Crystal Star Awards of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention, and Prevention

NDPC’s Mission

The mission of the National Dropout Prevention Center is to serve as a research center and resource network for practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to reshape school and community environments to meet the needs of youth in at-risk situations so these students receive the quality education and services necessary to succeed academically and graduate from high school.

Award Purpose

The purpose of the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) Crystal Star Awards of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention, and Prevention is to identify and bring national recognition to outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of the mission of the NDPC.

Award Criteria & Nomination Forms

The Crystal Star Awards of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention, and Prevention are open for nominations from anyone active in the field of dropout prevention. For a program or individual to be recognized, there must be a clear evidence of accomplishments contributing to effective dropout prevention strategies and work that furthers the mission of the Center.

2019 Nomination Packet: Deadline June 29, 2019 (pdf format)
2019 Nomination Packet (fillable format)
Individual Award
Program Award

Award Recipients

2018 Crystal Star Award Recipients

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Program Award of Excellence

EC Cares
Mr. John Hernandez, East Central Independent School District, San Antonio, TX

Mr. John Hernandez formed the EC Cares Committee after involvement in a conference presented by the National Dropout Prevention Center and Hope 4 The Wounded. The EC Cares Committee created a system to identify, track and support students dealing with traumatic events. The team established an initial responder reporting system and training for all campus sta , so that empowered every member to report a student who may be in need. The process included slight changes in the use of the school’s student information system that allowed tracking and follow up across administrative, counselor, and sta levels. The committee’s work initially focused on student attendance and soon expanded to home situations and the struggles of life. In line with national trends regarding depression and anxiety, EC Cares aims to identify 25% of students at each campus to get them the support they need and track them through graduation.

EC Cares developed systems of professional development, collaboration among counselors, sta , and administration, and a local resource guide to connect families and sta to services and support. The EC Cares program has received numerous accolades from local, regional, and national media. John Hernandez consistently shares this signi cant work with attendees at National Dropout Prevention Center conferences and media. Following their example, many local schools are developing similar committees with similar goals. EC Cares has been successful. As of September 2018, students identi ed as beyond at-risk have a higher attendance rate than the district average.

Program Award of Excellence

City Year Columbus
Ms. Tasha Booker, Columbus, OH

City Year is contributing to a clearer and bolder vision of what public schools can and should be for all children: places of learn- ing, exploration and risk-taking, where every student feels safe and connected to the school community; where data is used continuously to help promote student growth and achievement; and where all students have access to positive, caring relation- ships and personalized learning environments that encourage them to persevere through challenges, build on their strengths and thrive.

During the 2017-2018 Academic City Year, AmeriCorps members served more than 12,700 hours tutoring Columbus City School students in Attendance, Behavior, and English Language Arts and Math Coursework. Seventy percent of students enrolled in Behavior interventions showed improvement from October to May. Well over half of students in English Language Arts and Math Academic Interventions showed at least one year’s growth according to to the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress Assessment.

Since 199, City Year AmeriCorps members have positively impacted Columbus’ schools through more than one million hours of service, more than 10,000 community volunteers, and more than 600 corps members.

2017 Crystal Star Award Recipients

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Program Award of Excellence

Family Leadership Institute
Educational Achievement Services, Inc., Las Vegas, NV

The Family Leadership Institute (FLI) is an educational curriculum aimed at parents and caregivers, with the goal of providing them with family leadership skills in order to support academic achievement and life success for their children. The FLI was originally designed to serve immigrant and migrant Hispanic families. Its two main areas of emphasis are, first, to provide participating parents and caregivers with the skills and inspiration needed to enhance their own personal success and to allow them to serve as role models for their children. Second, the program places strong emphasis on parental engagement and attempts to increase parents’ involvement in their children’s education.

The FLI curriculum was developed through the life experience of Lt. Col. Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch (Ret.) and is offered through Educational Achievement Services, Inc., Las Vegas, NV. It has been refined through implementation over the past 20 years. More than 1,000 districts have been exposed to this program in some form. When implemented fully, FLI has demonstrated effectiveness in increasing parent engagement. At the same time, student performance has increased as seen by improved student attendance, lower discipline incidents and retention, and higher academic scores. The effective focus on parent engagement has earned the Family Leadership Institute the Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention, and Prevention.

Changing the World, One Student at a Time Program
Westside High School/Anderson School District Five, Anderson, SC

In the fall of 2013, Thomas A. Wilson, Superintendent of Anderson School District Five, Anderson, SC, contacted the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N) to discuss possible ways the NDPC/N could support his district priority of improving graduation rates. The conversation led to NDPC/N and the district conducting a series of Program Assessment and Reviews (PARs). The goal of the PARs was to develop the schools’ and the district’s capacity for self-directed, continuous school improvement, resulting in more students being able to graduate from high school in a timely manner, prepared for successful transition to their next steps.

The PARs identified areas of focus that align with eight of the 15 effective strategies for dropout prevention as identified by NDPC/N. Comprehensive efforts were made in the areas of Systemic Approach, Safe Learning Environments, Mentoring/Tutoring, Alternative Schooling, Professional Development, Active Learning, Educational Technology, and Individualized Instruction.

Over the course of the next three years, the administration and faculty have worked tirelessly to move from a status quo, fixed mindset to put action behind a vision that has resulted in growth and impact proven by the increase in graduation rate from 70.00% to 78.87%. Particularly effective was the “Changing the World, One Student at a Time” program conducted at Westside High School. The presentation of the Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention, and Prevention honors the district’s intentional and effective effort to increase the graduation rates in their community.

Individual Award of Excellence

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Lori Lamb
Director of Alternative Education, Arkansas Department of Education

As Director of Alternative Education for the Arkansas Department of Education, Lori Lamb is described by peers as a visionary with a diverse range of leadership skills. Mrs. Lamb served as past regional director, vice president, and president of the National Alternative Education Association as she became the voice for alternative education legislatively, both in Arkansas and nationally. Her passion for strengthening alternative education is evident in her work to develop research-based guidelines and indicators to assist programs in designing, implementing, and evaluating alternative education programs. An educator for 34 years, Mrs. Lamb currently serves 22 school districts as an educational partner to all Arkansas school superintendents, developing and presenting organizational structures that allow schools to cultivate learning environments that provide authentic teaching and learning. Her philosophy that professional development must directly impact professional practices and improve student achievement is reected in all she does. As a former foster child and, in partnership with her husband, as a foster parent for 25 young people throughout her career, her passion for developing positive role models for all at-risk children permeates her professional and her personal life. Because she constantly challenges her colleagues to exceed expectations and to keep students at the heart of education through her example and by her actions, Lori Lamb is a recipient of the National Dropout Prevention Network’s 2017 Crystal Star Awards of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention, and Prevention Individual Award.

2016 Crystal Star Award Recipients

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2016 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Award of Excellence for Distinguished Leadership and Service

Mr. Terry Pickeral
Bellingham, WA

Mr. Terry Pickeral, president of Cascade Educational Consultants (CEC) in Bellingham, WA, is making invaluable contributions through his research and policy leadership in youth engagement, school climate, service-learning, civic development, education policy, state and district leadership, and other practices to sustain quality education reform focused on equitable student and community engagement. Through CEC, work with the National Dropout Prevention Center/ Network (NDPC/N), and his other affiliations, Terry challenges education and community leaders to establish a team approach to engaging youth, creating policies, increasing effective school practice, and including all stakeholders in improving education and student success. Terry’s professional development work in service-learning and civic development has helped many schools achieve their civic missions. He facilitates training and technical assistance forums, authors articles, and represents CEC and NDPC/N throughout the U.S. and internationally.


2016 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winner


Dr. Lateshia Woodley
College Park, GA

Since 2008, Dr. Lateshia Woodley has worked as a transformational leader in some of the lowest-performing schools in the State of Georgia. Dr. Woodley has collaborated with the district, state, and the local community to implement a community school model; to assist students in overcoming barriers that hinder success in completion of their goals to graduate from high school. This comprehensive model includes the implementation of initiatives, which include increased learning time for flexible learning options, and advisory/ mentoring, medical, and social/emotional services.

Dr. Woodley’s passion and purpose is driven by her own personal experience as an alternative school graduate and also a teen parent. She is the author of two books titled Why Did You Choose to Get Pregnant and Transforming Alternative Education, that detail her journey. Under Dr. Woodley’s Leadership, McClarin has been recognized as a best practice school by the National Alternative Education Association, received four- and five-star culture ratings from the Georgia Department of Education, and has doubled its graduation rate within one school year. The overall completion rate for students attending McClarin is 80%. Dr. Woodley has proven to be a true advocate for education. She continues to live up to her personal mission, which is to ignite, motivate, and encourage individuals to reach their full potential.


2016 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners



Over the last 25 years, buildOn has grown to become a vast network of global citizens who believe in the transformative power of service and education to create positive change locally and globally. Their mission is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. Engaging more than 4,000 inner-city high school students each month, buildOn empowers youth from underresourced neighborhoods to make a positive difference in their communities while helping people of developing countries increase their self-reliance through education.

Founder, President, and CEO Jim Ziolkowski’s inspiration to start buildOn was born from his travels to some of the most impoverished countries in the world and from his experiences living in Harlem. Jim derailed his fast-track career in corporate finance at GE to dedicate his life to the organization.

buildOn’s Service Learning Program focuses on three core activities: Service, Education, and Building Schools. These activities occur during the school day in classrooms as well as during out-of-school weekends and breaks.

In 2010, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, identified impacting outcomes from the buildOn Service Learning Program such as Empowerment, Civic Engagement, Self-Worth, Academic Engagement, Leadership and Teamwork Skills, Empathy and Compassion, and Personal and Social Development.

buildOn students have completed nearly 1.8 million hours of community service, and each day, 124,000 children, parents, and grandparents attend classes at 953 buildOn schools around the world.


Oakland Opportunity Academy
Wixom, Michigan

Oakland Opportunity Academy (OOA) provides over 200 at-risk students the chance to earn their high school diplomas each year. OOA is Oakland Schools’ Shared Educational Entity (SEE) for alternative education. Students make up classes and credits at OOA while earning their sending school diploma.

Housed in Oakland Schools Career Technical Campus, students take hands-on Career Technical programs while also completing their academic classes. A blended learning model allows self-paced learning, direct teacher and tutor support, and integrated projects to engage learners. Attention to Social Emotional Learning for students is an essential component of every strategy. Most OOA students enter behind in credits and at risk of dropping out. OOA recognizes each student’s risks in a personalized instructional model. Teachers and tutors work individually to coach learning without failure. OOA’s positive school culture ensures students get rewards at each step, learn new success strategies, and complete their high school diploma on time for future college and careers.

Approximately 80% of OOA students have multiple dropout risk factors, yet the school’s 423 graduates since 2010 have beaten the odds.

This highly successful program at OOA is based on a positive and safe school culture, career and academic self-paced learning, recognition of individual student needs, a unified and dedicated instructional staff, and a proven strategy for student engagement and success.

Related Press Coverage:
The Oakland Press


Grad Dog Initiative
Hart County, Georgia

In 2005, with a high school graduation rate of 56%, the Hart County School System in rural north Georgia engaged the National Dropout Prevention Center to conduct a Program Assessment and Review (PAR) to determine the best strategies for improving the system graduation rate. Following the review and recommendations, the system organized a community task force to address the issue and mobilized teams of educators and stakeholders to develop and implement strategies.

In collaboration with the community, the Hart County School System implemented multiple strategies to change the culture and graduation expectations of the schools and the community. Acting on a suggestion from the community, a school system mascot program called Grad Dog Initiative, a bulldog dressed in a cap and gown, holding a diploma was created. The Grad Dog’s image with his motto, “Finish What You Start,” is now posted throughout the community and in all schools. A group of local businesses give t-shirts to all incoming first graders with the Grad Dog, his slogan, and the first graders’ projected year of graduation.

The “Grad Cup Challenge” is an annual event that celebrates friendly competition between rival schools in Hart and Franklin Counties. The school system with the highest past year graduation rate is awarded the trophy at half time during the season’s rival football game, with leaders of both school systems on the field.

The Grad Dog Initiative raised the system graduation rate of Hart County from 56% in 2005 to 94% in 2015. This unique initiative demonstrates how a school system and a community can cooperatively, creatively, and persistently improve graduation rates over time.

2015 Crystal Star Award Recipients

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2015 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Mr. R. Keeth Matheny
Austin, TX

Mr. R. Keeth Matheny has taught on the high school, junior college, college and graduate school levels. He is a strong advocate for the support of all students and especially at-risk students. In his district, Keeth championed the development of a freshman support program that has had remarkable results on student achievement and positive school climate as well as a dramatic reduction in discipline issues at multiple schools. He has helped to create a safer learning environment for all students, dramatically expanded the use of active learning methods of instruction to better reach all students, and led many professional development sessions promoting best practices for teaching and working with at-risk students.

Mr. Matheny has been the driving force behind the creation, implementation, and promotion of Austin Independent School District’s MAPS program (Methods for Academic and Personal Success). The course is designed to support freshmen as they transition into high school by teaching skills to help them succeed in school, relationships, the workforce and life. Over a fouryear period, the MAPS program has helped to reduce freshman course failures at Austin High School by 41%, dropouts by 30% and discipline referrals by 71%.

Mr. Matheny has led professional development sessions for hundreds of teachers in Austin Independent School District in his support role with the AISD Dept. of Social and Emotional Learning. In addition to work training in AISD, he has trained teachers and schools in Fort Worth, Bastrop, Lexington (KY), Chicago, Santa Fe (NM), New York City, and Washoe County (NV). His work in Washoe has been very influential in helping develop SEL programs for eight high schools including more than 800 staff and serving over 15,000 students.

Mr. Matheny has also participated in events to promote national implementation of Social and Emotional Learning. He has been a speaker at many national conferences and the U.S. Congressional Briefing on Social and Emotional Learning in April of 2014.

Keeth’s energy and passion can’t be captured on paper because it lives in the hearts and minds of the groups he speaks to and students he teaches. He wears his heart on his shoulder and students quickly see his genuine love for them, which allows him to have a powerful impact in their lives.

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Dr. Joseph Hendershott
Ashland, OH

Dr. Joseph Hendershott is an exceptional educator who focuses first and foremost on the actual individual needs of students. He understands with crystal clarity that the key to any child’s success as a student requires that schools at every level be staffed with highly trained, empathetic teachers with the skills to welcome, nurture, and guide young people with a wide range of background experiences, many of whom have come from abusive situations. Joe has an extensive background working with difficult and troubled youth in the school system. He has been a high school assistant principal, head principal, alternative school principal and principal at Boys’ Village School (residential treatment facility).

Joe has presented at national educational conferences as well as staff training/professional development events on understanding and working with wounded or at-risk students, emotional literacy, empathy, esteem, inclusive communities, and other topics relevant to today’s educational climate. He has devoted his professional and private life to the development, coordination, and implementation of programs that provide educational professionals, parents, and community groups with the training to keep dropoutprone students in school and on the road to academic success. As Director of Field Experiences for Ashland University, Joe instills passion and empathy in the lives of future teachers as well.

Dr. Hendershott has authored two books, Reaching the Wounded Student, and soon to be released, Seven Ways to Transform Wounded Students.

Joe and his wife, Dardi, are co-founders of Hope 4 The Wounded Educational Seminars, LLC. They have nine children (6 girls and 3 boys) ranging in age from 4 to 25 years old. They are also licensed foster/adoptive parents and have adopted from foster care, Ethiopia, and the China special needs program.

For years, Joe has been involved with the National Dropout Prevention Network. In recent years, he has been a featured, pre-conference, and keynote speaker at NDPC/N conferences. His message of “Reaching the Wounded Student” has impacted the lives and changed the practice of many educators nationwide. As a national speaker and trainer, Joe travels throughout the country, calling for an educational approach that will move wounded students toward the path of healing. Through his impact with educators, the ripples of his message have affected countless students.

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2015 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Owasso Ram Academy
Owasso, OK

Accepted by: Dr. Johanna Woodard

The Owasso Ram Academy is the alternative high school for the Owasso Public School District and serves as the district’s dropout intervention/prevention/recovery program. In 2009 the Owasso Ram Academy was recognized by then Oklahoma State Superintendent Sandy Garrett and the Oklahoma State School Board “for exemplifying excellence in alternative education.”

The Oklahoma State Department of Education and the Oklahoma State Legislature require that alternative schools in Oklahoma build and maintain their programs based on 17 research-based components. Each year this program receives “highly effective” ratings from external evaluators based on these 17 criteria. On average, the Owasso Ram Academy graduates 35-45 students per school year. Students are required to earn 23 credits and meet ACE requirements by taking seven end of instruction tests and scoring proficient on a minimum of four tests. For the 2014-2015 school year, 97% of eligible students met this criteria for graduation.

The Owasso Ram Academy helps students learn to succeed at school by building relationships between students and staff, by providing a strong support system for students and their families, by fostering resiliency and self-efficacy, and by facilitating the improvement of academic, social, and life skills.

The relationships between students and staff last long after graduation as evidenced by the number of graduates who continue to visit years later. Ram Academy works hard to ensure that students see and experience the connection between the classroom and the real world.

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Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce The Leader In Me Program
Vicksburg, MS

Accepted by: Mr. Bryan Pratt, Vicksburg-Warren School District,  Mr. Chad Sealy, Vicksburg-Warren School District, Ms. Jane Flowers, Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

The Leader in Me in the Vicksburg-Warren School District is an excellent illustration of school-community collaboration, the second of 15 effective strategies purported by the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network as effective in dropout prevention. The program was brought to the school district through the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce and continues to be funded by community sponsors.

