achieving an overall score of 4.0 or higher. Congratulations to our staff and big thank you to AU for all the support and guidance!
By Mychael Willon, Chief Academic Officer
Another school year closes, and, at the time I compose this, 179 students have graduated from the many Florida counties we serve! We will have even more students graduating during the summer as they complete a few extra credits that they have yet to be finish.
As an educator, I know that each and every student is a success story! Remember that each student whom we have helped earn a diploma had previously dropped out of high school and had little direction in life. YOU, our staff and administrators, changed that! YOU have opened doors for them that would have been closed and given them the opportunity to pursue the American dream.
I had the chance to enjoy the graduation awards ceremony in Orange County this year and was touched to see the awards that our students had been nominated for by their teachers. The looks on their faces as they accepted awards for everything from Best Dressed to Most Likely to Succeed were priceless. The pride I saw in their faces, and the expressions from their loved ones in attendance, spoke volumes to the growth they have experienced from our Drop Back In and Drop In academies.
What really touched me and brought tears to my eyes were the eight students going to the stage to get awards for full scholarships (books and tuition) from Valencia College. Twenty students have been accepted to attend Valencia and others are still applying. Orlando Magic also awarded one of our students a $6,000 scholarship. We still have a number of students who are being considered for scholarships and admissions to other colleges. For these students, we not only opened doors, we have put them on a path to higher education that can only result in unlimited possibilities for their future.
I am pleased to share with you that all of the counties we currently work with have indicated that they will continue to utilize our services again next year, and we will be adding a new county in a new state, Dougherty County in Georgia. We also are in dialogue with several other districts across the country that may result in additional opportunities as well.
The continuation of all of our present contracts is, without a doubt, the result of the hard work and dedication that our teachers, paraprofessionals, supervisors and office support staff bring to the job each day. Your passion for the students we serve is the reason Alternatives Unlimited is so successful! Thank you all for a job well done!
Alternatives Unlimited has formed an advisory council to assist with developing long-range strategic plans and advise on funding issues.
According to CEO John Sullivan, ”The collective experience of the council will be invaluable in helping Alternatives Unlimited map the future as well as improve instructional and business practices.”
The first meeting was held November 12 in Baltimore, Md., with another session on January 28. During these sessions, the council members dealt with organizational issues, discussed how to streamline operations to make AU more efficient and cost effective, and examined protocols for various compliance issues. Subsequent council meetings will be held quarterly.
Members of the council include Doug Riley, a Maryland attorney who is serving as council president; Bart Anderson, an educator in Columbus, Ohio; Tracey Berger, an attorney in San Francisco; and Don Mohler, the chief of staff to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
John Sullivan, AU’s CEO, also sits on the council, while Melissa Replogle serves as council secretary. Brief bios of each of the council members follow:
Bart Anderson —Mr. Anderson serves as the superintendent of the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio and the executive director of the Regional Shared Service Center Council of Governments. He holds a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania where, in the world of interesting coincidences, Stuart Berger, AU’s founder, served on his dissertation committee.
Tracey Berger — Ms. Berger is a graduate of New York University and Northwestern University School of Law. Since 2006, she has been an associate with the Bingham McCutchen law firm in their San Francisco offices.
Don Mohler — Mr. Mohler served in numerous capacities during his 30 years with the Baltimore County Public Schools. In 2005, he became senior advisor and director of communications for Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith. In 2010, he was appointed chief of staff to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
Doug Riley — Mr. Riley is an attorney with the Maryland law firm of Treanor Pope & Hughes, P.A. He has been involved with AU since its very beginning, helping Dr. Berger organize the company in 1998 and serving as AU’s general counsel until joining the advisory committee. Mr. Riley was elected to the Baltimore County Council in 1990 and served for eight years, during which time Dr. Berger was Baltimore County superintendent of schools.
In honor of Black History Month, the seniors at Potter’s House Drop Back In Academy in Duval County, Fla., had the extraordinary opportunity to meet and hear from the engineer who invented the cell phone. Dr. Jesse Russell addressed a group of students from the Potter’s House Christian Academy, and the school and church were delighted to allow our students to attend as well.
Dr. Russell discussed many topics such as, what it means to be an innovator, the fact that there are many people in the field of science and math who make great contributions to our daily lives, the importance of one’s character and the importance of always showing respect. He also discussed the importance of not being afraid to ask the question, “Why not?” It was through asking the question, “Why can’t we put phones on people?” that he started the process of developing the technology that made the cell phone possible.
From left to right: Mrs. Nefertiti Harris, Jerel Jackson, Keith Monroe, Dustin Fleming, Dr. Jesse Russell, Mrs. Maria Ortiz-Ortiz, Tabitha Becks and Lisa O’Brien.
Dr. Russell ended his discussion with a question and answer session during which one of our students, Jerel Jackson, asked “Did you have anyone outside of your family who motivated and inspired you?”
Dr. Russell replied, “Yes, my high school chemistry teacher.” He then continued by explaining that in life we have some teachers who do not “use mediocrity as a measure for excellence.” He further explained that it is this type of teacher who pulls out the best in their students by pushing them to always do their best. His response to this question affirmed the importance of what we do at Drop Back In Academy on a daily basis. We never know the impact that our actions as educators will have on the lives of the students who cross our paths.
The staff and students of Potter’s House Drop Back In Academy enjoyed the experience of meeting the person who invented a device that most of us carry with us and use on a daily basis. It truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Hopefully this experience will inspire our students to think outside of the box and always put forth their best.
To be an effective and successful employee of Alternatives Unlimited, one must be very flexible and ever ready to take on new challenges. The same is true when attempting to be an effective and successful education management company. Education is an ever-changing industry, much like other industries of the 21st century. Alternatives Unlimited is striving to make the necessary changes to stay competitive while still delivering a quality education.
AU is proud to announce that virtual course delivery is on its way to becoming a very integral part of how AU does business. AU has partnered with Blackboard Learn, which is a leading online course delivery platform, to house and deliver our virtual curriculum. The Blackboard platform is currently being used for our summer school program, online SES tutoring program, and, beginning in January 2012, it will be used by our DBI students and our 6th through 12th grade homebound students.
AU’s ultimate goal, for the 2012-2013 school year, is to have a complete K-12 virtual curriculum that aligns with all core standards and can withstand the rigorous state accreditation process throughout the U.S. While this is a very lofty goal, it will be the driving force behind the continued growth of Alternatives Unlimited.