Rothman dedicated time to meeting each family, one by one, before the start of school. Rothman notes, “I made clear to every parent that their child’s success depended, in large part, on their support and involvement.”
He also used the meetings to help students and families understand the benefits of the structured nature of the program. “The reality is that we are asking families to make a decision about their child’s future in ninth grade,” Rothman points out. “Many parents I met with struggled with the fact that their children wouldn’t have the same high school experience that they had.”
Rothman highlighted the positives of having this unique opportunity for the families, “This not a one-size-fits-all approach where all of their experiences over six years are pre-determined,” he says. He focuses on the flexibility of the experience. “They will be able to craft their own experiences, their own benchmarks, and their own celebrations. Ultimately, every student will earn an AAS degree at no cost that will put them ahead — whether they choose to continue their education, move directly into the working world, or pursue a combination of both.”
As an added benefit, through the meetings, Rothman got to know the students themselves. “The data we are given on each student before school begins only tells part of the story,” says Rothman. He began to understand the academic strengths, interests, and anxieties of each student. Rothman continues, “I took note of potential issues that might arise once our summer program began, and set expectations and supports individually right off the bat.”
With everything that needed to be done, it was weeks into the process before anyone saw themselves as NECA’s strategic leadership body. “There was never a formal ask,” Amaker recalls. “People who were doing the planning were also decision-makers in our own right, and we became the steering committee. Because we were making things happen, it made sense to keep working with the small body of folks to keep things moving forward.”
While the school welcomed its first class in August 2014, moving forwarding has continued to mean tacking between immediate concerns and strategic decisions required for a successful, sustainable school.
Family is an important part of the P-TECH 9-14 model, even during mentor events at Excelsior Academy in New York State.