The Leader in Me is based on the popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. The program is designed to teach children these habits and make them more successful in school and more prepared for after-school life. The 7 Habits is a synthesis of universal, timeless principles of personal and interpersonal effectiveness such as responsibility, vision, integrity, teamwork, collaboration, and renewal, which are secular in nature and common to all people and cultures. Ms. Tammy Burris, Principal of Bowmar Elementary School says, “We have created a stronger desire to lead themselves, and we’ve increased expectations for [students’] behavior. The adults also lead themselves with the 7 habits, and we’re seeing life changes. We are more than test scores at our school; we’re here to help our students become productive citizens for success in life. Because of The Leader in Me, which we started in 2012, we are seeing great results and the impact is growing.”

The Vicksburg Warren School District currently implements The Leader in Me program in seven elementary schools and is increasing support to expand the program to the junior high schools.

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The Hope Center for Kids
Omaha, NE
In Honor of Tye and Terri Schenzel 

Accepted by: Ms. Alyssa Smith, The Hope Center, Ms. Julie Darr, The Schenzel Family

The Hope Center for Kids got started when a youth pastor, Ty Schenzel, from Trinity Church started tutoring and mentoring at a North Omaha housing project “New Jack” in 1994. While building relationships with the youth he had the vision to create a center where many children and youth could be served. In 1998, that vision became a reality as a former Boys Club building was purchased. Today, the Hope Center for Kids offers its 500+ members a place to belong, a sense of security,? and a multitude of opportunities to grow into productive adults.

Hope Center programs empower youth, ages 5-19, to overcome obstacles in the classroom, on the street, and in the workplace. The focus has evolved from being an afterschool drop-in center to a coordinated program that equips youth for success through faith, education, and employment.

The Center meets immediate needs of young people by serving nutritious meals daily through a Kids Café. Daily life skills instruction teaches skills such as self-esteem, personal responsibility, making healthy decisions, and effective problem solving. Hope Center programs help kids realize their full potential and identify their individual strengths through the Gallup Strength Finders curriculum. Education and employment programs at the Center give youth a protected place to succeed academically. The Hope Center partners with parents and schools to monitor grades and promote progress. Teens are also assisted with ACT/SAT preparation, scholarship research,? and college applications. In addition to pursuing higher education, the Hope Center offers intensive employment skills development as well as on-the-job training. This program teaches youth how to attain and maintain a job.

In 2014, the Hope Center served 22,000 meals and reached 1,950 people through family and community events. The Hope Center served 23 elementary schools, 9 middle schools, and 12 high schools. Ninety-five percent of youth hired in the Employability program graduated from high school or received their G.E.D. Records show that 80%? of youth attending The Hope Learning Academy three or more times per week will be on track for graduation. Over the past ten years, over 90% of Hope youth have graduated from high school.

The vision and work of Ty and Terri Schenzel have made a significant impact on the youth of Omaha, Nebraska. Tragically, Ty and Terri lost their lives in an automobile accident this past August. The impact of their lives will live on. Brenda Christensen, board president stated, “The legacy of Ty and Terri Schenzel belongs to the children and families served by staff and volunteers of The Hope Center.” She said The Hope Center for Kids intends to stay and work in the community “until we are no longer needed.”

Crystal Star Award of Excellence for Distinguished Leadership and Service

Dr. Shanan Chappell
Norfolk, VA

Dr. Shanan Chappell currently serves as Research Assistant Professor and Assistant Director for Quantitative Analytics in The Center for Educational Partnerships at Old Dominion University. She holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Old Dominion University, a MEd in elementary education from Regent University, and a BA in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College. Shanan is Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on nearly $30 million in funded educational research activities, performing advanced quantitative analyses and designing quantitative research methodologies for studies occurring in schools across the nation.

Since May of 2012, Shanan has served as a Research Fellow with the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network. During that time, she has participated in the NDPC/N’s Solutions to the Dropout Crisis radio and web broadcasts (June 2012 and December 2014). In May of 2015, Shanan presented the findings of a meta-analysis and meta-regression that analyzed the impact of dropout prevention strategies on dropout and graduation rates. The results were published in a technical report that she co-authored with other NDPC/N Research Fellows and center staff,  A Meta-Analysis of Dropout Prevention Outcomes and Strategies (available on the NDPC/N website).

2014 Crystal Star Award Recipients

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2014 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Mountain Educational Charter High School
Accepted by: Dr. Richard Behrens

Mountain Education Charter High School (MECHS) provides students the opportunities to become successful learners and earn a Georgia High School Diploma. MECHS is an academic, self-paced, individualized, evening high school that serves students who are seeking a nontraditional school environment and have the desire to graduate high school. The locations, scattered throughout the Northeast Georgia region, offer a full range of high school courses in a convenient, flexible, individualized format. Mountain Educational Charter High School allows students who have dropped out of high school to easily enroll and pick up right where they left off. With the economic downturn, many of the local communities in Northeast Georgia have been hit hard and many students find themselves having to work during the day to help support families. Therefore, each site is open from four o’clock until nine Monday through Thursday with extended opportunities for more individualized instruction, depending on student need. “Whatever it takes” is a recurring theme at MECHS and is exemplified by the many services for students to help with attendance and academic performance. The tuition is 100% free for students enrolled full-time. Graduates of MECHS earn an official Georgia High School Diploma and must have completed all state requirements for graduation, including all mandated state tests. Students are also encouraged to continue their education beyond high school graduation.

Edmonton Catholic Schools
Alberta, Canada

To be presented at the 2015 National Forum for Dropout Prevention for Native and Tribal Communities April 28, 2015

After attending a presentation at the 2009 National Forum for Native and Tribal Communities, Edmonton Catholic Schools developed and implemented a graduation coach program in St. Joseph High School. Since its implementation, the threeyear graduation rate of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) students at St. Joseph High School increased from 14.9% to 60.4% by supporting the transition of students from junior high and retaining students as they progress through high school. This significant increase has been accomplished through an innovative model, which includes comprehensive individual and group supports for these students. The role of the Graduation Coach is to provide mentoring and guidance to FNMI students to ensure they are provided with a nurturing and safe environment that supports them as they find a sense of competence and achievement. Graduation Coaches are located at several Edmonton Catholic Schools. Each school has a study center where students can gather to work on projects, utilize computer stations, work with a tutor, attend cultural activities, receive individual counseling supports, or attend career workshops. Graduation Coaches also work with junior high students to ease the transition to high school. This transition can be a stressful phase for students, as they must adapt to changes in environment, education practices, and social structures. Edmonton Catholic Schools consulted with more than 100 schools about the Graduation Coach Program. Several of these schools have implemented a similar program in their own context.

2014 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners


Kelly Tonsmeire Alaska Staff Development Network
Douglas, AK

Kelly Tonsmeire has consistently provided strong statewide leadership in facilitating collaborative interagency dropout prevention efforts. He is the director of the Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN), a nonprofit education organization providing staff development services to all of Alaska’s K-12 teachers, professional and paraprofessional staff, and administrators. Over the past three decades, Mr. Tonsmeire has written and directed U.S. Department of Education and private grants totaling more than 50 million dollars. These added grant dollars have targeted improving student achievement in Alaska’s most persistently low-performing schools and districts. In addition, Mr. Tonsmeire directed the Rural Alaska Principal Preparation and Support (RAPPS) program, designed to support and educate the principals of Alaska’s most remote districts. This program has demonstrated Kelly Tonsmeire’s excellent leadership capacity in facilitating interagency collaboration addressing objectives that school districts, the State, Mr. Tonsmeire, and other parents share in common. Kelly Tonsmeire has also directed the Graduation and Academic Improvement for Native Students (GAINS) project, a four-year program in the Bering Strait School District, aimed at identifying potential dropouts and assisting them to graduation. The GAINS project has increased the graduation rate of the district by nearly 42%. Kelly Tonsmeire and ASDN have consistently and successfully used a continuing process of evaluating goals and objectives to provide an organizational structure that allows each school to develop a learning environment that ensures quality education for all students.

Seith Bedard Peabody Learning Academy
Peabody, MA

Seith Bedard is the Director of the Peabody Learning Academy, a program for at-risk and high school dropouts. Mr. Bedard has worked tirelessly with parents, teachers, administrators, and community members in order to help his students succeed. He has implemented various techniques in order to aid this success. First, Mr. Bedard is a firm believer that participating in community service activities helps his students find a place in the community and empowers them with a new sense of self-worth. Therefore, he has incorporated a monthly community service commitment to the school day. He and his students participate in many community service organizations including but not limited to Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, Hero’s Breakfast, and the Greater Boston Food Bank. Seith Bedard has also created the Community Advisory Board, which is made up of teachers, parents, local business owners, and local politicians. Together, they find and create employment and mentorship programs between small businesses and his students. Mr. Bedard has impacted a population of students that has not been able to be reached by others. He has accomplished this by implementing a great deal of technology and individualized instruction for all of his students. Because “alternative” education carries a certain negative stigma, most students and educators tend to believe that the greatest success for these students would be if they graduate high school. This is not the culture Seith Bedard instills in his staff and students at the Academy. Over the past four years alone, Mr. Bedard is responsible for 65 at-risk students graduating from high school, 40 of these are enrolled in college or a postsecondary program. Seith Bedard’s hard work in seeking alternative methods and the use of technology has not only strengthened the teaching culture of Peabody High School, but has also paved the way for dynamic changes in all classrooms in our district.

Crystal Star Award for Lifetime Achievement and National Impact

Elaine Chao
24th U.S. Secretary of Labor 2001-2009

Elaine Chao is the first Kentucky woman ever named to the President’s Cabinet in Kentucky history. She grew up in a family of six daughters and arrived in America at the age of eight not speaking a word of English. Her experience transitioning to a new life in this country motivated her to devote most of her professional career to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to build better lives.

Secretary Chao has a distinguished career in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. While she was Secretary, the Department of Labor achieved record results in workplace safety and health.

Prior to the Department of Labor, Secretary Chao was President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America, where she restored public trust after it had been tarnished by financial mismanagement. As director of the Peace Corps, she established the first programs in the Baltic nations and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Her government service also includes serving as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation and Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission. She has also worked as a banker with Bank of America and Citicorp.

Secretary Chao earned her MBA from the Harvard Business School and an economics degree from Mount Holyoke College. Recognized for her extensive accomplishments and public service, she is the recipient of 33 honorary doctorate degrees. She is married to Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader of the United States Senate. They reside in Jefferson County. Her Web site is

Secretary Chao’s distinguished career and innumerable honors in the public, private, and nonprivate sectors have empowered all to realize that collaborative and diverse efforts create a better tomorrow for everyone. Her work has demonstrated tireless devotion to improving the lives of others through her professional accomplishments and her personal example of success and determination. It is an honor to present her with the 2014 Crystal Star Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement and National Impact.

Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service


Gov. Steven L. Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear 
Commonwealth of Kentucky

Governor Steven Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear have a real understanding of the importance of education and are determined to help Kentucky’s students achieve at their highest level.

Together, they have dedicated countless hours to dropout recovery, prevention, and intervention services for students. Together they have championed legislation aimed at helping every Kentucky student not only graduate from high school, but also be college- and career-ready. They have worked with legislators from both chambers of the General Assembly to introduce, pass, and implement Senate Bill 97 (SB 97), known as the Kentucky Graduation Bill. Mrs. Beshear, a former teacher, led the call to legislators about the need to support SB 97 to keep students in school. SB 97 is the most far-reaching dropout prevention legislation ever created in Kentucky, raising the dropout age from 16 to 18 for every student in the Commonwealth.

The demonstrated leadership on education issues by Governor Beshear and the First Lady will leave a lasting impact for every student Kentucky serves. The Governor and First Lady have been instrumental in bringing the National Dropout Prevention Network Conference to Kentucky, exposing educators to effective strategies and alternative programs that provide helpful tools in engaging students of any age and grade level. For their leadership and service regarding dropout prevention in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, The National Dropout Prevention Network is pleased to present the Governor and First Lady the Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention and Prevention.

2013 Crystal Star Award Recipients

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2013 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Overcoming Obstacles Life Skills Program
New York, NY

Accepted by: Ms. Erin Capone, Executive Director

Overcoming Obstacles was created by the Community for Education Foundation, an organization dedicated to reforming America’s educational system through social-emotional learning, and was designed to ensure that educators can teach students the skills necessary to achieving mastery of the core social-emotional competencies: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Overcoming Obstacles has been in operation for 21 years and helps educators teach abstract concepts like goal setting and time management through engaging activities, role playing, group discussions, and service-learning at the middle school and high school levels. Through the support of its sponsors, the program is offered at no cost to school districts.

Teachers who use Overcoming Obstacles report better attendance rates, improved school cultures, increases in student employability, and better college readiness. Students note a decrease in bullying and an improved sense of self-esteem as a result of learning the skills taught through the program. Short-term indicators of success include improved academic performance, reductions in school violence, and increased attendance rates while long-term indicators include increased graduation rates, college and career preparedness, and general life satisfaction.

New Directions Alternative Education Center
Manassas, VA

Accepted by: Mr. Robert Eichorn, Principal, Ms. Laura Szupinka, Special Ed./Mathematics Teacher Dr. Marie Sobers, Instructional Coach (Ret.)

New Directions opened in 2004 as a placement for high school students who had been expelled, long-term suspended, or unsuccessful in their base schools. Over the years, New Directions has transformed into a program of choice, serving students with behavioral and academic challenges as well as those who thrive in a nontraditional setting. The program offers small classes with flexible schedules, challenging curriculum, and extracurricular activities in a supportive environment. Through outstanding visions, New Directions has reshaped school and community to meet the needs of at-risk and disenfranchised youth. They have developed multiple dropout recovery programs, have a host of intervention strategies in place, and support all schools in establishing effective prevention programs.

During the last several years the school’s efforts have enabled well over 1,000 at-risk students to graduate from high school. The school continues to expand its vision by providing students and teachers with leadership opportunities, recognizing stake-holders for their achievements, and encouraging the school community to build capacity in others. The implementation of the vision has resulted in on-time graduation rates which exceeded 90% during the last three consecutive years. Collaboration with Prince William County Public Schools has also led to an academic scholarship program implemented by New Directions which has graduated 765 socio-economically disadvantaged students during the last five years.

Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Dr. Karen Cooper-Haber
Columbia, SC

Dr. Karen Cooper-Haber is a tireless and exemplary leader who is creative in her approach to providing programs that work for students at risk of dropping out. She is the Coordinator of Family Intervention Services in Richland School District Two, one of the largest school districts in South Carolina. In this position she created Building Bridges to Success, a program aimed at helping students at risk of failure by focusing on family, school, and community as solutions to the dropout problem. Her program draws upon her experience and expertise in individual and family counseling and employs the 15 strategies for dropout prevention advocated by the NDPC. It includes the following components: school-community collaboration, family engagement, mentoring, after-school opportunities, and service-learning.

Dr. Cooper-Haber’s work in the field of dropout prevention dates back four decades, and she has been an active member of the National Dropout Prevention Network for six years. She recently presented some of her current work on the NDPC/N Solutions to the Dropout Crisis radio webcast. Cooper-Haber has also worked with the South Carolina EEDA At-Risk Student Committee. Recently she is one of only 24 people who have been invited to present at a special symposium to be held by Oxford University in England. Her expertise in counseling, which includes individual, family, and multifamily groups, has supported the healing of many families and restored effective communication and cohesion. Students who successfully complete these intervention services avoid expulsion and develop avenues to get back on track towards graduation.

Dr. Malvine Richard
Wilmington, DE

Dr. Malvine Richard is the supervisor of Nontraditional Programs and School Discipline in Delaware’s Christina School district. She has 33 years of experience in dropout prevention. She was instrumental in the design, implementation, and establishment of the Sarah Pyle Academy for Academic Intensity, which is designed as a two-year program in which students earn credits in an accelerated manner. The school holds the philosophy of “Failure Is Not an Option.” The student population is made up of pupils who have for various reasons been marginalized in their traditional schools. The school offers innovative learning solutions such as distance-learning courses, optional summer programs, dual-enrollment programs, homebound instruction, and home visits from intervention specialists.

All but two courses are taught on an individualized instruction basis, and teachers are required to meet with each student to develop their personalized learning plan. Sarah Pyle Academy was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 16 schools in the nation with exemplary practices for dropout recovery. The changes she has helped implement within the Christina School District are systematic and thorough, and designed to serve kids long into the future. Through her hard work and dedication to at-risk youth, Dr. Richard has been a catalyst of change, and is able to solicit and deliver resources to very high-need individuals and families with discretion and empathy.

Crystal Star Awards of Excellence

Dr. William Bennett
Lifetime Achievement for National Impact

Over the course of his professional life, in education, government and the private sector, Dr. Bennett has been a champion for education and at-risk youth. He is an award winning professor in academia, having taught at Boston University, the University of Texas, and Harvard. He is a three-time confirmed executive in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations including holding two cabinet-level positions, Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan and the Nation’s first Drug Czar under the first President Bush. He is the recipient of more than 30 honorary degrees and author of more than 24 books, including two New York Times Number One best sellers and two of the most successful books of the 1990s. His three volume set of the history of the United States, America: The Last Best Hope, has been widely praised. The volumes have been adopted for school use in the State of Indiana and the City of New York, and are currently being adopted by other school systems around the country and digitalized for distribution.

As the the host of the number seven ranked nationally syndicated radio show, Morning in America, Dr. Bennett provides information, clarity, and a platform for discussion for education and current issues. In his various roles, Dr. Bennett is perceived—even by his adversaries—as a man of strong, reasoned convictions who speaks candidly, eloquently, and honestly about some of the most important issues of our time. Although a well-known Republican, Dr. Bennett often has crossed party lines in order to pursue important common purposes. He has worked closely with Democratic leaders to fight the decline of popular culture and to end worldwide religious persecution.

Thanks to his government positions, writings and speeches, and thousands of media appearances, William Bennett has extraordinary influence on America’s political and social landscape.

