- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
With the help of a new program at his school, Trevon Plater went from being talkative in class and getting low grades to being more focused on his work and making the honor roll.
Trevon, 13, an eighth-grader at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Waldorf, is part of the High Road School program at Stoddert.
The High Road School of Southern Maryland is a private school in La Plata for students recommended by the county public school system to get one-on-one attention and school structure designed for students with social, emotional and behavioral challenges.
Through a partnership with Stoddert, the La Plata school now has a classroom inside Stoddert, part of an in-district classroom program through Special Education Services Inc.
High Road schools are part of SESI, which provides programs “that could be successful for students, cost effective and easy for public schools to administer,” according to its website. SESI partners with 50 schools in 11 states and Washington, D.C.
There are six Maryland schools participating in the in-district classroom program, including Stoddert and John Hanson Middle School, also in Waldorf.
SESI first began its partnership with public schools to provide a “school within a school” two years ago in Caroline County.
Trevon said before he started in the program at Stoddert, which consists of a classroom with four other students, a teacher from the High Road School and two teachers’ aides, he was in a regular classroom with about 25 students. He said he would get in trouble because he liked to talk in class and was distracted easily.
The in-district classroom model, according to SESI, includes workstations where students work independently while receiving specialized attention and curriculum from High Road instructors.
The program focuses on individualized attention from the model’s 3-1 student-to-teacher ratio, paired with the close management of students’ Individualized Education Program — resulting in a customized educational experience for the children who need it most.
SESI’s model also has a strong focus on behavior management, counseling services and crisis intervention, and life skills.
“I love everything” about the program, said Latonya Plater, Trevon’s mother.
She said since Trevon began the program this year, she has noticed that he is more responsible and focused at school and also more responsible for his actions at home.
She said that before her son was in the specialized program, he wasn’t interested in doing his homework.
“Now it’s the first thing he does,” Latonya Plater said.
Stoddert Principal Robert Babiak said when the High Road School came to the school system with the idea for the program, staff at the system’s central office reviewed middle school data and identified Stoddert as a school that might benefit from the partnership.
Babiak said his school had the need and the space for the program, and welcomed it.
The program is in its second year at Stoddert, and Babiak said the school benefits. He said students who are placed in the program are getting the individual attention they need and causing fewer disturbances.
He said students are able to transition back into their regular classrooms, and with the help of the High Road staff, the transitions are smooth and done one class at a time.
Babiak said when it comes to Trevon, he has noticed that his time at Stoddert is now more positive. Before, when Trevon was being disruptive, he was often sent to the office for discipline. His mom, Babiak said, would hear from the school as a result of discipline concerns, but now, she is getting calls with positive feedback about her son and his progress.
Latonya Plater credits her son’s interest in school work to the program.
“With him being in a smaller setting, he can focus more on what needs to be done,” she said.
The behavioral program at Stoddert follows the same model as the other High Road schools.
Darin Sipe, High Road School of Southern Maryland in-district program coordinator, said all students have point sheets, which are color-coordinated based on behavior. Student point sheets that are blue represent that the student has been on good behavior and earned certain privileges for the week, such as being able to attend a Friday field trip.
Based on the amount of points the student has earned, the student can stay on the blue sheet or be knocked down to lower levels such as green, yellow or red.
Red signifies the lowest level, and privileges are taken from students until they can earn their way back up the levels.
Trevon most recently hit the highest level of gold, which he reached for having 30 days of good behavior.
Gold-level students get special privileges and must maintain good behavior to keep the status.
Trevon’s teacher, Douglas Machen, said he has never had an issue with Trevon being disrespectful in any way and that he is an excellent example of a gold-level student.
Social worker Linda Woehlke, who works with the High Road School, said Trevon reaching gold in the first couple of months of his starting the program this year shows that he is exhibiting perfect behavior and an ability to follow directions.
As part of the program, Woehlke said students spend some time in individual and group therapy sessions where they have a chance to talk about problems, brainstorm ideas and discuss skills with one another or with an individual staff member.
Sipe said the goal of the program is to transition students out of the High Road classroom and back into their regular classes.
While the majority of the day is spent in the specialized class, Trevon and others in the class are able to be with their regular classmates for classes such as physical education.
Latonya Plater said she likes the idea that her son is able to have a specialized classroom environment without having to take him from his home school. She said she is grateful that Stoddert staff recognized her son’s potential.
Trevon said he made the honor roll this year and that he is happy about that.
Sipe said Charles County Public Schools is a great school system with an excellent special education department that he is proud to be partnered with.
Babiak said he is “more than happy” to have the program at his school.