After two years of going to the education centre in Liverpool, Rhyno will walk across the stage for his Grade 12 diploma this June. This is something he didn’t think would happen. He even expressed it in a letter.
“I know myself if I didn’t have this place, I wouldn’t be getting my grade 12.”
Rhyno wrote a letter in response to news about changes to the education programs at Gorham.
A March 21 press release from the office of the superintendent said, “The South Shore Regional School Board (SSRSB) announced in February that its provincial budget targets showed a significant cut in 2012-2013 funding.”
The press release also announced the Queens County middle-level transition program will move to South Queens Junior High School and the Queens County Alternate Program to Liverpool Regional High School (LRHS). Both moves are slated for September 2012.
Although the Gorham facility is closing, SSRSB is said as of last week there is a new opportunity.
“That was our original plan (to have the adults go to LRHS), however an opportunity has presented itself where we can rent dedicated separate space for our adult program,” responded Jen Thompson, SSRSB’s communications manager, in an email.
Rhyno did go to Liverpool Regional High School, but things didn’t go well for him there, he says. When his mother and stepfather suggested he go to Gorham, that’s the route he took.
“Before I came here, I lived in the city, and I was getting into a lot of trouble,” he says. “Even after that, I came down here and was still getting in trouble.”
He says going to Gorham smartened him up.
Rhyno says he does not think having the alternate program at the high school would be a good idea.
“Nobody likes going up to the high school because they always had problems there. That’s why they left in the first place,” he says.
While Rhyno is sharing his story, his girlfriend is in the classroom with their son Isaiah. Students for whom daycare is unfeasible can take their children to school. This is another thing Rhyno emphasized in the letter.
Rhyno isn’t the only one who thinks the impending move is a mistake.
“The original intent of the school was to move programs out of the regular school system and move students into an environment that was away from where they came from because students weren’t succeeding in those environments,” says Gary Mason, who was principal of Gorham from 2004 to 2009.
Mason says the adult high school became a community for students because there was an area where they could take their children. There was also a kitchen with a stove, fridge and dishwasher.
“I think that was really important for the adults because adults in general who come back to that school do not necessarily see a regular school as a place that has been kind to them sometimes, and this environment certainly allowed for that nervousness to be gone,” says the former principal.
Glen Matthews was principal of Gorham from 2010 to 2012.
“These students, many of them, were unsuccessful while they were going through school,” he says. “They did not fit into the school system at that time.”
He says Gorham provides a relaxed atmosphere, a lot of one-to-one help and allows students to work at their pace. Matthews says this works well for them.
He says students have also come from LRHS to get one or two credits perhaps not offered at the high school.
“We had a great breakfast program,” adds Matthews. “We had students, the only basic meal they got of the day was what they got when they came to the school.”
It’s also a family, he says about the school’s atmosphere.
“In two years being there, versus the 32 others, I never felt like I was more a part of a family than I did when I was there,” Matthews says.
Rhyno paralleled Matthews’ thoughts in his writing.
“Anyone that goes to this school doesn’t think of it as ‘school.’ We think of it more as a second home. Everyone here helps everyone, and we all get along like a big family.”