Mr. John Peters
Distinguished Leadership and Service
National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, Clemson, SC

After a 25 year career with the United States Air Force, John Peters began a second career with the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network at Clemson University in 1991. In his 22 years with the Center/Network, John has provided leadership in the area of member services, fiscal management, and conferences. In 1997, he assumed leadership of conference operations and has worked with leaders and planning committees across the U.S. to provide opportunities for professional development for more than 20,000 individuals. His attention to detail and follow-through, warm personality, and unique ability to build mutually beneficial relationships has made a strong contribution to the National Dropout Prevention Network. Through those who have been a part of the opportunities John has organized, the lives of many families and young people across the country have been impacted.

In 2011, John received the Abernathy/Cox One Clemson Award from the Clemson Joint City/University Advisory Board for his role in the construction of the Clemson Community Care building and his work with the city to implement a new “utility billing donation program” that allows residents to make a donation for Clemson Community Care through their monthly water bills. He has also provided leadership for Clemson’s adult chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for more than 20 years.

Recently, John has moved to a part-time, but important role with the conference team. We look forward to his continued service in the years to come.

2012 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Berkeley County School District Star Academy
Monck’s Corner, SC

Accepted by: Dr. Kimberly McLaren, Director of Secondary Schools, Berkeley County School District; and Mr. Jonah Bryant, Star Academy Director, Berkeley County School District

Berkeley County School District’s STAR Academy offers off grade-level students the ability to catch up with their peers and to graduate on time. These students may have lost hope or experienced personal, academic, or social challenges in their lives. In this magnet program, identified students complete eighth and ninth grade in one year, continue as a cohort as sophomores, and then qualify for Berkeley Middle College in their junior and senior years. Students with essentially no hope of graduating are now not only graduating on time but many are earning college credits prior to graduation as well.

The Berkeley County STAR Academy gives parents the opportunity to reengage in the education of their children and build a support group with the staff. STAR gives students the opportunity to become productive teens and successful adults by providing a rigorous course of study that embraces hands-on learning, real-world learning experiences, individualized instruction, team instruction, and personal development.

Fred C. Beyer High School – AdvancedPath Academy
Modesto, CA

Accepted by: Ms. Terri Salaiz, Team Leader, Fred C. Beyer High School, AdvancePath Academy; and Mr. Nick Stine, Regional Vice President, California, AdvancePath Academy

Lead Teacher Terri Salaiz at the Fred C. Beyer High School – AdvancePath Academy in Modesto, California, often quotes a phrase she heard at a teachers’ conference: “As teachers, we should first never take away hope.” She and the teaching team at Fred C. Beyer High School – AdvancePath Academy have seen many students who have indeed lost all hope of graduation or for a better life. This teaching team does not accept this negative outcome and challenges students to understand their worth and ability to succeed on their own terms. Leveraging the power of research-based instructional and behavioral strategies, the Academy’s team guides and supports students’ learning efforts—succeeding with 9 out of every 10 youths they reach.

Enthusiasm, transparency, and all-around engagement seem to be the source of this Academy’s remarkable achievements. The statistics from the 2011-2012 school year demonstrate the overall effectiveness in improving educational outcomes for at-risk students: The Academy served 237 students during the academic year, most of whom were 40-45% credit deficient (1 – 1.5 years behind) upon enrollment. Over 50% of them (125) earned their District diploma. Seventy of the remaining students have returned to the Academy this year, on track to graduate, having closed their deficiency gap to 10-15%. Twelve are now able to return to their comprehensive high school site. One more factor in this outstanding success rate is a strong commitment to attendance. The Academy is proud to report an astonishing attendance rate of 87%. It is also worth noting that only three discipline referrals were accumulated during the recent past school year—another amazing accomplishment when compared with the immediate past record of 250 referrals from among 10 students, acquired prior to coming to the AdvancePath Academy. The AdvancePath Academy is an outstanding testimony to the impact a successful dropout prevention program can have on students, families, a school district, and the broader community.

Individual Awards

Elaine Fahrner
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
Nashville, TN

Elaine Fahrner has nearly 30 years of experience in the field of education. At the close of the 2008-09 school year, Fahrner was selected as the start-up principal of The Academy at Old Cockrill, a high school that gives at-risk students and dropouts a new beginning. The school accommodates roughly 125 students at a time. In just three years, Fahrner has helped more than 500 students earn high school diplomas.

Elaine believes everyone should be accepted as they are; recognized for their achievements, and feel they are a part of something and not alone. Elaine’s heart is with the at-risk student. Elaine was the recipient of the 2012 “Key to Success in Educational Excellence Award” from the National Alternative Education Association (NAEA). The Academy at Old Cockrill was also recognized by the NAEA for being one of three best programs in America! As a result of this prestigious award she was invited to speak in San Diego at the 2012 National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) Symposium. Here she presented a breakout session about The Academy at Old Cockrill. Elaine has also been a consistent presenter at National Dropout Prevention Center conferences.

Jon Heymann
Communities In Schools of Jacksonville
Jacksonville, FL

Jon Heymann leads Communities In Schools of Jacksonville, an organization that serves almost 7,000 at-risk students in Duval County. Aside from acting as CEO, he has also been a mentor for the past eight years and urges all Communities In Schools staff to be part of the organization’s mentoring program. Through his service on a variety of boards, Heymann has an impressive and proven record of helping youth in our community and throughout the nation.

This year, under Jon’s leadership, Communities In Schools of Jacksonville assisted with Mayor Alvin Brown’s Mayor’s Mentors program, recruiting more new mentors for at-risk students than any other program involved in the citywide initiative. Communities In Schools recruited, trained, and placed more than 185 new mentors during the three-month campaign this past spring.

The Stanford University Social Innovation Review called Jon Heymann one of America’s “transformational leaders.” Last fall, the Journal for the University’s Graduate School of Business cited Heymann as an example of the kind of business leader who “creates trusting relationships by challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision, enabling others to act, modeling the way and encouraging the heart.” Most recently, Heymann earned the Rotary Club of South Jacksonville’s annual Good Government Award for his efforts and success in dropout prevention in Duval County.

Distinguished Leadership and Service Award

Linda Harrill
Communities In Schools of North Carolina
Charlotte, NC

Linda Harrill joined Communities In Schools in 1989 as North Carolina’s first state director, serving the organization there with the exception of one year at the national office as vice president for Field Operations. She worked with the governor’s office to establish the North Carolina Mentoring Partnership and North Carolina Promise Summit.

For more than 40 years, Harrill has been involved in education as a former teacher, administrator, education consultant, and university instructor. She graduated from Radford University in Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and received her master’s degree in education from North Carolina State University. She has done postgraduate work in educational administration and curriculum and instruction, and has completed all of her doctoral studies in educational administration.

She received the “Long Leaf Pine,” the highest civilian honor in North Carolina, for her contributions to education; the 2007 North Carolina State Alumni of the Year for Education; and the UNC-W Razor-Walker Award. In 2012, she received the Triangle Business Journal Women in Business honor; was named the NC Business Leader Woman Extraordinaire; and received MENTOR’s Manza Excellence in Leadership Award. She has been a member of numerous state and national advisory councils and boards, including MENTOR’s Mentoring Partnership Advisory Council. She has been a driving partner in the implementation of the National Dropout Prevention Network’s Annual At-Risk Youth National Forum, held each February in Myrtle Beach, SC.

2011 Crystal Star Award Recipients

2011 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Deb Dillon
Fargo Public Schools
Fargo, ND

Deb Dillon, Principal of Woodrow Wilson High School and Director of Alternative Programs in Fargo Public Schools, was honored by the National Dropout Prevention Network with a Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Dropout Prevention at the 2011 National Dropout Prevention Network Conference, held October 9-12, 2011, in Schaumburg, IL. Ms. Dillon started teaching high school English and journalism in Iowa and Ohio. Since moving to Fargo, North Dakota, in 1985, she has directed and built a dropout prevention program and served as a high school dean of students, middle school assistant principal, alternative high school principal and district director of alternative programs. She holds a B.S. in journalism from Iowa State University, an M.S. in counseling from the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and an Education Specialist degree in administration from North Dakota State. Deb Dillon has spent her career working with alternative and at-risk students. As with many new teachers, she was initially assigned the “difficult” students no one else wanted. Unlike many, she was drawn to and excited by these students and has continued to focus on them and their particular needs. She particularly credits the Fargo Public Schools for their exceptional support of nontraditional students and their willingness to honestly tackle the issue of dropout prevention.



2011 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service


Dr. Robert Shumer
University of Minnesota

Dr. Robert Shumer of the University of Minnesota was honored by the National Dropout Prevention Network with a Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Distinguished Leadership and Service at the 2011 National Dropout Prevention Network Conference, held October 9-12, 2011, in Schaumburg, IL. This award is the highest award given by the Network. Robert Shumer has been involved in education for more than 40 years. He has taught from middle school through graduate school. Dr. Shumer is the former Director of Field Studies at UCLA and the past founding Director of the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse and co-director of the Center for Experiential Education and Service Learning at the University of Minnesota. He was also the past President of the Minnesota Evaluation Association and current board member of the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement. He has served as the president of the National Experience Based Career Education Association in the 1980s, as well as an officer in the California Alternative School Network. Dr. Shumer has served in various editorial/journal capacities, including editor of the Information for Action: A Journal for Research on Service-Learning for Children and Youth, as well as advisor to the NDPN International Journal on School Disaffection. He has presented across the country and around the world on topics related to service-learning, civic engagement, and theories of learning and action. He currently teaches courses on civic engagement, participatory evaluation, and constructivist curriculum. Dr. Shumer has written more than 80 books, book chapters, and articles and monographs on topics related to education and social change; and has conducted more than 25 research/evaluation studies on national service, service-learning, civic engagement, and participatory evaluation. Dr. Shumer has spent his lifetime attempting to connect educational programs with the community. From elementary and secondary schools, to colleges and universities, to community-based organizations, he has promoted and developed programs that focus on active learning, learning connected to community and real world contexts, and active engagement of students in the development and evaluation of their own educational programs. He continues to believe students don’t drop out of school or life when their learning is active, project based, relationally connected, personally meaningful, and contributes to the well being of society. Dr. Shumer’s contributions to the Network have been exemplary. From serving on the editorial board for the International Journal of School Disaffection, to writing for publication, (including a monograph, Youth-Led Evaluation), to presenting conference presentations and pre-sessions, to participating on Performance Assessment Review teams for the National Dropout Prevention Center, Dr. Shumer has shown a great capacity to work within our organization to reach our common goals.


2011 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners


The College of Lake County Educational Talent Search
Lake County, IL

Accepted by: Michael Pettis, Sylvia Johnson, Sharon Sanders-Funnye, Ana Elizarraga, and Trendelle Vaughn

The College of Lake County Educational Talent Search, was honored with a Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Dropout Prevention. Pictured in the attached photo are Michael Pettis, Sylvia Johnson, Sharon Sanders-Funnye, Ana Elizarraga, and Trendelle Vaughn, who all attended the conference and accepted the award. The College of Lake County (CLC), a two-year comprehensive community college located in Lake County, IL, is the primary postsecondary institution serving student populations who are first-generation and low-income households. CLC will continue its successful Educational Talent Search Program by serving 850 eligible student participants from its four target high schools: North Chicago Community High School, Waukegan High School, Round Lake Area High School, and Zion-Benton Township High School. The Educational Talent Search Program at the College of Lake County has filled programmatic voids at the target schools by providing connections to educational services such as academic advising to low-income, potential first-generation college students, as well as providing direct academic assistance services, tutoring and test preparation, financial aid assistance and financial literary services, career mentoring, help in applying to postsecondary institutions, college visits, technology instruction, and personal growth workshops and seminars. Parental involvement is strongly emphasized throughout the program duration. The Educational Talent Search program hopes to continue to foster student skills and provide a strong foundation that prepares them directly for enrollment, success, and degree attainment in postsecondary education. The CLC Educational Talent Search Program provides the services and support needed to improve the performance of its participants based on its objectives. Program data over the last three years indicates the following: Persistence Rate – 90% average (exceeds mandated outcome); Graduation Rate – 94% average (exceeds mandated outcome); Postsecondary Enrollment Rate – 65% average (increased to 86% in year three); Number of students enrolled over last three years – 901 (average)—exceeds total number mandated to serve; and more than two-thirds of enrolled participants are first-generation students from low-income households (exceeds mandated amount of two-thirds). Educational Talent Search has created a coordinated, collaborative, and cost-effective college access strategy, working with established community and school partners, and expanding the program’s reliance on the many resources available through CLC.


Sarah Pyle Academy
Wilmington, DE

Accepted by: Ms Sharon L. Hill, EDd, Dr. Malvine C. Richard, and Ms Tami Rappa.

Sarah Pyle Academy, Wilmington, DE, was honored with a Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Dropout Prevention. Pictured in the attached photo receiving the award from the Executive Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network are Ms. Sharon L. Hill, ED& Graduation Guide; Dr. Malvine C. Richard, Principal; and Ms Tami Rappa, English Teacher. Sarah Pyle Academy is an academically accelerated, nontraditional high school in the Christina School District with a student population of 160. Students succeed due to smaller class size, computer-based learning programs, concentration on academics, collegial/family orientated student/staff relationships, strict behavioral/conduct expectations, goal setting, and an accepting environment. At SPA students are empowered. The empowerment includes a restoration of a sense of self dignity, the respect they see themselves held in by fellow students and staff, their academic and life achievements, their graduation from high school and the positive direction their lives take after leaving Sarah Pyle. Many of the students who come to Sarah Pyle have been told they are unable to learn, unmotivated, and a slew of other negative adjectives. They have been marginalized as human beings, often because of their race, their labeling as special education, their socioeconomic standing or their family situations. At Sarah Pyle we not only tell them that they are no longer marginalized but demonstrate to them that they are at the very center of the future, their own as well as their neighborhood’s, society’s, and their country’s. Sarah Pyle is now in its seventh year. Last year 55 students out of a student population of 155 graduated. In total there have been over 500 graduates in the past six years. The majority of those graduates are now pursuing postsecondary educational opportunities. Sarah Pyle’s success is their students’ success and those successes continue to grow each year


Wilson County Department of Social Services Success in School Program
Wilson, NC

Accepted by: Tracey Mooring and Nekia Lyons

Wilson County Department of Social Services Success in School Program was honored with a Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Dropout Prevention. Tracey Mooring, Child Care Supervisor, and Nekia Lyons, Teen Parent Case Manager, received the award from the Executive Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, Dr. Sam Drew at the Awards Luncheon. The Wilson County Department of Social Services’ Success in School Program targets teenage custodial parents receiving childcare subsidy to continue attending school and obtain a high school diploma. WCDSS obtained a two-year grant funded through North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction, Dropout Prevention and Intervention Program to implement Success in School in August 2008. The Success in School incorporates a strengths-based, intense case management intervention while providing “best practice” strategies grounded in a System of Care approach to encourage, support, educate, and motivate teenage parents to continue their goal of achieving a high school diploma, parenting education, tutoring, job readiness training, summer employment opportunities, pregnancy prevention counseling, mentoring, financial education, and money management are provided to students. The school dropout rate is 63% for these students. Excessive absenteeism, poor academic performance, lack of transportation, lack of parental support, teen pregnancy, lack of resource information, and the increased stress of peer and parental relationships were the reasons cited for dropping out of school. Financial difficulties were also cited as a major reason for teen parents dropping out of school. Success in School (SIS) relies on strong case management support and offers intense programs/services for teenage parents. SIS also implemented a Teen Employment Mentoring Program (TEMP) component in 2010. Teens are matched with local employers who provide work experience and mentoring. Teens are provided opportunities to learn work, life and social skills after school and during the summer to prepare them for success in school, work and life. The program achieved the following outcomes annually: 2008/2009 School Year—89% of teen parents remained in school and/or graduated; 2009/2010 School Year—85% of teen parents remained in school and/or graduated; 2010/2011 School Year—80% of teen parents remained in school and/or graduated.


Center Grove Alternative Academy
Greenwood, IN

Accepted by: Beth Bryant and Carol Tumey

Center Grove Alternative Academy of Greenwood, IN, was honored with a Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Dropout Prevention. Presenting the award to Beth Bryant, Director of the Academy, and Carol Tumey, President of the Center Grove School Board of Trustees, was Dr. Sam Drew, Executive Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network. (photo attached) Center Grove Alternative Academy (CGAA), established in 2008, promotes educational excellence by equipping students with knowledge and skills that will help them lead a better life and be contributing citizens to their community while earning their high school diploma. CGAA serves a variety of students. Juniors and seniors are referred by their counselor due to struggles emotionally, educationally, personally, or financially. Students attend CGAA in the morning or afternoon block. In addition, they are required to maintain meaningful employment or attend the partnering vocational school. The online mastery curriculum, which meets all standards set by the Indiana Department of Education, allows students to work at their own pace. All CGAA students receive a Center Grove Community High School diploma. They are encouraged to take part in school sponsored events (prom, graduation, and senior activities) which allow them to maintain a positive connection with the high school. On a weekly basis, students have the opportunity to participate in a one-hour group session with a licensed social worker. Guest speakers from the community also present valuable information to the students about transitioning after high school; emphasizing college, employment, budgeting, and positive choices. Giving back to the community is a strong component for CGAA. Students volunteer at a local food bank, elementary schools, or an assisted living facility. Impressively, CGAA students currently operate the only student-run food pantry in the state of Indiana. On a weekly basis, the CARE Pantry serves 100+ needy residents of Johnson County. In addition, CGAA also has an evening program called Options. Students (grades 9-12) who attend Options may be referred due to medical conditions, release from incarceration, credit recovery, or as an alternative to expulsion. Students follow the same online mastery curriculum as CGAA. All students who attend Options transition back to their home school. One student said the following about CGAA, “I feel I have changed my life and will forever walk with my head up knowing that I have changed it for the better. I am not asking you to forget my past, but recognize that I now have a future!” Giving hope, providing support, and encouragement changes the lives of many students who were once broken emotionally and educationally.

