2002 Crystal Star Award Recipients

2002 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Alee Academy: A Progressive Alternative Education Charter School
Lake County School District, Umatilla, Florida

Located in the Southside Shopping Center in Umatilla, The Alee Academy challenges students to fulfill their academic and personal potential. The purpose of Alee Academy is to provide at-risk students, adjudicated youth, and former dropout students the opportunity to develop vocational skills, gain employment, and earn a high school diploma through credit recovery and the GED Exit Option Program in a nontraditional learning environment. Instructional methods include direct teacher instruction, one-on-one tutoring, computer-assisted learning, field trips, individualized instruction, collaborative learning, and work site training. A martial arts curriculum provides an effective means for enhancing the motivational climate of the educational experience. Other unique programs are the sandwich shop, the ropes course, and the boat-building program. Through partnerships with local businesses, the students are aware of and utilize resources that exist beyond the school setting. Graduation rates and test scores have increased each year that Alee has been in existence.


Attendance Improvement and Truancy Reduction Program
Dallas Independent School District, Dallas, Texas

The Attendance Improvement and Truancy Reduction Program was implemented in 1995 and has demonstrated increased annual student attendance rates for all but one year. The Program provides prevention and intervention services to students and their parents prior to court filing and throughout the court process including participation in Parent Information Forums, parent conferences, and providing appropriate social service intervention referrals as needed. The weekly Parent Information Forum served over 10,000 parents and students this year. A random sample of truant students (elementary and secondary) who appeared before a judge was evaluated. On average, 95% of adjudicated elementary students and 74% of adjudicated secondary students improved their attendance after a court appearance. When the Program began in 1995, the attendance rate for the district was 93.3%. The attendance rate for 1999-2000 was 94.8%. As the district’s attendance rate increases, there is an increase in per-pupil funding from the state. As a result of the higher attendance rate, the district received an increase of over eight million dollars.


Wayne Enrichment Center
Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, Indianapolis, Indiana

Wayne Enrichment Center (WEC) was organized in the 1970s. Its purpose is to retain at-risk students in the educational process through high school completion and help them acquire the skills they will need for entry into postsecondary education and/or career training. Approximately 200 students attend WEC each semester, and the majority of them are in grades 10-12. Students referred to the Center have a history of poor attendance, tardiness, lack of achievement, and personal or family problems. A significant number of students are behind in credits needed to graduate, may be a year or more older than their grade level peers, and/or require remediation to pass Indiana’s Graduation Qualifying Exam. The program uses self-paced curricula, technology, employment, internships, and service programs. Course work is completely individualized and prescriptive and is designed to correct deficiencies in basic skills. Social skills are acquired through enrichment activities, school-to-work opportunities, and service-learning projects. WEC was recognized as an Exemplary School by the Indiana Department of Education in April, 2002.


National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Dr. Raymond E. Morley
Iowa State Department of Education

Raymond Morley is the “guru” of alternative education in Iowa. Dr. Morley’s present responsibilities with the Iowa State Department of Education include: Dropout Prevention; Education for the Homeless; School-Based Youth Services Programs; K-12 Initiatives for At-Risk School Populations; Equity Leadership Team; High School Focus Team; Comprehensive School Improvement Team; Health & Fitness Education Team; Success-4 Team (emphasis on personal-social-emotional-behavioral development within school improvement); and Virtual High School Team (utilization of technology in managing and improving learning). He has been a teacher in special education, at the elementary and secondary level, and is a university instructor. Dr. Morley is a prolific writer, with over 50 manuscripts including books, pamphlets, state guidelines and legislation, curriculum guides, and journal articles; including Alternative Education, published by the National Dropout Prevention Center. He recently completed A Framework for Learning Alternative Environments in Iowa and A Checklist of Quality Indicators for Alternative Learning Environments. Dr. Morley is active in the Child Mental Health Initiative (CMHI), a system of mental health services for children in Iowa.


Mr. Marco Orlando
California Department of Education

Marco Orlando has been has spent most of his professional life working with at-risk students. Stops along his educational path include: a high school social science teacher, counselor, continuation school dean, director of guidance, and outreach consultant. He has spent the last 13 years directing the Senate Bill 65 Pupil Motivation and Maintenance Program at the California Department of Education. Mr. Orlando’s relationship with like-minded educators who comprise the Pupil Motivation and Maintenance field colleague group has been among his greatest joys in education. With this talented and dedicated group of educators, the Pupil Motivation and Maintenance Program has created a Dropout Prevention Specialist Certificate at California State University, two manuals on dropout prevention and the Student Success Team process, and a statewide network of technical assistance for 300 schools that work to save children in high-risk situations. He initiated the first statewide trainings to share model programs. These annual trainings were the forerunner of the California Dropout Prevention Conference. Mr. Orlando has made a tremendous difference at the statewide level by his leadership, vision, and commitment.


Dr. Rosella J. Wamser
Regional Superintendent, St. Clair County, Illinois

Rosella Wamser has been with the public educational system in Illinois for over 30 years and has held a wide range of positions: teacher of at-risk high school students, counselor of special needs students, principal, coordinator of a countywide truancy program, assistant county regional superintendent, and is currently the regional superintendent of St. Clair County, Illinois. She has been instrumental in the development of “Project Catch-Up,” an after-school instruction program that assists high school students who have fallen behind in graduation credits to earn the credits necessary to graduate on time. Dr. Wamser continues to play an active role in home visits to truants and their families. This is a practice she began over 15 years ago as coordinator of the Truancy and Optional Education Program for St. Clair County. She believes there is no substitute for personal contact and realizes the impact a visit from the regional superintendent can make. Under her leadership, a program for at-risk youth holds monthly student/parent/teacher sessions. Dr. Wamser established a Safe Schools Program that serves students who are eligible for expulsion and suspension. This “last chance” program has served 300 students from 24 school districts in the last 4 years. She is the current president of the Illinois Coalition for Educating At-Risk Youth (ICEARY). This statewide organization advocates the rights for the best educational services to students who are highly at-risk of dropping out.


2002 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Mr. Walter E. Varner
Division of Student and School Services, Maryland Department of Education

Walter E. Varner is a Specialist in the Program Improvement and Family Support Branch, Division of Student and School Services at the Maryland Department of Education, where he has spent the past 21 years working with programs that focus on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable youth at-risk of not completing high school. Mr. Varner was a member of the office that sponsored the national, award winning, dropout prevention program—Maryland’s Tomorrow. More recently, he has championed the educational needs of Maryland’s children experiencing homelessness as the State Coordinator of Homeless Education. Mr. Varner has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the work of the National Dropout Prevention Network serving in numerous capacities ranging from being a member of its Executive Board from 1995 to 2001, to serving as recording secretary during the year 2000, to chairing the Awards Committee where he was instrumental in establishing the Crystal Star Awards of Excellence in Dropout Prevention, Intervention and Recovery in 1997. In 2000, Walter co-chaired the 12th Annual National Dropout Network conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Additionally, Mr. Varner has been recognized for his leadership and abilities by the Boy Scouts of America with the Silver Beaver Award in 1992. In 2001, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, where he served as president from 1997-1999, presented him the Presidential Award for Exemplary Service to the Association. He has a longstanding record of providing inspiring and courageous leadership in education at all levels, earning him many state and national honors.