Tiger Mountain needs our help:

Extending “We Are One” beyond Liberty’s halls

Jenna Purkis, Guest Columnist

Against the best interests of nearly 100 students, the District wishes to make the 2014-2015 school year at Tiger Mountain Community High School its last.

Though a detailed proposition hasn’t been pitched, the plan includes Tiger closing in June 2015 and students returning to the three comprehensive high schools for the 2015-2016 school year before a different alternative high school opens the following year. District officials have proposed to accommodate students with modified learning plans and additional staff.

The fact is, though, that any amount of adjustments to the comprehensive high schools won’t be enough.

Students enroll at Tiger to avoid features of the comprehensive high school experience that are disadvantageous to them. Ostracism and bullying by peers is one significant example of a circumstance that might compel a student to transfer. Lack of individualized attention by staff is another; when a typical class of 35 students found in a comprehensive high school is over a third of Tiger’s entire student body, the addition of a few staff just can’t compete with Tiger’s 10:1 student-teacher ratio. Tiger can also create schedules and re-size workloads to accommodate working a job while attending school, while the comprehensive high schools cannot. Not to mention, in contrast to the punitive zero-tolerance response to drug use at the comprehensive high schools, Tiger’s more flexible response supports students holistically and intervenes while allowing them to stay in school.

It’s impossible to account for all of the ways Tiger remains the best option for many students, but the consequences of closing its doors for an entire school year are obvious. Many students who enroll at Tiger aren’t on-track to graduate upon transferring, and delaying the support of an alternative school for a year would make it even harder, if not impossible, to get those students back on track.

The bottom line is this: by all means, the district should do what it can to improve upon the good work Tiger already does, but closing the school and allowing students to fall through the cracks in the meantime should not be in any part of that plan. Allow students to continue to enroll, and keep Tiger open until the new school is ready to serve students in a similar capacity.
“We are one” beyond just the walls of Liberty High School. Peers at our sister school are in need of awareness and continued support from the student body at Liberty.