KISD pursues Gateway, with or without grant

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Kilgore ISD is taking the next step in establishing the Gateway Program for at-risk students. 

The after-school program will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and will be in place for students whose schedules prevent them from successfully earning their high school diploma in the traditional school setting. For some, this is due to family obligations, work requirements or personal conflicts, such as pregnancy.

Although the district has not heard whether the program will receive the grant funding it requested, the trustees gave KISD Superintendent Cara Cooke their verbal support for the program. The cost for the program, which will be held on the KHS campus, will be about $30,000 – the salary of the part-time program coordinator. 

“If we make one out of $30,000, it’s well worth it,” trustee John Slagle said. “In the scheme of things, $30,000 is not much money when it comes to educating a child.” 

The program will also help students who are participating in the high school’s credit recovery program. These students attend classes during the regular school day but need to make up credit for a class they otherwise would not get due to attendance requirements.

Students may, and some will, attend classes during the regular school day and attend the Gateway program. Others, though, might only attend classes through the Gateway program.

Each student will be required to apply for admission. Those applications are reviewed by a committee made up of KHS Principal Charles Presley or a representative, a counselor and a teacher. That committee will then meet with the student’s parent or guardian to explain the expectations and requirements associated with the program. 

As part of offering the program, KISD must submit an application to the Texas Education Agency to gain approval; once approved,it will then be part of the district’s state funding structure. 

Due to the holiday, approval will not come until after students begin in the program that will start Jan. 1 and continue through July 30. 

In a unanimous vote, the KISD Board of Trustees gave Cooke to have authority to establish the procedures associated with the program.

According to the TEA application, participating students and KHS counselors will customize an individual graduation plan with behavioral and attendance expectations, an academic plan that includes end-of-course examination schedules and a post-secondary plan.

All students in the Gateway program will have to accomplish state graduation requirements.

In his years as a KISD trustee, Board Secretary Trey Hattaway noted the special graduation ceremonies they have witnessed for students who have returned to school and completed graduation requirements, in some cases years after their original graduation date had passed. 

“That’s an emotional thing, but it could have been made a whole lot easier had this program been in place at that time,” he said.

Cooke agreed there is a need and told the board she had gotten phone calls from people from outside the district about the program. 

Hattaway thanked those involved with the development of the program for looking at a problem facing underserved students at the district and trying to address those shortcomings. 

“This makes me feel like we are a district of innovation that we took something a group of students that we were not serving very well – not because we weren’t trying to, but because their circumstances didn’t fit into our box – and we have made some adjustments to our box,” he said. “I am appreciative of your efforts, and I think that’s why we want to be a part of this board is so we’re doing the right things and trying to help our community and the only way we help our community is if we educate our children.” 

Following a public hearing, Cooke told the board and the audience she would plan to submit the application to the state that night or the following day. 

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