By DAVID GREEN
A new alternative high school program through the Lenawee Intermediate School District (LISD) has consequences for the Morenci school district.
Superintendent of Schools Kyle Griffith announced Monday in a closed session of the board of education that he’s leaving his job here to become principal of the new school, the JCC/LISD High School Academy.
The collaboration between Jackson Community College and the LISD will open in September. Completion of the five-year program—blending high school and college courses—leads to an associate’s degree from the JCC.
Griffith will work as the program director until the fall when he’ll assume the duties of principal. He will even teach a few classes at the new school, as he did here in the first seven years of his 18-year career.
The Morenci Board of Education discussed the issue Monday night after Griffith’s announcement and decided to sever ties immediately. Tuesday was Griffith’s final day with the Morenci school district.
LISD superintendent Steve Krusich said Monday afternoon there is an enormous amount of planning ahead and he was looking for Griffith to begin as soon as possible.
The county’s superintendents have discussed the program during recent months, Krusich said, and he noted Griffith’s interest in the development of the school.
Once the principal position was advertised, a large number of applications arrived and Griffith’s was among them.
“We reviewed the applications and spoke only to Kyle,” Krusich said. The hiring committee decided it would be “wasting its time” to interview others.
Griffith describes the academy as a place to address the needs of many under-served students.
“It’s been an unmet need for a long time,” Krusich added.
He said many teachers have success at predicting whether or not an eighth grade student is going to be successful in high school.
It’s not a matter of intelligence, Krusich said. Some students are capable learners but not able to engage in a typical high school setting.
Those students may become moderate achievers, at best, he said, or in the worst case they’ll drop out of school. Success in the academy will lead to a high school diploma plus a two-year associate’s degree
“During the school day, students will be attending the academy on the Adrian campus of JCC,” Griffith said. “Having the program on the campus will be a key variable and has been one of the top priorities of other successful similar ‘middle college’ models nationwide.”
While attending the academy, students will be registered with their home district and will have the option of participating in any after-school activities such as athletics. Students are also able to graduate with their local high school.
Forty students will be admitted to the program this fall as freshmen, then another 40 freshmen will join the following year. Eventually, 200 students will be enrolled in the five-year program.
The program starts with all high school course for freshmen and gradually mixes in college work to become all college courses for the fifth year.
Life management skills will also be taught, Krusich said, such as responsibility, making decisions, being a good listener and financial management.
Prospective students should expect a rigorous entry process, he said, to assess whether or not a student really has the will and ability to be successful.
“I expect a high percentage to achieve their degree,” Krusich said.
For Griffith, the decision to take the job didn’t come easily.
“Although I am excited and honored to be selected to build the program, it also has been a difficult decision to make,” he said. “My entire educational career has been devoted to Morenci and I will truly miss many aspects of this school community.”