The Alternate Road to the Best Alternative Education
Bryant Alternative High School principal Jan McKee talks about the new faculty, new year and new initiatives at her school.
Jan McKee, the principal of Bryant Alternative High School and the Landmark Academy, is overseeing some new goals, initiatives and faculty at her non-traditional schools.
Considering Bryant is one of two alternative schools (and one of two schools to offer adult courses) in FCPS, McKee has to take some unorthodox approaches to helping her students succeed.
"Eighty-five percent of our [Bryant and Landmark's] students hold part-time or full-time jobs," McKee explained. "They are expected to contribute to their family's survival."
She understands that to help these students help themselves, traditional teaching methods must be adapted.
"Students in alternative education are not recognized in a positive way," McKee said. "We want to do that by focusing more on academic and attendance issues."
To do this, McKee and her vice principals have instituted a program which recognizes 90 pecent or higher attendance rates in four week blocks, as well as recognizing A and B students in four week blocks.
This shift from an end-of-the-semester celebration to an end-of-the-month routine is the administration's idea to "use small positive increments because more frequent boosts may continue to help," McKee said.
Additionally, BAHS holds focused instructional time (or FIT) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These blocks provide a set time every week for workshops focused on career improvement, like resume writing and proper dress code.
"Simple things that maybe younger people don't think about can make a difference in an interview. [The workshops] give them all they need to get a better job."
In conjunction with those changes, five new teachers have appeared in Bryant's halls to replace five teachers who retired at the end of last year: Alice Lima-Whitney and Michelle Brummond have filled out the English division; Claudette Allen will be teaching Business in the career division; Herman Parson has joined the social studies division; and Kimberly Haynes has become the new chair of special education.
McKee said the new teachers all had "the head for it, but also the heart and soul" to work with Bryant's at-risk students.
On top of the new goals, focus points, and faculty for the year, BAHS and Landmark are continuing some programs from years past. Notably, they are still working with a local church and the Defense Acquisition University of Fort Belvoir in maintaining a food bank for students in need.