2010 Crystal Star Award Recipients

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2010 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

The Olympia Learning Center
Columbia, SC
Accepted by: Nathan White, Principal, Olympia Learning Center

Throughout the years, Olympia has tried to change the negative stigma associated with alternative school. Since the reformation of ideology in 2002, Olympia has changed the way Richland School District One works with those students, who because of various factors may not be served in a regular school setting. Two vital components in this approach are building relationships and providing opportunities for change.

The mission of the Olympia Learning Center is to provide opportunities for students to reach their maximum potential through diverse and innovative academic, career, support, and life skills programs in an alternative setting using non-traditional and challenging approaches that foster collaboration among staff, parents, post-secondary institutions, and community agencies. This is accomplished by creating a continuum of services that lead to permanent change. The Junior Success Program (Middle School) High School Program and the STAR Academy at Olympia Learning Center offer students an opportunity that leads to change in behavior, academia, and social etiquette. The Olympia Learning Center programs built its foundation by reminding students that success is not something that they have to watch from afar. Every time they master a concept, participate in the service learning projects, or work cooperatively for the good of their academic and personal communities, they experience success.

The Choctaw Alternative Transitional School (CATS)
Choctaw, OK

Accepted by: Mrs. Dawn Eaves, Director

The Choctaw Alternative Transitional School (CATS) was founded in 1995, and serves approximately 120 high school students throughout the school year from Choctaw-Nicoma Park, Luther, and Jones School Districts. Students attend evening classes at Choctaw High School and participate in daytime learning such as career-tech, post-secondary concurrent enrollment, community service, and work-site learning. The program serves students who have not been successful in a traditional learning environment and provides them with opportunities to earn their high school diploma, gain self-esteem, and develop lifelong learning habits.

Our academy is a school of choice that has caring, dedicated, and professional educators. Each student participating in the program receives an individual plan to meet academic and graduation goals; a career-development plan of study; and a network of teachers, counselors, and workplace mentors to assist them in meeting their goals. The educational components that are included in our program are the keys to its success. With a self-paced and competency-driven curriculum, students must score 80 percent or better before advancing to the next unit within a course. The extensive use of individual counseling, life skills instruction, art education, work-based learning experiences, community service, and career-tech programs are also a vital part in the success. Students complete requirements for graduation and leave our program with life skills to become productive citizens. All of the students in the program are potential dropouts or dropout recovery students. This program has significantly and consistently helped keep the dropout rate for these schools below state average.

North Vista Education Center
Plymouth, MN

Accepted by: Lea Dahl, Principal and Eric Michelsen, Program Facilitator,
Area Learning Center, Intermediate District 287

North Vista Education Center (North Vista), a program of Intermediate District 287’s Area Learning Center, located near North Minneapolis, opened its doors in 1984. Since that time, the program has successfully served hundreds of students who are pregnant and parenting and/or in need of developing basic skills and recovering high school credit. At North Vista secondary students can earn academic credits that meet the state requirements for graduation as well as participate in a work experience program. Special features of the program include parenting and life skills coursework for all students and tailored classes for English Language Learners.

North Vista supports pregnant and parenting students with a fully licensed onsite day care where parent-child specialists’ care for children ages six weeks through preschool. The day care-Early Learning Center is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. In addition, a nurse is available to monitor the development of the pre and postnatal mothers and babies and to assist the parent(s) with health and safety issues. Funding for this program is provided in part by Hennepin County Community Services.


2010 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Award for Students with Disabilities Program Award

Robin J. Morrison
Miami, FL

Ms. Robin J. Morrison is the Instructional Supervisor for Clinical Behavioral Services for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She oversees the development of academic, behavioral, and clinical services for Programs for Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities. Ms. Morrison is responsible for the coordination of Functional Assessment of Behavior, Physical Restraint, Response to Intervention for Behavior, and School-wide Positive Behavior in her district. In addition, to the above areas, she is in charge of monitoring activities for SPP Indicator 2: Dropout for Students with Disabilities and Indicator 4: Suspension and Expulsion for Students with Disabilities.

Ms. Morrison has presented at the following conferences: The 2nd and The 3rd Annual Secondary Transition State Planning Institute, in Charlotte, North Carolina on Reducing the Dropout Rate in Miami-Dade; The 2009 OSEP Project Director’s Conference, in Washington, DC, on Building Effective Interventions in Dropout Prevention: An Urban School Approach; and The 2009 Building Effective Practices in Dropout Prevention: A Summit for State and Local Education Agencies on the Advance Stages of Dropout Prevention Implementation and the Effective Principles of Leadership at the District Level.

2010 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Craig Zeno
Houston, TX

Craig Zeno, is a Graduation Coach for the Houston Independent School District. He worked as a Dropout Prevention Specialist before accepting his current position in July of 2010, and served as a probation officer with the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. Prior to his employment with HISD, Zeno also held management positions at Neighborhood Centers, Inc. and Workforce Solutions.

As a Graduation Coach, Zeno counsels students in academics, career, and personal concerns in order to promote school completion. A former dropout himself, Zeno often uses his own experiences to help struggling students find hope in their lives, and to recognize the many opportunities for success that are still available to them.

Zeno has been featured in a number of local news stories and online articles for his work, including the Wall Street Journal (October 2008), the Wall Street Journal: Classroom Edition (January 2009), The Story with Dick Gordon (2008), Grad Lab: New Weapon in Dropout Battle (October 2010) Former homeless dropout turns life around | (September 2010), High School Dropouts Offered Alternative School Hours – KIAH (September 2010), and Grad Lab Boot Camp’ Gives Students a 2nd Chance (August 2010).

A native Houstonian, Zeno attended Golfcrest Elementary School, Contemporary Learning Center, and Charles Milby High School. He earned a peace officer’s license from the University of Houston-Downtown Police Academy and a bachelor’s degree in the administration of justice from Texas Southern University.

Brenda Reeh
North Las Vegas, NV

Mrs. Reeh was born in Houston, TX, and started school there in 1965. By the time she graduated from high school she had attended 13 different schools and still managed to be the class salutatorian. After one year at college she got married and 31 years, 4 children, and 6 grandchildren later she is still married. Mrs. Reeh returned to college when her youngest son went to kindergarten in 1993 and currently holds three degrees with the latest one an Ed.S in Leadership and Administration. She has lived in Texas, Utah, Idaho, Alaska, and now Nevada. Her four children and their families live within 10 miles of her home.

Brenda began working with high school dropouts approximately 15 years ago in Alaska. She would seek them out in places where they were trying to stay warm and bribe them with candy bars to talk to her. She learned the reasons they left school and what might have helped them stay in. Her research told her that students need a caring adult at school and she has tried to be that adult for many years. The last ten years have been spent mostly on prevention work. There is research that shows most children who will eventually drop out can be spotted in 2nd or 3rd grade. She is starting her tenth year working at Quannah McCall Empowerment Elementary in North Las Vegas, Nevada. It is an area of high crime and poverty. Her second year at school one of her students saw her uncle shot and killed in their driveway as she walked home from school.

Mrs. Reeh has worked in this community to help improve academics, parental and community involvement in the school, as well as make connections with students. She seeks out former students who are in high school and encourages them to graduate. She makes sure to fulfill the other needs of children for food, clothing, shoes, and more. Most importantly she tries to instill the hope for a better future by staying in school. She is very passionate about education and wants all children to.

Aaron L. Smith
Newport News, VA

A 2008 graduate of Old Dominion University with a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Dr. Aaron L. Smith is currently an Assistant Principal at Gildersleeve Middle School in Newport News, Virginia. He has over a decade of experience in the classroom as a mathematics teacher and administrator on the middle and high school level. His dissertation focused on comparing alternative teaching certification routes to that of traditional teaching certification in conjunction to SOL results. He is the recipient of the 2006 WHRO Technology Administrator of the Year and is an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University where he instructs at the graduate level on Best Teaching Practices and Foundations of Education. Dr. Smith has been invited to speak on the local, state, and national levels on topics from data to dropout prevention.

Dr. Smith is an educator who consistently demonstrates leadership, vision and creativity in dropout recovery, intervention and prevention efforts for Newport News Public Schools. Over the past two years, Dr. Smith has used his talents and expertise to build the strategic supports and collegial relationships necessary to achieve the division’s benchmarks and achieve the goals established around dropout prevention, recovery and on-time graduation. His SAFE (Save All Freshmen Everywhere Program) that was developed in 2009-2010 to identify, monitor and initiate a plan to get students back on track for retained freshmen generated an 89% promotion rate in its first year. Dr. Smith is an innovative and reflective educator who has breathed new life and energy into the high school program, specifically focusing on the freshman year experience. His success as a building administrator has been instrumental in furthering the division’s efforts to ensure all freshmen transition successfully into high school and are afforded the supports and opportunities necessary to graduate college-, career- and citizen ready for the 21st century. He is happily married to Sherri Smith and they have three children, Hunter, Ryan Claire and Addison.

2010 Crystal Star Award of Excellence for Distinguished Leadership and Service

Michael Carter
Dayton, OH

Michael Carter currently serves as Interim Senior Vice President at Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio. Mr. Carter has been with the Sinclair Fast Forward Center since its inception in 2001 and served as director from 2004 to 2010. From 2007 to 2010, he served in the dual role of Senior Director of High School Linkages. A former public school teacher, administrator and coach, he has over 30 years experience working with young people. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wittenberg University and a Master of Science in Education from Wright State University. Mr. Carter has been a presenter at the National Urban Education Conference (2000, 2003, and 2005), the National Dropout Prevention Conference (2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2009), the National At-Risk Youth Forum (2004, 2009) and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (2006, 2010).

In 2001, the Montgomery County dropout rate was 25.6% and has since been cut to 12.6%. Fast Forward Center partner high schools have produced over 2,100 graduates. The Fast Forward Center is regarded as a national model for dropout recovery by the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N) at Clemson University, and has provided technical assistance for over 20 programs and cities throughout the country. The Fast Forward Center received the NDPC/N Crystal Star program award in 2005.

2009 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners


Butler Tech’s Options Academy – Wokini
West Chester, OH

Accepted by: Ms. Laura Sage, Supervisor for Options Academy – Wokini

Options Academy – Wokini is the alternative high school that is operated by Butler Tech and serves students in the Lakota School District. Wokini is a nontraditional options program that serves at-risk students who are in ninth through twelfth grades. At risk is defined as being behind in school credits and/or having barriers to learning, such as mental health issues, behavior issues, substance abuse issues, and low socioeconomic status. Last year, Wokini students earn
ed an average of 6.24 credits, compared to 1.83 credits from their traditional school the year before. In addition, average attendance was 97% (as compared with 76% from the year before). Wokini had 100% of students without expulsions and 97% of students without suspensions.

Wokini focuses their efforts on three areas: Personalized Education Program (PEP), COMPASS Program, and service learning. The PEP cultivates and designs a specific program and educational path for each student. PEP is put together with input from the teacher, student, parent, and social worker. The COMPASS Program is a mandatory social-emotional learning program that ALL students are required to complete each year. The COMPASS Program teaches and reenforces the common values and culture of the Wokini school environment. COMPASS covers areas such as anger management, anti-bullying, group skills, and interpersonal skills. Service learning involves all areas of Wokini. Students are expected to be involved in service learning at Wokini. Service learning projects are investigated and initiated by students, with the guidance of staff. Past service learning projects have included sponsoring a school in Kasunga, Malawi (Africa), being “Big Buddies” to first graders, and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House. Emphasis is put on service to others, COMPASS values, and reinforcing educational concepts.

Lessons Learned:

  • Ongoing evaluation of the program is important to determine if the interventions are continuing to be effective.
  • Commitment to the program from district administration, the Governing Board, and school leadership contributes to the success of the program.
  • Communicating effectively and often to school site staff as to how their efforts have paid off promotes support for the program.
  • Communication to the school board and local media keep parents and community members aware of the efforts used to keep students in school and promote support for the program. Having a “Go To” person who can answer questions and provide direction to interventions is important for the staff at all of the school sites.
  • Writing protocols for what to do when a student drops out or doesn’t show up to enroll has proven to be successful in maintaining accurate data.
  • Designating a district liaison with community collaborative, law enforcement, and the courts has made providing interventions easier for students’ and their parents’ follow up on the court’s recommendations.

Grossmont Union High School District’s Dropout Prevention Program
El Cajon, CA

Accepted by: Mr. Robert Collins, Superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District

The Grossmont Union High School District’s Dropout Prevention Program began in the spring of 2004 with a multipronged approach to addressing the district’s dropout problem. We looked carefully at the things that were early indicators of dropout risk. These included school attendance/truancy, course completion, and alternative education options. Since that time there have been numerous overarching programs put in place. These include a more extensive School Attendance Review Board (SARB) process where students who are considered habitually truant are brought through a series of interventions. The district also hired five dropout prevention specialists whose sole purpose is to work with students who have stopped coming to school or who are at risk of stopping. They act as the liaison between the family, the juvenile justice system, and the school and provide the families with educational options, referrals to counseling support, bus passes, etc. in order for the students to continue attending school.

As we have worked with students who have demonstrated risk factors for dropping out our need for more educational options has increased. The demand for these programs continues to increase as we intervene with students early and attempt to provide individualized educational options. As a result we have begun opening learning centers that offer online curriculum under the supervision and support of highly qualified teachers. With the concerted, combined efforts of many staff in the Grossmont Union High School District and the interventions that have been put into place, our dropout rate was shown to be 2.6%, with the county and state’s rate being 6%.


Lessons Learned:

  • Ongoing evaluation of the program is important to determine if the interventions are continuing to be effective.
  • Commitment to the program from district administration, the Governing Board, and school leadership contributes to the success of the program.
  • Communicating effectively and often to school site staff as to how their efforts have paid off promotes support for the program.
  • Communication to the school board and local media keep parents and community members aware of the efforts used to keep students in school and promote support for the program. Having a “Go To” person who can answer questions and provide direction to interventions is important for the staff at all of the school sites.
  • Writing protocols for what to do when a student drops out or doesn’t show up to enroll has proven to be successful in maintaining accurate data.
  • Designating a district liaison with community collaborative, law enforcement, and the courts has made providing interventions easier for students’ and their parents’ follow up on the court’s recommendations.

SUCCESS Program of the Des Moines Public Schools
Des Moines, IA

Accepted by: Ms. Margaret Connet, SUCCESS Program Manager

The SUCCESS Program of the Des Moines Public Schools connects schools with families and the community to expand opportunities for students to graduate. SUCCESS is a year-round, school-based youth and family services program that serves children and families from prenatal through age 21. The goal of the program is to ensure that children are born healthy and receive supports necessary to prepare them to begin school ready to learn, achieve success in the classroom, and graduate from high school. Research and results-based accountability strategies include intensive case management, drug and violence prevention, positive youth and family development, parenting education, and after-school and summer programs to address barriers to learning and reengage disconnected students. The SUCCESS Program builds on the assets and strengths of children, youth, and families and treats all with dignity and respect.

Forty-two case managers in 30 schools provide long-term coordination of support services to meet social, emotional, and behavioral needs so that students succeed academically. Case management includes building trusting and caring relationships, assessment of need, identification of personal goals, collaboration with community agencies, advocacy in accessing services, and follow-up with the entire family. Support for families includes the areas of education, employment, mental health, health, substance abuse, mentoring, and recreation. Home-visiting; skill building groups; transition between pre-school, elementary, middle, and high school; support services for pregnant and parenting teens; assistance to new immigrants; and on-site connection in school buildings are a few of the strategies provided for families who may not otherwise access resources. In 2007-08, 3,843 individuals were served, 95% of high school students stayed in school, and 99% of parents reported that the program was helpful to their child and family.

Lessons Learned:

  • Implement a positive youth development approach which meets basic personal and social needs and builds character, skills, and competencies that permit functioning and contribution to daily life.
  • Hire staff who believe that all students can succeed and see the innocence behind all student behavior, guarding against negative thinking about behavior.
  • Communicate with staff about the value in the purpose of the program so that all are working within the context of the school and effectively delivering human services in the educational environment.
  • Put the right people in the right job so that personnel have skills to adequately address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of children and families and have knowledge in available community resources.
  • Create a healthy school climate in which to learn.
  • Operate as a school within a school.

2009 Crystal Star Award for Students with Disabilities Program Award

Barbara Goleman Senior High, M-DCPS
Residential Electrical Wiring Program
Miami Lakes, FL

Accepted by: Dr. Alex Azan, Director, Residential Electrical Wiring Program

Since 2006, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) has collaborated with the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities (NDPC-SD) to improve school completion rates and outcomes for students with disabilities. The Center has trained 24 high schools and 22 schools implementing Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support on evidence-based dropout prevention interventions, practices, and programs. The Center also assists M-DCPS in developing strategies and interventions to ensure performance targets are met as reported in SPP/APRs, for Part B Indicator 2 (Dropout). As an NDPC-SD model demonstration site, the district continues to leverage their resources and improve the implementation of their evidence-based practices to reduce dropout rates for students with disabilities as evidenced by the Residential Electrical Wiring Program at Barbara Goleman Senior High.

The Residential Electrical Wiring Program for students with emotional/behavioral disabilities (EBD) was created in 2002 at Barbara Goleman Senior High, M-DCPS. This program is the result of a contractual agreement between M-DCPS and Florida International University (FIU). FIU provides an instructor to deliver the curriculum while students participate in over 360 hours of quality, individualized instructional time utilizing a curriculum infused with hands-on pedagogy. The program’s primary goal is to address the needs of targeted students with severe emotional problems while preparing students with the tools needed to achieve the requirements for graduation and employability skills in a specialized field. Program objectives are: to improve student attendance, improve student self-esteem, improve student graduation rate, and reduce the dropout rate for students with EBD.


