Fort Worth district approves at-risk program for 4 schools

02/12/2014 4:25 PM

02/12/2014 4:26 PM

A three-month contract with a Pennsylvania-based organization that helps at-risk youths begins March 1 at four schools.

The Fort Worth school board approved the contract with Youth Advocate Programs on Tuesday.

Trustee Matthew Avila said he was concerned about the program’s $64,270 cost to help about 30 students for three months. Others on the board, including Cinto Ramos, said the program is respected across the nation for turning around the lives of students who come from impoverished homes and who struggle academically. It has been used in Tarrant County with incarcerated youths.

Superintendent Walter Dansby said it was time to “bite the bullet … and step up to the plate for these children.”

Under the contract, Youth Advocate Programs will provide tutoring, mentoring, parent engagement and other forms of guidance. The program is expected to target about 30 students at J.P. Elder and Meacham middle schools and Diamond Hill-Jarvis and North Side high school. Students are expected to receive support for up to five hours a week.

Avila also expressed frustration over the lack of detail provided to board members about the program, including “outcomes” and performance measures.

The program’s website lists outcomes, and among others says that 89 percent of youths made progress or stayed in school while enrolled in its services.

Avila was also concerned about the program’s cost in light of the small number of students involved in the district of 83,503.

The district is proposing use of the program year-round.

Avila said the cost “makes me a little nervous about its sustainability.”

Youth Advocate Programs operates programs in Chicago and Pittsburgh, district officials said. It works mostly with youngsters who are struggling with behavioral problems, truancy, bullying, substance abuse and problems at home.

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