SOA offers options to non-traditional students

By Joseph Pratt

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Just as there isn’t one answer for every problem in the world, not every student fits into the traditional mold of the education structure — but it doesn’t mean that these students cannot succeed. The Southern Ohio Academy (SOA) recently proved this by graduating a majority of its senior class and having high passing test scores.

“SOA is a newer charter school option for the non-traditional student who might need extra assistance or a different type of environment to succeed,” Executive Director of SOA Pat Ciraso explained. “These students are those who might have been unable to connect with the traditional school program. We have been able to work with students and their parents to help them proceed towards a traditional high school diploma, which is the very same any other graduate receives.”

The charter school is sponsored through the Scioto Career and Technical Center and has a partnership with every area school, with the exception of Portsmouth City. This partnership is a strong one, according to Ciraso, and was forged to provide the best opportunities for individual students in the county who were in danger of not graduating.

“The schools provide us with support in the form of transportation and other support services, such as cross-networking counselors and administrators working with us and facilitating any aspect of the learning program for better learning opportunities,” Ciraso explained. “Also, the Scioto County Career and Technical Center (SCCTC) provides career explorative opportunities and the SCCTC and the Educational Service Center provides the framework of our institution.”

The school is a hybrid between online and classroom studies, where 80 percent of work is expected to be done online and twenty in the classroom.

“We do this because many of these students have problems with making it to school, but can complete most of their class work, if given the opportunity,” Ciraso explained. “We do require them to be in the classroom one day a week, though. Of course, the doors are open as many days a week that they want to come in and receive help from a licensed teacher.”

Ciraso said that the program was proven a success with recent numbers coming in at a 84 percent passing rate, which means of all the classes students take, 84 percent of them are passed.

“For an online school, that is remarkable,” Ciraso said. “I’ve been told by people from the Ohio Department of Education that typical online school passing rates are around 38 to 40 percent.”

Ciraso said that the school is not an easy out for students and few actually return to their home districts, because of the inability to juggle coursework at home and complete it all outside of an actual classroom. She also said that while the SOA might be what some students need, she always encourages students to greatly consider their final option, because they also lose out on many opportunities a brick and mortar school provides, from a greater sense of community, extracurricular activities, and sports.

The 2015 graduating class consisted of Clifton E. Abrams, Stephanie Loraine Allison, Kimberly Dawn Conley, Kari Lynn Craig, Alyssa Marie Evans, Joshua E. Frye, Christian Lee Hudson, Morgan Rayann Lang, Dylan Joseph Marshall, Blake Daniel Mayhew, Pamela Sue Parlin, Jacob Brandyn Pyles, Rachel Naomi Skeans, Cody Lee Timberman, Chantel Lace Winters, Makayla Ina Marie Yates-Bishop. Alyssa Evans (3.523 GPA) and Makayla Yates-Bishop(3.030 GPA) were awarded a $500 Medical Mutual Scholarship

“The students work very hard to achieve passage of classes, which is attributed to the hard work of our two full-time teachers and the regular substitutes we’ve used the past few months,” Ciraso explained. “We even had two students who graduated with a 3.0 grade point average or above and received scholarships and will attend Shawnee State University in the fall.”

Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.