Pete Bergmann, Moffat County School District superintendent, right, listens as Jonny Murray, Colorado Workforce Center veterans employment representative for the northwest region, reads a list of qualities that local employers said new hires lack. Bergmann, Murray and other members of the Moffat County Work and Life Skills Program Coalition met Tuesday to discuss what requirements students should meet to earn a laptop, the program's top incentive.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Pete Bergmann, Moffat County School District superintendent, right, listens as Jonny Murray, Colorado Workforce Center veterans employment representative for the northwest region, reads a list of qualities that local employers said new hires lack. Bergmann, Murray and other members of the Moffat County Work and Life Skills Program Coalition met Tuesday to discuss what requirements students should meet to earn a laptop, the program's top incentive.

Coalition members debate student requirements for earning incentives

Struggle about where to set the bar

How good is good enough?

That's the question some local coalition members butted heads about Tuesday afternoon.

"My concern is that if the purpose of the program : is to reach as many kids as possible, why are we being so rigid?" Mike Silverman, Moffat County High School assistant principal, said Tuesday.

The program he was referring to is the Moffat County Work and Life Skills Program, a four-month series of courses and seminars designed to prepare high school students for adult life.

A group of Moffat County School District administrators and representatives for the Colorado Workforce Center and the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership guides the program.

Silverman spoke out against requiring students to show 100 percent participation in order to earn a laptop, the program's top incentive. Meeting that standard would entail attending all required class sessions, which will be offered multiple times during the week.

Students could miss no more than two days during the four-month program, and even then they would have to give advance notice, just as they would if they were at a job.

Absences would be granted only for sickness, a family emergency or work.

"Can we continue to hold anyone's hand any longer in a program like this?" said Bryce Jacobson, coalition member and Boys & Girls Club of Craig board vice president.

Jacobson, who also is publisher of the Craig Daily Press, added that students suggested the 100-percent participation requirement.

Participants who meet 90 percent of the requirements would be eligible for a lesser prize, which could include a calculator valued at less than $100.

Darcy Trask, EDP director, saw this proposal as a viable solution.

"If you miss the top prize, it's a big drop, but you still get something," she said.

A majority of coalition members agreed with her, voting in favor of a proposal requiring students to show 100 percent participation before handing them a laptop at the program's end.

In Jacobson's estimation, program participants need to learn how to fulfill employers' standards for behavior and productivity.

"There are consequences to life," he said. "We can't continue to coddle these kids along."

Silverman disagreed, however. From his perspective, setting the bar that high wouldn't benefit students who most need help.

"Who's going to get the incentive?" he said. "It's going to be the kids who are already doing well."

Giving no leeway could be especially detrimental for students already at risk for school failure, he added.

Sean Villard, a safety coordinator for Tri-State Generation and Transmission, said the program should focus on students learning necessary skills instead of expecting perfect performance.

"It's an awareness-level training," he said. "It's not a proficiency-level training."

Still, he added, the program should "prepare them for the real world" and the high standards employers will have for them.

The coalition can examine further whether accommodations would be made for at-risk students, Trask said.

But she advised members against spreading the program too thin by covering too many objectives.

"This can't be all over the map," she said.

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