Lessons Learned:

Problem behaviors coupled with academic difficulties or prior academic failure are key risk factors predictive of school dropout. Exclusion from class due to disciplinary action leads to lost instructional time and increased academic difficulties. Given the high number of EBD students who leave school as a result of deficits in prosocial behaviors that often result in excessive suspensions, the district’s focus on dropout prevention has proven beneficial in improving the quality of in-school experiences and increasing the positive post-school outcomes for youth with EBD. These lessons learned have been and continue to be supported by the Residential Electrical Wiring Program’s outcomes:

  • Increased student attendance.
  • Increased student grade point averages.
  • Increased the number of students passing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
  • Increased the amount of time students spend in inclusive settings.
  • Increased positive post-school outcomes for students (e.g., entering community colleges, vocational schools, and securing employment).

National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Ms. Kathy Edwards Bell
Director of the AIM Program, Viking Academy, Spartanburg HS,
Spartanburg, SC

Kathy Edwards Bell began her career as a secondary language arts teacher at the Individualized Learning Center, an early prototype of the Spartanburg School District Number Seven’s alternative program. She later moved to Spartanburg High School where she continued teaching. After four years, Mrs. Bell was promoted to lead the district’s school and community relations department where she developed national award-winning marketing initiatives and plans to implement the district’s first alternative program. She was instrumental in educating the public on the need to address the challenges of student retention and dropout prevention. Afterwards, she went in to private business which was located in an area which has long struggled with high dropout and poverty rates. She began to see firsthand the challenges faced by men and women who dropped out of school. As a result, her company took a new direction and became a community training center. By securing grants, she was able to offer GED, work readiness, parenting, and job-specific training to the people in her community. This eventually led her back to a public alternative school classroom. Inspired by the students she served, Mrs. Bell developed Alternatives in Motions (AIM) for Success, a research-based program for at-risk students. AIM is now recognized by the South Carolina Department of Education as a model program. She is the Director of the AIM Program at Viking Academy, a smaller learning community within Spartanburg High School. The Academy serves almost 150 students with innovative academic practices, smart classrooms, paid work experience, counseling services, transportation to work and after-school programs, extended day and Saturday options, and transition to postsecondary education. Since its inception, Mrs. Bell has authored grants resulting in approximately three million dollars funding for the AIM Program.

Mrs. Bell holds degrees in secondary English education and educational administration from South Carolina State University and Converse College. She is a member of numerous local, state, and national organizations and committees that focus on excellence in education for all students. She and her husband Tony have one daughter, Kristen, who is a college freshman.


Mr. Wayne Rodolfich
Superintendent of the Pascagoula School District 28,
Pascagoula, MS

Mr. Wayne Rodolfich was named superintendent of the Pascagoula School District 28 days before Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast causing $26 million in damage to 11 of the district’s 19 schools. He led the district through the recovery efforts, and despite the odds, reopened the school district to teachers and students in only 27 days. Four weeks later, he was awarded the National Terrell Bell Award at the No Child Left Behind National Conference in Washington, DC. where both of the district’s high schools, Gautier High and Pascagoula High, were named National Blue Ribbon High Schools.

Rodolfich is the creator of the STAR bus, a Students’ Technology and Reading Bus; was named Mississippi’s Technology Administrator of the Year; created the state’s “Teach Mississippi” commercial; and created the Pascagoula School District’s “Destination Graduation” dropout prevention program which has won two national awards, a regional award, and the Golden Medallion, the highest award in the state of Mississippi. His most recent creation, the district’s Family Interactive Center, features a planetarium, a wetlands room, TV studio, science and engineering room, a block room, a recording studio, 3 Imac and Apple computer labs with Wii gaming systems and surround sound stereo, and air-conditioned gymnasium, not only for the students of the school district and local daycares as a field trip destination, but as a place where families in the community can come to learn and play together. The superintendent used the district’s maintenance workers to refurbish an old school building used for storage and enlisted the business community to furnish the center with resources so there was no cost to the taxpayers.


2009 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service


Dr. Patrick J. O’Connor
College of Education, Health and Human Services,
Kent State University

Patrick J. O’Connor is on the graduate faculty in the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University. Dr. O’Connor coordinates the teacher education programs in Career-Technical Education, and teaches at the graduate level. His research and scholarly interests focus on economic and workforce development including preparation of disadvantaged youth for the high-performance workforce. The important role of reading in preparation for lifelong learning is also a scholarly emphasis.

Dr. O’Connor has also held faculty positions at New River Community College in Virginia, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Georgia. He is the author of two collegiate textbooks, three reading books to motivate struggling readers, and numerous professional journal articles. In addition, Dr. O’Connor has authored two monographs published by the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network-The High Performance Workforce and the At-Risk Student (2006), and Improving Reading for Academic Success: Strategies for Enhancing Adolescent Literacy (O’Connor, Bintz, & Murray, 2009).

He completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Bowling Green State University and his doctoral studies were completed at Virginia Tech. He and his wife Susan have four adult children

2008 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Clark Pleasant Academy of Whiteland, IN

Clark Pleasant Academy offers a fresh alternative for students on their educational path toward graduation. The mission of the Academy is to provide an opportunity for students to earn a high school diploma in order to have a better life. The target population is students who have dropped out and agreed to reenroll in high school or students who are failing in a traditional program and have expressed a serious intent to drop out.

Clark Pleasant Academy strives to be a unique facility that functions unlike a traditional school. Required instructional credits are mastered using a software program that meets all standards set by the Indiana Department of Education. In addition, each student must earn vocational credits by attending a local career center or maintaining employment. Students in the vocational strand also complete individual portfolios that reflect employment-related skills. The other distinctive program at the Academy is our service component. All students at the Academy complete a service project at a community-based site. Current students serve as teacher-assistants in elementary schools as well as working at a nearby food pantry, at the county’s animal shelter, and serving as companions in a local assisted-living facility.

Exciting directions for the program’s future include a partnership with Simon Youth Foundation in which we become an SYF Education Resource Center and a partnership with Ivy Tech, a local college, which will allow us to participate in Early College.

Lessons Learned:

  • The more you create a learning environment that is unlike a traditional school, the more positively students embrace the environment.
  • Students in alternative placements need fewer rules, not more. The Academy has no rules, only two guidelines: “We are nice to each other,” and “No one makes anyone else’s life harder.”
  • Mandating that the students perform service to the community is critical. Our students are not generally the students chosen as “helpers” and the experience of giving back often changes their entire outlook in a positive way.
  • Many of our students have developed less-than-appropriate survival skills. It’s crucial to respect the place of those skills in “their world” and to not take them away without replacing them with something that will be equally useful to the student.
  • Empowering students to choose how to use their time is a valuable tool. With their being “in class” only 3 hours, we make it plain that it’s their 3 hours to use as they choose (although we certainly offer encouragement for the time to be productive).

Simon Youth Foundation Education Resource Centers (SYF ERCs)

Simon Youth Foundation (SYF) is dedicated to providing at-risk and underserved youth the extra support needed to succeed in their education and throughout their lives. SYF’s work is focused on two issues: the national dropout rate and college access. through its Education Resource Center (ERC) and scholarship programs, SYF is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary of service to youth.

The ERC program was developed to help students who face barriers such as balancing school, work, and family to overcome obstacles and gain everyday career and life skills. ERCs are alternative schools located primarily in malls that are developed as a partnership between SYF and one or more public school districts. To date, 23 ERCs in 11 states serve more than 2,300 students annually, maintain an 89% cumulative graduation rate, and continue to expand. ERCs are not harder or easier than traditional high schools, just different in approach. Every student must pass their particular state’s graduation requirements. small classes, individualized instruction, computer-assisted instruction, and shorter class days are just a few unique facets of an ERC program that helps students succeed. SYF has awarded postsecondary scholarships totaling $5.9 million to 2,217 students from 42 states who need financial help in order to pursue their dreams. Five thousand students have earned their diploma at an ERC.

Lessons Learned:

  • At first, so many of our Simon Youth Foundation Education Resource Center students have failed for so long, that they don’t know what success feels like. We can’t change their surroundings, but we can change how they perceive them and themselves in the future.
  • Providing each student with a strong and lasting relationship with at least one significant adult; exposure to a small, nurturing, environment; and low pupil-teacher ratio have been the secrets to our success. Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!
  • Getting coping skills to a level where students can function in the world around them and teaching them ways to break the cycle goes a long way toward their success in the future.
  • Celebrate the small victories each day and deal with the inevitable setbacks.
  • Alternative educators need to do it differently, because at-risk youth need it differently.

The Star Academy Program™ Pickens County, South Carolina

The award-winning Star Academy ProgramTM is a school-within-a-school designed to serve the needs of disengaged 7th, 8th, and/or 9th grade students in a safe, happy, and productive environment. Students complete a rigorous one-year academic program and learn coping skills as well as life skills that eventually enable them to successfully complete 10th through 12th grades in a regular school environment.

The Star Academy ProgramTM employs multiple learning methodologies, incorporates hands-on learning experiences, builds teamwork skills, promotes career exploration, and fosters student responsibility for learning and behavior. Core courses in math, science, English language arts, and social studies are designed to accommodate students’ multiple learning styles. An alternative to the traditional classroom, the Star Academy ProgramTM enables students to gain Carnegie units and career-related direction that puts them back on track for high school graduation, viable employment, or further education.

Lessons Learned:

  • Utilize hands-on learning in support of cognitive performance. Provide rich multimedia/multimodal learning activities.
  • Employ individual, cooperative-pair, and small-team learning experiences.
  • Capitalize on students’ multiple intelligences.
  • Assure core content is delivered with the intent of improving literacy and English language skills.
  • Accommodate learning style differences.
  • Create a healthy school climate in which to learn.
  • Operate as a school within a school.

2008 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Dr. Judith Ann and Mr. Joseph F. Pauley

Dr. Judith Ann Pauley retired after a 42-year career as a chemistry and physics teacher and department chair to become CEO of Process Communications, Inc. in 1999. She is a member of several scientific organizations and served on the Executive Board of the Maryland Association of Science Teachers, was a co-founder of the Maryland CHEMATHON, and was President of the Montgomery Area Science Fair Association and the Chemical Educators of Maryland. She was named science teacher of the year three times.

Mr. Joseph Pauley has taught in elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and graduate school. Mr. Pauley joined the federal government where he served in a variety of management and executive positions for 30 years, 21 of which were spent in Asia. After his retirement he joined Process Communications, Inc. as president. He also is Vice President for Education of Kahler Communication, Inc. headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Both Dr. and Mr. Pauley are authorities on using Process Communication in the workplace and in the classroom. They teach in several colleges and universities from New Hampshire to California showing educators how to individualize instruction to reach every student and keep them in school. They have written two books for educators that have been very well received and several articles that have been published in various education journals. They were the guest editors of the winter 2003 National Dropout Prevention Newsletter. They present annually at about 18 national, international and state education conferences and do in-services for schools all over the country. Teachers applying the concepts of Process Communication in the classroom are having great success in raising academic achievement, closing the achievement gap, reducing disruptive student behaviors, and persuading at-risk students to stay in school and graduate. They also have firsthand experience in the special education arena because they are the parents of a daughter with Down Syndrome and a son who is dyslexic.

Mr. Brian Sites

Brian’s passions for dropout prevention began in his high school years. He grew up in Madras, OR, a community that had the highest dropout rate in the state. One-third of his classmates did not finish high school, and Brian’s passion today is driven by his experiences during these years, seeing firsthand the impact dropping out had on many of his childhood friends. Brian has been teaching for five years in the Richland (WA) School District. In his four years at River’s Edge High School, an alternative high school, he has worked to increase the emphasis on postsecondary planning, and students have benefited as a direct result. Several years ago, less than 10% of students were pursuing education beyond their high school diploma, but in recent years, that number has increased to nearly 60%. Many of his students are first generation college students and were struggling to access higher education prior to the guidance provided by Brian and his colleagues. Brian has gone above and beyond to assist students and their families with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as well as scholarship and college admissions applications. He has advocated for his students with college admissions officials, with success in getting them admitted despite not fitting the traditional mold. In April 2008, Brian received recognition from Eastern Washington University for his efforts to advance postsecondary education, being honored with the EWU Alumni Award for Community Building (advocating for underrepresented groups.)

He has raised community awareness of the needs of at-risk teens in his community, coordinating a Community Summit that brought together social service and nonprofit agencies, as well as business and government leaders. Brian takes an active role in a Community Solutions group, which addresses a wide range of issues in his community from a health and human services perspective. His expertise in dropout prevention and intervention has provided many local leaders with valuable insight regarding the needs of students most at risk of dropping out. He is currently working to promote dropout prevention by working with Communities In Schools in his state, hoping to create a CIS community in his region. Brian sets high expectations of his students, serves as a positive role model, and develops caring relationships that result in high levels of achievement and success!

Dr. Howard B.“Sandy“ Addis

Sandy Addis has worked for 38 years in public education as a teacher, coach, guidance counselor, principal, system-level administrator, school improvement specialist, and regional service agency director. Throughout his career in public education, Dr. Addis has focused his energies on reducing dropout rates and on increasing graduation rates. In the early 1980’s he was a high school counselor responsible for identifying at-risk students and keeping them in school. In 1988, he designed, secured funding for, and directed one of the nation’s first federal dropout prevention projects that reduced the true dropout rate of a rural South Carolina school system from 8% per year to less than 2% per year. Over the past 20 years, Sandy Addis has implemented a variety of programs which have improved student academic achievement and graduation rates. These programs have provided thousands of at-risk students with designated school counselors, after-school programs, summer enrichment, credit recovery, parent support, mentors, tutors, and rewards for improved behavior, attendance, and academic achievement.

Sandy Addis holds degrees from Furman University, Clemson University, and South Carolina State University. He has authored professional publications on the education of at-risk youth, delivered numerous professional presentations on the topic, and has taught graduate-level courses for teachers and counselors on dropout prevention strategies. Dr. Addis is a member of the Board of the National Dropout Prevention Network and is currently the Executive Director of Pioneer Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) in Cleveland, Georgia. As director of Pioneer RESA, Dr. Addis has focused the agency’s resources on providing services that support the efforts of 13 rural school systems to achieve Georgia’s goal of increased graduation rates.

2008 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Mr. John Murray

As chairman and CEO of AdvancePath Academics, Inc., John maintains overall responsibility for AdvancePath’s strategic and financial objectives. Prior to joining AdvancePath, John was Chairman, President, and CEO of PLATO Learning, Inc., where he had a successful 18 year career. PLATO is the largest, publicly traded, educational software provider in the world and serves the needs of both mainstream and alternative education. Under John’s leadership, PLATO’s revenues grew from $33 to $142 million in 7 years, its balance sheet was significantly strengthened, and it became recognized by educators, policymakers, and politicians as an industry leader and change agent.

Prior to assuming the duties of PLATO’s Chairman and CEO, John held numerous other positions at PLATO, including President & Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Senior Vice President of Operations, and Vice President of Product Development. John started his career at PLATO by launching the military and aerospace training division in the UK. Prior to his career in business, John spent 16 years in the British Army’s Signal Corp after leaving high school at age 15. John was recognized in the Queens 1985 Birthday Honors list for his outstanding contribution to Army training. John, who is passionate about improving life opportunities for at-risk students and dropouts, is Chairman of the National Dropout Prevention Network, the largest organization in the U.S. focused on the nation’s dropout problem.

2007 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

The Latin American Community Center’s High School Recovery Program

The Latin American Community Center’s High School Credit Recovery Program was established in 2004 to provide opportunities for students to receive the support that they need to recover credits and master prerequisite skills to advance in their educational careers. This is important for several reasons, one of which is to satisfy requirements laid out in the No Child Left Behind Act that requires schools to increase the number of students who graduate from high school. This federal mandate is also consistent with state expectations to increase graduation rates and provides continued support to students. The goal of this program is to provide an educational setting where students served by the Latin American Community Center and who attend one of the contracted schools can earn academic credits toward graduation in an environment that is sensitive to their academic and life circumstances.

Lessons Learned
The Program Must:

  • Be flexible and youth-centered, yet adhere to requirements articulated by Delaware’s Department of Education.
  • Enforce behaviors required by the Registration Contract.
  • Provide a climate of success where success is expected and rewarded.
  • Allow students in grades 9-11 who have fallen behind in one or two high school credits a chance to make up the credits.

Communities In Schools of Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia

Communities In Schools (CIS) of Atlanta began helping young people stay in school and earn their high school diplomas in 1972. The mission of CIS is to connect community resources with schools to help young people successfully learn, stay in school, and prepare for life. During the 2006-07 school year, CIS of Atlanta provided direct support at 48 schools in the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County. Schools were selected based on criteria including poor attendance, low test scores, low graduation rates, lack of parent involvement, and/or high rates of poverty. CIS of Atlanta has developed strategies in a number of areas identified as components of an effective dropout prevention program, including family engagement, alternative schooling, service-learning, after-school opportunities, and school-community collaboration. The accomplishments of CIS over the last seven years have resulted in systemic changes, particularly in Atlanta Public Schools, that have resulted in CIS staff being placed in every high school and middle school, and 25% of all elementary schools in the system. Each year, CIS of Atlanta also recruits donations of services, volunteers, products, and other resources now valued at close to $3 million for the schools it serves. CIS-supported schools are reporting impressive gains in students’ attendance rates, test scores, and graduation rates.

Lessons Learned:

  • It is about relationships, not programs. Kids who are struggling in school, first and foremost, need a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult who can encourage them, believe in them, and help them wade through their challenges. We spend a lot of time trying to find the right people, that is, the people who really have a passion for working with our kids. If they don’t walk in the door with a passion for this kind of work, we probably won’t be able to train them into it.
  • It is about leveraging community resources. There really are many public and private agencies, civic groups, faith groups, and con-cerned individuals who can be persuaded to help when we are able to carve out a clear role for them and let them know their investment is making a difference. Our staff are required to get other partners involved in their efforts.
  • There are no easy answers. The only simple answer to the question of how to keep kids in school is “be ready to do whatever it takes.” We try to describe our work to funders in the simplest terms, but we have had to learn not to be afraid to tell them that turning kids around is a complex process and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
  • Make sure you have good data to show your efforts are making an impact!

2007 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winner

Ms. Beverly M. Herrlinger
Administrator, Jefferson County High School, Louisville, KY

Ms. Beverly M. Herrlinger has been involved with public education in many capacities for over 30 years, most of those years dealing with at-risk students. After graduating from Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, she began teaching high school English and drama where she quickly learned that she preferred working with students who had a hard time making it in the regular school setting. After moving to Kentucky, while working part time in Adult Education and raising her two children, Beverly returned to school and received an M.A. from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It was during this time with Adult Education that Beverly returned to her prime interest—working with at-risk students. It was a very easy decision to make when she was offered an opportunity to work with Buell Snyder to establish Jefferson County High School, the largest alternative high school in Kentucky and a former Crystal Star Award Program winner. Ms. Herrlinger has dedicated her educational career to working with at-risk students both as a classroom teacher and school administrator. Because of her expertise in this area, Beverly has served as a presenter at various national, state, and local conferences. In addition, Beverly has served as a consultant to numerous school districts in the areas of curriculum, professional staff development, and teacher training.

2007 Crystal Star for Students with Disabilities Individual Award

Ms. Laura Brown
Director of North Georgia Learning Resources System (GLRS), Cleveland, GA

Ms. Laura Brown serves as the Director of North Georgia Learning Resources System (GLRS), an extension of the Georgia Department of Educa¬tion, coordinating special education services and professional development for local schools in the northeast corner of Georgia. She is a 28-year veteran educator and began her career as a special education resource teacher. She has worked in schools at every level including as an elementary assistant principal, a system level special education consultant, as well as a middle and high school teacher. She has led the development of a regional initiative focused on encouraging students with disabilities to stay in school and graduate. Ms. Brown is currently the Project Coordinator for Georgia’s Graduation project designed to address the dropout issues related to students with disabilities. During her tenure at North GLRS, she has led school improvement initiatives in the areas of inclusive practices, support for students with autism, adolescent reading, and middle school mathematics. Ms. Brown serves on various state committees and has presented at state, national, and international conferences.

2007 Crystal Star Award of Distinguished Leadership and Service Award

Dr. Arthur Stellar
Superintendent of Schools, Taunton Public Schools, Taunton, MA

Dr. Arthur Stellar is superintendent of the Taunton Public Schools in Massachusetts where the dropout rate was 7.8% before he arrived and 4.2% after two years of his leadership. He previously served as superintendent in Kingston, New York; Cobb County Georgia; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Mercer County, West Virginia; and Boston, Massachusetts (acting superintendent). Dr. Stellar has also been affiliated with school systems in Shaker Heights, Ohio; Montgomery County, Maryland; Beverly, Massachusetts; and in Ohio-Athens, Southwestern City Schools and Belpre. He also served as chief education officer and vice-president for Renaissance Learning, Inc., and president/CEO of High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. Dr. Stellar is the former national president of the Association for Super-vision and Curriculum Development, the North American Chapter of World Council for Curriculum and Instruction and the Horace Mann League. He has been chairman of the board for the National Dropout Prevention Network, as well as serving on various boards such as the corporate board for Plato Learning, Inc. In addition, Stellar has been a consultant for various com¬panies and organizations including the administrator search firm PROACT Search. As a former Fulbright Scholar, Stellar is also widely published and the recipient of many awards such as AASA’s “Leadership for Learning” and the “Dr. Effie Jones Humanitarian” awards. However, among his proudest accomplishments are (1) reducing the number of at-risk/low-performing schools in Oklahoma City from 32 to 3 and (2) mentoring various proteges including a diverse array of 43 administrators who have become superintendents.

2006 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

The Academy of Creative Education (ACE)
North East Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas

ACE is recognized as one of the premier alternative schools in Texas. Since its beginning in 1991, the Academy has helped nearly 3,000 formerly-designated dropouts succeed and graduate. Curriculum is based on innovative approaches which are uniquely suited to meet the needs, abilities, interests, and backgrounds of the students. All students are treated as though they are gifted and are expected to achieve above 80% mastery on all assignments. Student-led conferences provide students with the opportunity to chart their progress through the presentation of a portfolio of their work. Each student and staff member writes a mission statement of goals and purposes which is displayed at ACE. Students are accepted from each of the six traditional high schools in the metropolitan district. The Academy has graduated 2,666 students since its beginning, and in 2004-05, 37 graduates were designated Texas Scholars. Students taking the Spring TAKS had a 100% pass rate. ACE has over fifty community partners, some of whom serve on the Academy Advisory Corporate Council. The State Board of Education’s Heroes for Children Award has been given on two separate occasions to ACE tutors/mentors. The Academy educators design and develop alternative academic approaches with varied learning environments and flexible “no-bells” scheduling. Each educator is multi-certified, and seasoned staff members mentor new teachers for one full year.

Lessons Learned:

  • There is a growing population of non-traditional students in need of services.
  • Students learn to work as a team toward success and to accept the unique talents of each other through the Academy’s twenty-hour orientation program that features a relaxed family-like atmosphere.
  • A strong award-winning mentorship program provides a direct link to the outside community, and enhances students’ self-esteem.
  • An integrated interdisciplinary curriculum that addresses all learning styles gives students at the Academy an understanding that all learning is connected.
  • Giving back to others through community service allows students to demonstrate their many and varied talents.
  • Two student-led graduations provide a visual celebration as the culmination of successful goal attainment for both parents and students.
  • Small classes, self-paced curriculum and individualization influence students to meet the needs of the community.
  • Staff development is planned and implemented by the entire faculty.
  • Ongoing technology training ensures that the Academy team stays open to and aware of technology-enriched innovative approaches to curriculum development.

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Academy for Excellence
Fayette County Public Schools, Lexington, Kentucky

The Academy, an alternative program for grades six through twelve, was established to serve students with behavioral challenges and academic concerns. It is a multi-faceted program made up of a remedial behavioral focused component, as well as programs designed to allow students who have fallen behind academically or who have not been successful in a regular middle or high school setting to make progress. Social workers make home visits and teachers are in frequent contact with parents. Components include middle school transition, credit recovery, and GED prep programs. The Middle School Transition Program is designed for students who read on at least a sixth grade level and are two or more years behind. The Credit Recovery Program focuses on high school students who read on at least a ninth grade level and are one or more years behind their peers. The program combines computer-based instruction and cooperative work experience or vocational training. A full school day requires students to attend one of three sessions: morning, afternoon, or evening, and participate in a practical experience componenet. Technology is a major component of the instruction program with coursework available through eSchool. The Academy offers most of these programs in the district’s other middle and high schools, also. Students participate in both sides of the mentoring/tutoring experience. Athletes at the University of Kentucky serve as mentors, as do Academy staff members. Students also serve as mentors for special needs students at nearby elementary schools. Extended School Services are offered every Wednesday, and summer school is available for 8th and some 7th grade students to make up classes in order to be promoted to the next grade. The staff of MLK participate in extensive on-going professional development on classroom management and effective instructional strategies. In addition to professional development days scheduled by the district, the staff meets every Tuesday for one hour after school for additional professional development on topics identified by school test scores and administrative observation. From 2000 to 2005, the number of students earning a high school diploma increased from 2 to almost 200. During the 2004-05 school year, the percentage of students reading at or above grade increased from 16% to 52%.

Lessons Learned:

  • Teachers must be certified in the area in which they are teaching.
  • Staff must be trained in the program’s behavior management system and instructional strategies before school starts.
  • Instructional use of technology is very valuable, particularly real world applications.
  • Sufficient student support must be available: a social worker, a school psychologist, a behavior curriculum specialist, and a youth service center coordinator.
  • Gender specific classes have been beneficial in the middle school environment.
  • A referral process that assists schools in trying to solve problems and attempting to modify behaviors before sending students to an alternative setting is important.

Providing Hope
South Sioux City Community School District (SSCCS), South Sioux City, Nebraska

The goal of SSCCS is to provide a climate that promotes not only academic success, but also social, emotional, and behavioral success in a safe, secure, and disciplined school environment. Program elements include an alternative high school, a school-within-a-school middle school, a language enriched preschool, early reading first, parent advisory committees, community collaboration and partnerships, and service-learning. Data show the graduation rate has increased 11% over the last four years, while the dropout rate has decreased 4.4% in the last five years, 84% of students transitioning back from out-of-home placements are successful three months post-transition. Attendance at the alternative school’s quarterly parent/teacher conferences is 93%. The district has addressed a number of student population issues: enrollment has increased by over 40% in the past 15 years; Hispanic population has increased by 346% in the past ten years; the number of students on free/reduced lunch has increased to 44.41% in the past five years; and the percentage of English Language Learners is almost 24%, four times higher than the Nebraska state average. Only 12.4% of the adults in the community have a college degree, 27% did not graduate from high school, and over half of those individuals have less than a ninth grade education. Systemic renewal provided the foundation for addressing concerns related to on-going student success. Changes made included restructuring the Special Education Department into the Student Services Department to offer a more cohesive array of support services; implementing student assistance teams who receive an annual stipend; strategic use of data for decision making; connections with mental health, social service agencies, juvenile justice, and the business community; and an advisory committee of teachers, students, parents, administrators, school board members, and community members. The emphasis on literacy has had a remarkable impact on seventh and eighth grade standardized reading test scores. The percentage of students reading above the U.S. average increased from 32.21% in 2002-2003 to 45.32% in 2004-2005. Students in grades 4, 8, and 12 exceeded the average state results on the standardized math test. Students have also shown significant gains on the statewide writing assessment. Dropout rates have declined from 6.20% in 1999-2000, to 1.81% in 2002-2005.

Lessons Learned:

  • Nothing is ever truly achieved unless it is approached from a systemic perspective.
  • Multiple approaches to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of young people are needed, and intervention should occur at the earliest possible time.
  • To be successful, relationships must be built and sustained.
  • A culture of acceptance and support should be established.
  • Data must be gathered, analyzed and utilized.
  • Professional development is vital for educators, administrators, and support personnel. Nothing is more deleterious to a person than to ask them to work in a vacuum, to “assume” that they know how to implement a program, deliver a lesson, or intervene with an at-risk student.

2006 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Dr. Patricia Cloud Duttweiler

Dr. Duttweiler joined the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) at Clemson University as Assistant Director in 1992. She retired in 2001, but has continued to work as a consultant for the Center, coordinating the year-long Program Assessment and Review (PAR) of 13 New York State middle schools identified as under performing. Dr. Duttweiler is currently the Secretary of the Advisory Council for the Academy of Creative Education, North East Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas, and was on the planning committee for this conference. Among her responsibilities while at NDPC, were being the principal investigator and evaluator for a Students Serving Students grant from the Corporation for National Service, and project coordinator for the SERVE (U.S. Department of Education regional educational laboratory for the Southeastern Region) research project in South Carolina. She conducted assessments and/or case studies for the Southern Institute for Service-Learning, Centerville Elementary School’s dropout prevention program, Chattanooga City School’s student support system, NBA Stay in School and TeamUp Programs, and the National Urban League/Junior Achievement BEC program. Before joining the Center, Dr. Duttweiler was Assistant Director for Research at the South Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and School Leadership at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina; a Senior Research Associate with the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) in Austin, Texas; a training evaluation specialist with the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education; and a classroom teacher.

Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel
Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), San Antonio, Texas

Dr. Montecel is Executive Director of the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), an independent, private non-profit organization dedicated to equity and excellence in education located in San Antonio, Texas. A nationally-recognized expert on the prevention and recovery of dropouts, Dr. Robledo Montecel directed the first statewide study of dropouts in Texas. The study examined the scope and economic impact of the dropout problem, and the results informed the development of dropout prevention policy and practice in the state. She was a member of the task force that established the National Dropout Prevention Network. Under her leadership, IDRA’s innovative dropout prevention program, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, has made a visible difference in the lives of more than 419,000 children, families and educators. Dr. Robledo Montecel has authored and co-authored a number of publications focusing on effective bilingual education, school holding power, and parent leadership. She served as a member of the Texas Task Force on Dropout Prevention and as a consultant on The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Program in Immigrant Education. Hispanic Business magazine named her one of the top 100 Hispanic influentials. Dr. Robledo Montecel is an associate member of Hispanics in Philanthropy; a founding member of CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation; and on the founding board of directors of the Mexican and American Solidarity Foundation, an organization created to strengthen ties between Mexican citizens and the Mexican American community. She was named a Women and Minorities Research Fellow by the National Institute of Education.

Ms. Valerie A. Woodruff
Secretary of Education, Delaware Department of Education, Dover, Delaware

Ms. Woodruff has served as Secretary of Education since July 1999. She has been a teacher, counselor, assistant principal, and principal in high schools in Maryland and Delaware. She led the development of the first School-Based Wellness Center in Delaware, and as a result of her pioneering effort 28 out of 29 high schools now have these Centers. She currently serves as a member of the Delaware Workforce Investment Board and its Youth Council, Jobs for Delaware Graduates, Junior Achievement, Delaware Region National Council for Community and Justice, the State Chamber of Commerce Partnership. She is Delaware’s representative on the Southern Regional Education Board, and is the first K-12 educator to serve as Vice Chair. Ms. Woodruff is currently chair of the Council of Chief State School Officers. She has led the development of a P-20 Council to address the needs of students from preschool through college or post secondary training. Ms. Woodruff instituted improved leadership training and opportunities for “Rising Stars” in education. Secretary Woodruff also established the Dropout Prevention Committee which consists of school administrators, visiting teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, community leaders, and Department of Education staff who are responsible for addressing issues that result in students leaving school before graduation. She has served as a Thomson Fellow for the Coalition of Essential Schools, and was selected as Delaware’s Principal of the Year in 1990.

2006 Crystal Star Award for Students with Disabilities Individual Award

Ms. Suana Wessendorf
State consultant for Behavior Disorders, Bureau of Children, Family and Community Services, the Iowa Department of Education, Des Moines, Iowa

Ms. Wessendorf’s key responsibilities include: behavior disorders, children’s mental health, brain injury, suspension and expulsion, graduation, dropout, learning supports, and Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS). As project manager for the Iowa Behavioral Alliance, an initiative with the Iowa Department of Education, Ms. Wessendorf oversees the work of the Alliance that covers three domains, Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS), Graduation/Dropout, and School-Based Children’s Mental Health. She has been a teacher of special education at the elementary and secondary level and is a university lecturer for Iowa State University. Ms. Wessendorf has presented extensively and published numerous documents and articles for the Iowa Department of Education regarding national and state special education legislation, dropout prevention, and Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS) in many settings including correctional facilities. She was elected and served as the International President of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) as well as many other CEC state and local positions.

2006 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Dr. Jay Smink
Executive Director, National Dropout Prevention Center, Clemson, South Carolina

Dr. Smink has been the Executive Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center located at Clemson University since 1986, as well as a Professor of Education in the College of Health, Education, and Human Development. He also serves as the Executive Director of the National Dropout Prevention Network, a professional organization of members representing education, business, and community leaders who are concerned with school dropout issues. Dr. Smink’s 47-year career includes a strong background in public education programs at the state and local levels and a unique series of experiences as a small business owner. He has conducted many national and regional workshops for administrators and teachers on a wide range of instructional, management, and leadership issues, and is a frequent guest on television and radio talk shows. Dr. Smink has authored many articles for journals, newsletters, and numerous professional monographs and books on a wide range of topics concerned with research, school reform, and teaching skills targeted for the improvement of basic academic skills and achievement levels of students. He is a recognized national leader and authority on truancy and dropout prevention, mentoring, alternative schools, after-school programs, learning styles, service- learning, school-to-work, vocational education research, safe school environments, project evaluation and accountability, education marketing and dissemination and program management. Dr. Smink has served on numerous national and state boards including the American Bar Association Advisory Commission on Youth Alcohol and other Drug Problems, National Association for Industry-Education Cooperative, the National Mentoring Partnership, the Center for Career and Technical Education at The Ohio State University, and the South Carolina Commission on National and Community Service.

2005 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Education Counts—Zer0Guilford
Guilford County Schools, Greensboro, North Carolina

Guildford County has a comprehensive program that starts with preschool. Programs address literacy, student achievement, and professional development. Students have the choice of attending the Innovative Early and Middle College or a variety of magnet schools. A special strategic reading program is available at the high school level. Each high school has a dropout prevention specialist. The dropout rate has decreased annually for the past five years, and by more than 50% since 20001-2002. Almost 84% of graduates planned to attend two- or four-year colleges and universities. Overall SAT scores have risen from 999 in 2000 to 1,011 in 2004; 64% of the seniors take the SAT compared with 48% nationally. Guilford County was one of the few districts in the nation to have all 14 of its high schools ranked in the top 200 by Newsweek.

School for Integrated Academics and Technologies (SIATech) Charter School
Vista, California

The mission of SIATech is to provide high school students who have dropped out of the traditional education system and are now enrolled in the Federal Job Corps Program, the opportunity to complete their high school education and to break the cycle of poverty. There are seven sites in California, two in Arizona, one in Georgia, four in Florida, and one in New Mexico. SIATech delivers computer-based instruction with individualized education plans that are specifically designed to meet the needs of students within a population that has an exceptionally wide range of skills and academic backgrounds. From 1998-2004, 3,919 students previously designated as dropouts, have earned an accredited high school diploma. The program received an U.S. Department of Labor Alpha Award for outstanding community partnership in 2001, and the California Distinguished School Award in 2003.

Sinclair Community College Fast Forward Center
Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio

The Fast Forward Center was established in 2001 to develop and maintain a comprehensive network of alternative schools and programs for youth ages 15-21 who have previously dropped out or are not regularly attending high school. Partners include three alternative charter high schools that specifically serve dropouts, a charter middle school, and other Dayton-based alternative education programs. The goal of Fast Forward is to return the youth to high school, help them achieve proficiency, earn a high school diploma, and have a positive placement upon graduation. The Montgomery County Out-of-School Youth Task Force determined that the county was spending over two-thirds of its annual budget on human welfare services and the criminal justice system. Montgomery County allocated $500,000 of Fast Forward because reducing the dropout rate would save the county money. The Center has served over 4,000 out-of-school youth.

2005 Crystal Star Award for Students with Disabilities Program Award

Moss Point High School Entrepreneurship Program
Moss Point School District, Moss Point, Mississippi

The Moss Point High School Entrepreneurship Program was implemented in 2001-2002. The goal of the program is to promote attendance, prevent dropouts, and teach job skills along with academics for grades nine through twelve. There are three components of the program: Tiger Print Class produces business cards, invitations, flyers, and other printed materials; Embroidery Class decorates toe bags, caps, towels, shirts, and other items; Tiger Den Laundry Service provides laundry services. Schools, students, staff, parents, and community members use the services provided by these three units. Although the number of students with disabilities in the district has increased from 90 in 1999-2000 to 172 in 2004-2005, the number of dropouts has declined from 15 to zero. Over half of the students have secured jobs in the community and attribute their success to the Entrepreneurship Program.

2005 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Mr. Edward Bates
Director, Positive Alternative Student Services (PASS)
Lake County Regional Office of Education, Grayslake, Illinois

The Regional Office offers special programs related to dropout prevention and recovery, truancy, safe and drug-free schools, education partnerships, gang violence prevention, counseling and guidance, career and workforce development services. He has worked with high risk youth for over 30 years, focusing primarily on the prevention and elimination of truancy. Mr. Bates participates in several local, state, and federal committees which address issues facing Lake County’s most needy community members. He and received national recognition as the administrator of STEP (Summer Training and Education Program), which provides part-time educational and employment opportunities for 15 and 16-year old youth. Mr. Bates is known in the community as a hero to the “child that has been left behind.”

Ms. Katherine Merritt
Outreach Consultant, Howard School
Ontario-Montclair School District, Montclair, California

Ms. Merritt is a student advocate, parent supporter, staff encourager, and teacher. She created a support program for students who have difficulty making friends. Ms. Merritt serves as a resource to community agencies and coordinates programs which provide food, uniforms, clothing, and shoes to students. She has helped design playground and beautification projects, organized a Thanksgiving Feast for the entire school, and assisted Santa Claus in distributing gifts to every student. Ms. Merritt knows the students and families well. She ensures that all students who may not have food on weekends are part of Kids Pack (a back pack filled with food to take home each week that they attend school), have adequate health care, mental health assistance, clothing, shoes, and shelter. She has credentials in Pupil Personnel Services, general education, and special education; is a trained counselor and has completed the Dropout Prevention Specialist (DPS) Program. Ms. Merritt has been a preschool teacher, a special education resource specialist, a middle school counselor, and has performed in many musical theater and opera productions. One of the most valuable lessons she has learned is not to wear high heeled shoes to work with three and four year olds.

Franklin, P. Schargel
Consultant and Author, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Mr. Schargel’s career spans thirty-three years of classroom teaching and eight years of supervision and administration as Assistant Principal. As president of his training firm, The Schargel Consulting Group, Franklin has presented countless workshops for educational, community and business groups throughout the United States, Europe, Canada and Latin America. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York, and a graduate of the University of the City of New York. Franklin holds two Master’s Degrees: one in Secondary Education from City University and a degree from Pace University in School Administration and Supervision. He is the author of Transforming Education Through Total Quality Management: A Practitioner’s Guide; Dropout Prevention Tools; coeditor of Strategies to Help Solve Our School Dropout Problem, and Helping Students Graduate: A Strategic Approach to Dropout Prevention. Franklin has a regular monthly Internet column at, as well as quarterly column in Quality Education.

2005 Crystal Star Award for Students with Disabilities Individual Award

Dr. Jose Blackorby
Associate Center Director
Center for Education and Human Services, Menlo Park, California

Dr. Blackorby has worked on issues related to outcomes for students with disabilities for his entire professional career and has 15 years of experience in policy-relevant research and quantitative and qualitative data analysis. Dr. Blackorby is the author or coauthor of SRI reports and journal articles that have been an important source of information for the development of state and federal policy regarding special education, education reform and innovation, charter schools, and human services coordination. He is currently the Co-Director of the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS), a five-year national longitudinal study of 11,500 students receiving special education services. SEELS data—parent interviews, teacher surveys, direct and alternate assessments, and transcript data—will provide the first national picture of the experiences and longitudinal outcomes of elementary and middle school students receiving special education.

2005 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Mr. M. Buell Snyder
Principal, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky

Mr. Snyder has worked in the school system for 40 years. His creativity and ingenuity have led to the development of many successful programs for high risk students: the Whitney Young Job Corp Center, administering the WIN program, developing refugee camps for the United States State Department, directing numerous JTPA programs, supervising GED/literacy programs for Adult Education and providing the leadership in the development of three alternative schools, Jefferson County High School, Liberty High School, and JCPSeSchool. After the first year of implementation, the District’s dropout rate was reduced by 30% due to transfers into Jefferson County High School. The high school has been replicated by over 250 school districts in more than 27 states. Mr. Snyder continues to consult with these schools and provide staff development and training. Over 6,000 at-risk students have graduated from JCHS since its inception. Nearly 8,000 students per year are taking eSchool courses, some as far away as Japan. He is often quoted as saying, “The students didn’t become at-risk overnight, and so it will take us longer than a day to get them back on the right track. We’ve got to keep trying and give them a chance to turn around.”

2004 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Academic Alternatives: Putnam County Dropout Prevention Program
Putnam County District Schools, Palatka, Florida

The Academic Alternatives program is multifaceted. The Academic Recovery Program provides students who are three or more credits behind an opportunity to exceed the normal six credits earned per academic year. The Foundations Program allows students who are 16 and in 7th, 8th, or 9th grade to enter a pre-GED Exit Program. After-School Opportunity—Grade Forgiveness is offered at each high school by the Adult Education Department. The Unified Youth Services program is offered at each high school for 25 students who have two or more barriers to graduating from high school. Four special diplomas are offered by the district for students with disabilities. Other opportunities include: The Gateway Alternative School, the Flex Project for 8th grade at-risk students, and a program for at-risk students in the 3rd grade. The graduation rate in Putnam County has risen from 49.51% in 1995 to 79.5% in 2003. The dropout rate has gone from being the highest in the state at 7.93% in 1995 to one of the lowest at 1.5%.

State of Delaware Justice of the Peace Truancy Court Program
Dover, Delaware

The State of Delaware Justice of the Peace Truancy Court Program was established in 1996 in one county, and was expanded to a statewide program in 1998. Truancy Court successfully combats truancy by pairing community health and social service resources with intensive court oversight to strengthen families, improve school attendance, and prevent juvenile delinquency. The target population is children ages 5 to 15 and their parents or guardians who are prosecuted under state law by their local school districts for failure to attend/send to school. Parents, as well as students, are required to participate in a family assessment at the start of a case and to follow through with mandated treatment or programs. In addition, other children in the family take part in the family assessment as it frequently provides an opportunity to identify and address problems and, thus, prevent future truancy and other problems. During the 2001-02 school year, approximately 80% of the cases that were prosecuted and completed during that year reached compliance. Among those who reached compliance, 95% completed the school year with regular attendance. Students under 12 had a more dramatic success rate of 100% for the 2001-2002 school year. Prior to the start of the specialized Truancy Court the average number of days of unexcused absences at the time of filing was more than 43. By the end of Truancy Court’s first year in operation, the average number of days of unexcused absences was down to 37.4, and in 2002-2003 unexcused absences dropped to 26.1 days.

Street School, Inc.
Tulsa Public Schools, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Street School, Inc., began in 1972 as a community volunteer effort to meet the needs of teenagers who had dropped out of school and were just “hanging out on the streets.” Street School, Inc., is a private, non-profit alternative education and counseling program whose mission is to create a supportive community for students who have chosen to continue their education in a non-traditional setting. Students meet regularly with six full-time counselors on staff for individual and group psychotherapy. Academic and elective classes are offered to help students complete the requirements leading to a high school diploma. Street School also offers a variety of school-sponsored activities such as: Key Club, HIV Peer Training, and Academic Bowl, Leadership, Drug and Alcohol Information, Pregnancy Prevention, Skills Building/Problem Solving. Success indicators include: an increase in grade point averages by more than one full letter grade, absenteeism improved by 49.5%, the dropout rate is 3.1% compared to the state average of 10.8%, and the graduation rate is 73.5% compared to the state average of 70.8%. Three-year follow-up surveys found that 87% of students completed their high school education, 31% of all graduates continued their education, and 73% obtained full-time employment.

Honorable Mention Programs

Colorado’s Finest Alternative High School
Englewood Schools, Englewood, Colorado

Colorado’s Finest Alternative High School was named by its students 24 years ago. It has a day school and a night school which serve approximately 600 students. The school is based on a point system where students earn points for attending school and completing the assigned work in a high quality manner. There are no grades and no homework. Each student is assigned a family teacher upon entrance who stays the same throughout the student’s school career. In addition to the traditional curriculum, students have the opportunity to participate in Area Career and Technical Schools (ACTS) and Post Secondary Education Options (PSEO). Last year, students’ ACT scores were higher than the district’s traditional high school’s scores. Approximately 90 students graduate every year.

The Renaissance II Education Resource Center at Washington Square Mall
Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, Indianapolis, Indiana

The Renaissance II Education Resource Center (ERC) is a three-way partnership including the Simon Youth Foundation, Washington Square Mall, and the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township. The ERC is the first such facility in Indiana and only the third mall-based school in the nation during its initial year of operation 2000-2001. The ERC has a shortened school day, compact periods, low pupil-teacher ration, individualized instruction, self-paced competency-based instruction, and open hours. Most Renaissance students are employed through an on-site work-study program. Over the four-year period of its existence, 80-85% of seniors have graduated and received a regular high school diploma.

2004 Crystal Star Award for Students with Disabilities Program Award

Union Alternative School
Union Public Schools, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Union Alternative School was created in 1995 and moved into a $1.2 million facility that was built in 1997 specifically for this program. Over one-third of the students who enter Union Alternative School have juvenile justice backgrounds, 34% enter the program because of social or emotional problems, and the majority of the students suffer with attention deficit disorder. Their strong service-learning program has been a model for other alternative education programs throughout the state. A Parents As Teachers Program provides weekly assistance to pregnant and parenting teens. As a result of this parenting assistance, only one parenting teen has ever dropped out of Union Alternative School. Students attending Union have posted impressive gains in grades, attendance, and standardized test scores. Pre and post scores show an improvement in grade point average from 0.7 to 2.5; number of absences from 27 to 5; and standardized test scores from the 52nd percentile to the 79th percentile. In 2003, they won the Oklahoma Foundation of Excellence Medal for Excellence in Alternative Education.

2004 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Mrs. Janet T. Catoe
Lancaster County School District, Lancaster, South Carolina

Janet T. Catoe is the site manager for Eastside Academy, Lancaster County School District, Lancaster, SC. Mrs. Catoe has been the director of the alternative school since its inception in January 2000. She works with a variety of community groups to seek ways to reach not only the student, but also the child. Family literacy, parenting classes, and a self-help station are available to those in need, and Janet has drawn on the faith communities for support. The SC State Department of Education often refers other school districts to Eastside. She has spoken at many conferences on the state and national level. Janet has been recognized by the Lancaster Chapter of the Optimist Club for outstanding leadership in the community, received the Scroll of Honor for Outstanding Achievement in Lancaster County by the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and named South Carolina Rural Educator of the Year in 2004. Under her leadership, the Academy won a South Carolina School Board Association’s Saluting Student Success Award in 2003. In 2004, they won a Palmetto Pride Award of Appreciation and the United Way Gold Award for Community Service and Pride for their service-learning projects.

Mr. Jim Lawson
A. Crawford Mosley High School, Panama City, Florida

Jim Lawson is a public school teacher for Bay District Schools, A. Crawford Mosley High School, Panama City, FL. He has over 29 years of teaching experience, and for the last 16 years has been the district’s in-school suspension (ISS) teacher for middle and high school students. He has developed and implemented a “model for structure” featuring a behavioral rubric for the purpose of assessing individual student performance in the ISS classroom. Jim has enjoyed an eight-year record of success by teaching over 6,000 students how to monitor their daily, individual behavior and performance. Regular, special needs, and gifted students have been successful in this program. His model has been featured on the Education World web site, in dropout prevention books, and local newspapers, and on television. He is nationally recognized for his leadership skills and expertise in addressing school safety and dropout prevention issues.

Dr. Norman W. Shearin, Jr.
Vance County Schools, Henderson, North Carolina

Dr. Norman W. Shearin, Jr. is Superintendent of Vance County Schools, Henderson, North Carolina. He has been a public school educator for 40 years. Dr. Shearin has been a math teacher, athletic coach, department head, assistant principal, high school principal, and deputy superintendent. He has worked to develop, promote and implement literacy in Vance County Schools. Dr. Shearin established the first alternative high school in the county, and has implemented a self-paced computer-based program for at-risk students. He was the original principal for the first cities-in-Schools National Program in Florida where his school reduced the dropout rate over nine years from 37% to 13%. Dr. Shearin’s motto is: “Programs do not change people, relationships do!”

2004 Crystal Star Award for Students with Disabilities Individual Award

Dr. Larry Kortering
Appalachian State University

Dr. Larry Kortering is a professor in special education at Appalachian State University, and directs a grant on using Universal Design for Learning in the areas of algebra and biology. He has worked as a public school teacher and rehabilitation counselor. His current interests focus on helping high school teachers develop programs that are more responsive to the needs of youth at risk of dropping out and helping them to succeed in today’s high stakes testing environment. As part of this interest, he has conducted interviews with school dropouts and annually surveys more than 1,000 high school students. These efforts help provide a unique perspective on high school—that of the student as a consumer.

2004 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Ms. Lois L. Gracey
Communities In Schools of Florida

Lois L. Gracey, State Director of Communities In Schools of Florida, has been employed by CIS of Florida since its inception in 1989. Ms. Gracey has extensive experience in all aspects of program and agency administration. She established the first local Communities In Schools Program in Palm Beach County, Florida in 1984. She began the CIS process in Florida at Twin Lakes High School, Palm Beach County, with 75 students. In 1989, the State Office was started with a grant from Bell South Foundation. From that humble beginning —one school in one county—CIS of Florida has grown to serve nearly 31,000 students in 16 counties. Ms. Gracey has served as a member and past chair of the National Dropout Prevention Network Board, is a member of the CIS, Inc. State Directors Association, and is a graduate of Leadership Florida. She was instrumental in initiating the agreement between the National Dropout Prevention Network and CIS National Headquarters. While serving on the NDPN Board, she has chaired two national conferences sponsored by the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network. Ms. Gracey has a vision for a better life for children—a vision for CIS of Florida—and she shares that vision with her staff and colleagues.

2003 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Career Education Options Program
Shoreline Community College, Shoreline, Washington

The Career Education Options Program (CEO) is committed to helping at-risk, out of-school youth, ages 16-21, achieve self-sufficiency through education, job training and life skills development. Supported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Shoreline School District and the King County Work Training Program, the program helps out-of-school youth to pursue their GED and/or a professional-technical associate degree. Most come to CEO having exhausted their options within the high school setting, and have little chance of graduating with their peers. The program’s tuition support is essential, as most students have limited financial resources. The college’s open door policy allows them to feel welcome and offers a new chance to flourish. Launched in 1995, the program has grown steadily and is now operating at capacity, serving 514 students in 2002-03. Approximately 80 students annually have completed their GEDs with virtually all of them moving on to further college studies.

Complete High School Maize
USD 266 Maize, Kansas

Complete High School Maize (CHSM) is an experiential learning center for grades 9-12. Students who attend the school have either previously dropped out of school or are not presently successful at their traditional high school. Maize has a four-day school week, and Friday morning is dedicated to providing those students who need additional help, time to get it. One of the first tasks students must complete is the multiple intelligences inventory that gives them an indication of their learning style. Once students understand their learning style, they are able to pursue individual learning contracts that best address that style of learning. CHSM students also have their own Personal Education Plan (PEP) which includes work experience, community service, vocational technical college, and any other program the student might be interested in pursuing. On-line courses provide educational opportunities to students that extend beyond the school day. To date, 90% of CHSM graduates are in careers or in training/education for a career, and all are employed.

Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky

Jefferson County High School (JCHS) is committed to providing successful completion of high school to all students unable to graduate from the traditional school setting. JCHS facilitates student learning through open entry/open exit, and a self-paced, individualized curriculum, thereby enhancing self-esteem and the ability to become productive employable members of society. JCHS is one of the largest high schools in the District with more than 350 graduates annually. The school is located in five (5) locations throughout Jefferson County. These sites include high schools, portables and community education centers. Students also have the option to take regular academic courses online through the District’s eSchool. A program evaluation found that students who attend JCHS were less likely to have dropped out than those in the comparison group, 15.3% versus 34.9%, respectively. Since its inception, the school has received more than 800 visitors; its model is being used at an estimated 275 other school districts in over 27 states.

2003 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Lee G. Fox
Metro Atlanta Boys & Girls Clubs

Lee Fox is the Assistant Camp Director/Program Director at the Metro Atlanta Boys & Girls Clubs Camp Kiwanis Program. He has worked at the Camp for more than 20 years and oversees the activities, instructs in the programs, trains the staff in the programs, creates and develops new program activities, advocates for the Camp, and helps to raise money to fund the various activities. In the past ten years more than 59,000 young people have gone through his programs. His Leaders in Nature’s Kingdom (LINK) program is a four-year leadership program that allows young people to grow, mature, and learn leadership skills. All of these young people come from an environment which places them at-risk, and many demonstrate negative behaviors in school. Two hundred youth have been selected for this program and all of them have graduated from high school. Of those who graduated, 98% have gone on to college. Lee has developed club programs with both Zoo Atlanta and Fernbank. He was part of a joint venture program with Georgia Tech, in which Atlanta school teachers came to Camp Kiwanis to learn about the instructional techniques that were being used.

Regina Greenwald
Delaware Department of Education

Regina Greenwald is State Director for the School to Work federal grant as well as State Director for the Delaware Learn & Serve grant, the lead education associate for Delaware Department of Education’s (DDOE) dropout prevention team, and a member of DDOE’s Character Education program development team. She developed a “What I Want to be When I Grow-Up Day” co-sponsored with Junior Achievement. Children throughout the state now dress in costumes depicting careers on Halloween. Mrs. Greenwald has been involved in staff development for all of Delaware’s guidance counselors, career counselors and vocational and technical educators as well as Family and Consumer Science educators. Regina previously worked as the Delaware Department of Education’s Transition Facilitator for the Transition Services Quality Management (TQM Project) and has taught grades K-12 in a number of states, and has been a school to work coordinator, college advisor and credentials assessor. She is a member of the Governor’s Council for Employment of People with Disabilities, the State Community Service Commission, the Delaware Partnership for Positive Youth Development, and numerous committees involving youth and employment.

Dr. Mary Jo McLaughlin
Academy of Creative Education, San Antonio, TX

Mary Jo McLaughlin is the founding principal of the Academy of Creative Education (ACE), San Antonio, TX. ACE is an innovative non-traditional high school for students who are at-risk of dropping out of school. She is the driving force behind this highly successful program that is recognized as one of the premier alternative schools in the state of Texas. Under her leadership, more than 2,000 students have graduated from this dropout retrieval and recovery program since the school opened in 1991. She organized The Academy Advisory Corporate Council, a community support committee that provides scholarship opportunities, mentors, and resources for graduation ceremonies. Mary Jo developed a Year-End Report which is a model for schools all over the country. Dr. McLaughin served as a peer reviewer for the Texas Alternative Accountability Division of the Texas Education Agency, and is an active participant in Star Trainers, a state professional development cadre. Dr. McLaughlin is a recipient of the prestigious Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching by Trinity University. During her 35 years in education, she has taught English, physical education and adult education classes, and for 13 years taught at Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home in Omaha, Nebraska.

2003 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Cynthia A. Terry
Florida Department of Education

Cynthia A. Terry, a native Floridian, is the Dropout Prevention Field Program Specialist for the Florida Department of Education’s (DOE) Bureau of Instructional Support and Community Services which provides on-site technical assistance to 23 school districts. She has been in education for more than 22 years, and in dropout prevention/alternative education for 14 years. Cyndi began her education career as a teacher at Winston Elementary, a former “Strawberry School,” where a student’s attendance centered around the strawberry growing season. Cyndi left the classroom for a job at the Florida Department of Education in 1987 with the Office of Professional Practices. She has been active with the Dropout Prevention Network since 1990, and has served on three national conference planning committees. Cyndi constantly promotes the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network to school personnel, graduate students, parents and students. She has used grant funds to provide scholarships for at least four local teachers to attend a National Dropout Prevention Network Conference.

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.

2001 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

School Based Pupil Motivation and Maintenance at Sunset Elementary School
Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, La Puente, CA

Stanley Hall Enrichment Center
Evansville, IN

Broken Bow Alternative Academy
Broken Bow, OK

2001 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Clarence William (Bill) Barton
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, Columbus, IN

Joann Winkler
Liberty Elementary School, Port Charlotte, FL

Pat Dal Santo
Kane County Truants’ Prevention Program, Geneva, IL

2001 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

John V. (Dick) Hamby
Retired Assistant Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center, Clemson, SC

2001 Crystal Star Award for Special Service

Harris Rosen
Rosen Hotels and Resorts, Orlando, FL

2000 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

The Choice Middle School Program
Shriver Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Attucks Alternative Academy
Vinita Public Schools, Vinita, OK

The Middle Area Learning Center
Grand Rapids, MN

2000 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Marie Cardosi
I_KAN Attendance Assistance Program, Kankakee, IL

Lonnie Leland
Project Transition, Bryan Station Traditional Magnet High School, Lexington, KY

2000 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Peyton Williams, Jr.
Georgia Department of Education

2000 Crystal Star Award for Special Service

Marion Pines
The Johns Hopkins University

1999  National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Jobs for New Hampshire Graduates
New Hampshire

Jobs for New Hampshire Graduates is a school-to-career program which serves students at risk of dropping out of school. The program is currently in operation at 22 high schools. Academic assistance, job search instruction, and service learning are three major components of this program, which has served thousands of New Hampshire students over the past 12 years. In order to compete the program, students must master 37 different competencies covering areas such as basic academics, career awareness, job seeking skills, job survival, leadership development, and personal life skill training. In addition, representatives from the business community visit the classroom and give a brief overview of their line of work. Students are introduced to different career fields through field trips to local companies and through research conducted at the library. Jobs for New Hampshire Graduates provides students with the skills which benefit them in the classroom, on the job and in life.

Saint Paul Area Learning Center
St. Paul, MN

Minnesota created Area Learning Centers (ALCs) to reduce the dropout rate and to help learners succeed in school and earn their high school diploma. The Saint Paul Area Learning Center provides many K-12 alternative education programs and is part of the Saint Paul Public Schools. For the 1997-98 school year, the Saint Paul ALC served a total of 13, 723 learners. Each Saint Paul ALC secondary program serves a specific target population and structures their services to meet their students’ needs. One of these great programs is Project LEAD. Project LEAD is for students who prefer a team setting with expeditions and experiential learning opportunities. Students are offered:

  • Four, twelve day expeditions to various sites across the U.S. like the Appalachain Trail, Big Bend National Park, and Washington, D.C.
  • Leadership and small group experiences
  • Vocational goal planning
  • Rigorous performance based academics

Project LEAD is clearly a successful program that the St. Paul Area Learning Center is proud to sponsor.

Spring Branch School of Choice
Houston, TX

The Spring Branch School of Choice, Houston, Texas, is one of the most successful, highly recognized, dropout prevention programs anywhere, maintained by one of the most dedicated and talented staffs under the direction of a very supportive administration. This program offers a guidance program that includes career guidance, self-esteem development, class placement, reinforcement of curriculum, and college entrance support. In addition, the program has formed an alliance with Junior Achievement. Through this alliance, four Junior Achievement volunteers visit the program once a week to discuss topics such as workplace policies, interpersonal effectiveness, teamwork, resumes, career planning, and job search skills. The program also ensures that school planning teams receive training in strategies to help parents become active and informed supporters of their children’s education and partners in pursuing their educational goals. Parents are involved in workshops and meeting to gain the necessary skills. Furthermore, the program offers motivation programs that support student’s academic and career goals, and provides them with leadership experiences. The program also promotes and implements individualized instruction and peer mediation as well as mentoring and tutoring. The program has been highly successful in meeting the needs of a diverse student population. The graduation rate is currently ninety-two percent and its dropout rate is given as two percent.

1999 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Melissa Catechis
Genesis Program at Rockledge High School, FL

Melissa Catechis is program coordinator of the Genesis Program at Rockledge High School in Rockledge, Florida. The Genesis Program is a dropout prevention program and student retrieval program in Bevard County. Through Melissa’s strong leadership and the positive learning environment she creates, she allows students to overcome their individual and personal problems so they can become productive citizens for society. She has implemented a career development program and developed Career Orientation Day where local businesses come and conduct interviews with students. In addition, Melissa has involved students in the community by arranging for service learning projects such as collecting books for the younger grades and making up food baskets for the Salvation Army during the holidays. Furthermore, Melissa has developed a tutoring program for the HCST and GED-two tests students need to pass in order to graduate. Melissa ensures that those students who do not pass the tests the first time receive the remediation they need. Melissa is well respected by the students, parents, and teachers as her hard work, motivation, and positive attitude shine through in her work.

Lea Ann Lockard
Spring Branch School of Choice, Houston, TX

Lea Ann Lockard is the director of the Spring Branch School of Choice in Houston, Texas. According to her co-workers, “She is a dedicated professional who adheres to the highest standard of professionalism imaginable and evokes the same qualities in those who work with her.” She is well respected and looked to for advice and support by students, parents, and teachers. Among her many contributions to Spring Branch School is the development of student portfolios. Lea Ann is always searching for ways for students to increase their self-esteem, and by building a portfolio, students have a better portrait of themselves as able, talented, productive people. In addition, Lea Ann insures that everyone involved in educating students in the program, including the students themselves, has a voice, and guarantees that voice is heard by means of surveys, suggestion boxes, and committees. Furthermore, Lea Ann works to develop and initiate parental involvement in the school. When Lea Ann accepted her position as director, there was no parent involvement program, but she quickly “got the ball rolling” by instituting an orientation night for parents, and organized monthly evening parent meetings in order for parents to feel they were an active force in what happened at school. Lea Ann has also worked to develop and implement tutoring programs. She constantly looks for ways to help students individually as well as in large groups. She has achieved success in doing so by instituting one-on-one tutoring volunteers, promoting a testing/evaluation diagnostic series, establishing regularly scheduled TAAS tutorial classes, mobilizing novaNET tutorial classes, and forming a partnership with Junior Achievement. Lea Ann provides leadership and serves as a role model. She is a vital, energetic force, which helps motivate staff and students.

Cynthia Fischer
Peoria Alternative High School, IL

Dr. Cynthia Fischer is an administrator at Peoria Alternative High School – District 150 in Peoria, Illinois. Dr. Fischer realizes the importance of parents in the educational process and is proactive in encouraging parental involvement. Both students and parents are interviewed before being admitted to the program and are involved in the development of individual educational plans for their child. Cynthia strongly believes in communication between the school and parents. Parents are notified if a student is absent or experiencing difficulties in school or on the job. Monthly newsletters are sent to parents to keep them informed about school happenings. Cynthia was instrumental in the establishment of a parent support group which meets once a month and allows parents to discuss issues and express concerns they may have. In continuing with her belief in the importance of parental involvement, Cynthia has also implemented a program for teen mothers to help develop their parenting skills. Yet another of Cynthia’s contributions to the program is the partnership she has formed with IBM, which allows students to shadow a professional for a day in a career area of his/her choice. She has worked diligently to bring technology to the school and enrich the curriculum. She has secured twelve new Internet networked computers for the computer lab and has gotten all classrooms wired and Internet-ready. Cynthia is ready and willing to take on whatever measures necessary to improve the program for the sake of the students.

1999 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Mary Jo Butler
Florida Department of Education

Mary Jo Butler is Director of Intervention and Prevention Services at the Florida Department of Education in Tallahassee, Florida. She is a National Dropout Prevention Network member of ten years and has presented at and hosted a network event. According to her co-workers, “Mary Jo Butler is the epitome of an outstanding NDPN member. Her daily routine is a constant reflection of the mission of the National Dropout Prevention Network.” She ensures that she stays up-to-date with any initiatives which impact at-risk students by utilizing the many resources provided by the NDPN including the FOCUS database and Dropout Prevention On-Line. In addition, Mary Jo has sponsored numerous workshops and statewide conferences which offered a variety of sessions designed to assist teachers, administrators, and district level personnel with alternative strategies to keep students from dropping our of school. She annually assists districts with their dropout prevention reporting data, helps to promulgate that data, and then is an integral part of the writing and publishing team for the Dropout Prevention Annual Report. Mary Jo performs all of her responsibilities with dignity, pride, and professionalism. She is a true leader and advocate for at-risk children in the state of Florida.

1999 Crystal Star Award for Special Service

Honorable Gonzalo Barrientos

Senator Gonzalo Barrientos is Texas State Senator of District 14. He is best known and respected for his more than two dozen pieces of legislation designed to decrease the school dropout rate. His efforts have led to a reduction of the school dropout rate across the state of Texas. The Senator has worked tirelessly dedicating most of his life to ensure that children and families, low income, minorities, special education and the elderly are awarded every possible opportunity to succeed. Two particular pieces of legislation written and sponsored by the Senator are the Communities in Schools program, and the Pregnancy Education and Parenting Program. His support of the legislation provided the funding for both of these programs that provide services to at-risk youth for the purpose of decreasing the dropout rate in Texas. As has been proven, Senator Barrientos has a genuine concern for at-risk youth. He believes that the dropout problem is not a school problem, but a community problem, and that it takes everyone working together to make a difference for youth.

1998 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

The House Next Door-Alpha Program
School Board of Volusia County, FL

Intermediate District 287 Area Learning Center
Minneapolis, MN

Lincoln Alternative Education High School
Enid, OK

1998 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Raul R. Iribarren
Palm Beach County Schools, FL

Raul is Director of the Department of Federal Programs for Palm Beach County Schools, West Palm Beach, Florida. Since 1994, he has also been responsible for guiding and developing the Dropout Prevention Program for the school district. He has always advocated for all students in the course of his work with special populations. Throughout his many assignments and activities he has sought to facilitate collaborative efforts to meet the needs of students who have dropped out of school or who are at risk of dropping out. He has provided leadership in development of alternative programs for such students. He has consistently contributed to local and statewide reform efforts designed to provide quality learning environments for students in dropout prevention programs. Raul Iribarren has evolved in the dropout prevention arena to become a leader at both the state and national level. Aside from being a presenter at both the state and national dropout prevention conferences, he has organized the state of Florida Dropout Prevention Technical Assistance Meetings as the President of the Florida Association of Alternative School Educators. His work has positively impacted the lives of students, teachers, parents, and co-workers. Raul is an asset to the National Dropout Prevention Network.

Virginia Price Masingill
Deland High School, FL

Virginia is a teacher on the faculty of Deland High School, Volusia County School District, Deland, Florida. She was nominated by her principal for her positive attitude and love for her students and profession. These are reflected in the outstanding quality of the Infant-Toddler Development Program that she directs. Under her leadership as director, the Infant-Toddler Development Program has moved from a teen parenting state pilot initiative in 1990 to a full fledged state licensed child care center, considered a model program in 1997. Ms. Masingill works with teen parents in the development of their parenting skills and assists them in staying on task in their classes. She believes that inspiring a love of learning in others begins with helping others to foster and encourage a positive self-esteem in each student.

Diane L. Stultz
Worcester County, MD

Diane is a teacher in the Maryland Tomorrow Bridges Classroom, a centrally located alternative classroom that draws students from each of three high schools in Worcester County, Maryland. Over the past ten years, she has developed a program that not only changed the lives of her students but influenced the total system’s philosophy of alternative education. The Bridges Program initially only received students who had been expelled from a local high school. Diane Stulz convinced principals that Bridges could offer an alternative to not only the disruptive student, but students suffering from a severe lack of motivation, irregular attendance patterns, or other behaviors that impede educational progress. Bridges’ students may be in any grade from nine through twelve and bring with them a variety of schedules. Diane Stulz provides an individualized plan for each student. Based on her experience, the Bridges Program now offers students individual, group, and parental counseling, in addition to an academic component.

1998 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Andy Carruthers
Glen Shields Public School, Canada

Michael Denny
Leonardtown High School, Maryland

Now in his 9th year of working with at-risk students, Michael Denny is a teacher who deserves consideration for the “national teacher of the year” award. Taking “unsavable” students, he has helped transform them into graduates and contributing members of the community. To Michael, there are no “throw-away” students. In recognition of his efforts in dropout prevention, he was the only high school teacher to serve on the Maryland State Dropout Prevention Task Force last year. His nominator summed Michael’s contributions up as follows: “Many consider Michael Denny to be the teacher who leads the state in developing dropout prevention programs and in working effectively with students, teachers, parents, community members, and legislators in achieving this goal. His passion, enthusiasm, and caring for students show no limits.”

Janice Dreshman-Chiodo

A Crises Intervention Specialist, Janice has been nominated by her principal for her commitment to students, her credo of dedication and hard work. These characteristics allowed her to be hired from her previous role as a consultant from Saint Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her work in creating the “VIP” program—Vikings Influencing Peers—reinforces the purpose of the school, which is to educate the whole child and meet all the student’s needs. Her work in encouraging the students, the families, and the community to connect has strengthened the commitment of all parties to assist thos students at risk. Janice’s work to keep the students connected to the community through beneficial and humanitarian outreach is worthy of emulation by educators across the United States. Her links to service-learning are part of her holistic approach to education, i.e., reaching the whole child.

Dean Frost
Louisiana Department of Education

As a teacher, consultant, facilitator, and administrator in several states, Dean Frost recognized the growing trend of American youth voluntarily terminating their formal education early in her career. She diligently began to address the individual’s detachment from structured education by becoming an active charter member in the National Dropout Prevention Network. Her commitment to this national problem has been evidenced by the many innovative programs she has brought to Louisiana’s public schools. As Director of the Bureau of Student Services, Louisiana Department of Education, she continues to implement programs throughout Louisiana that identify students at an early age who are at risk for terminating their education. Three programs under her direction are: In-School Intervention Pilot Program; Child Welfare and Attendance Program; and School-Based Health Clinics and HIV/AIDS Education.

Russell Wheatley
Dade County Public Schools, Florida

In Dade County, Russell Wheatley’s name has become synonymous with dropout prevention, and he is the undisputed authority on issues concerning students at risk. Russell began his career in 1957, and 42 years later is still considered a dedicated educator. He is committed to the belief that everyone can succeed if placed in the proper educational setting. In 1971, he established such an educational setting with Miami MacArthur North and has continued interactive partnerships with Communities in Schools. Russell became an advocate for at-risk students before it became popular to do so. His advocacy and commitment to at-risk students and programs in Dade County have allowed him to have an outstanding career as an educator. Russell is an educator who has worked to make programs for at-risk students more than just a fad; he has led the way to make them an integral component of education. Students across the nation—past, present, and future—are indebted to this pioneer of preventative programs for the at-risk youth of America.

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