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School System Cuts Star Program
Last comment by shannalat 3 months ago.

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The Coastal Courier shed light on a very important issue in the Wednesday August 13, 2014 paper.

I've heard a lot of chatter about the Star Program leaving and how it will affect the teachers and students. The advocates for the program say the Star Program was designed to catch kids before they end up in that pipeline to prison, and to turn them around. It’s character training and structure, in assignments of just 30 or 45 days, for kids who need extra services outside of the class room. I heard someone say-the program wasn't about breaking spirits or making soldiers—it was about learning to love the rules.

One of the founders of the program (Orlando Salinas) shared his views about the purpose of the program he reports- the program was set up as an intervention for kids to grapple with strict school routines during the day, he says, then go back to the same friends and home life that led them into trouble. “If I take you out of your environment, it’s easy to change. You’ll change because your environment is different,” he says. “I want these kids to change while they’re in an environment [that’s familiar], so that the change is lasting.” A kid might show up at school drunk or high, he figured, but once they try the daily two-mile run in that condition, they’re not likely to do it again.

He tracked graduation from and recidivism to his program, thinking he’d present his school as a case study in an academic paper someday. In the six years Salinas was at the school, the number of students returning for a second tour hovered around 5 percent.

In 2004, Salinas was called up for active duty in Afghanistan, and left his place at the school. He’s a general in the Texas Army National Guard today, living near Austin, but remains proud of the school he built 15 years ago. On his wall at home, he still has a gift from some old students: a handmade wooden shape of Texas bearing the school motto, “Discipline with dignity.”

First let's focus on a few details.

*The cost to run the program 188,375.60. Dr. Lee added an additional $60,902.40 to include indirect cost. Total cost per Dr. Lee-$249,278.

1. Where has the funding been allocated?

2. How many star instructors were placed in the middle school VS how many Behavioral modifications Specialist have been placed at the schools and what is the difference in salaries for a star instructor vs. a Behavior modification specialist.

*The recommendation was made by a review panel.


1.Who hired the review panel and what was the basis for the review?

2. What are the qualifications of the review panel? Was the panel set up from within the system?

*Stancils reports that of 355 students who attended Stars one-day program last year, only 28 returned to participate in the 30-day program.


Was the data reviewed prior to the decision being made to eliminate the program? If the numbers are correct-the success rate of the program was outstanding.

*Stancil reports in the article that they met one on one daily with the students in the program.

1. What type of case management services will be provided to at risk students?

2. Will the bulk of the responsibility now fall in the hands of the teachers to police and teach?

My opinion- The program is needed and the behavior modification piece is also needed. However, the district could have trained their Student Support team and delegated 2 Support team members to take on the responsibility of the behavior modification specialist. The Liberty County School website list 7 student support team members. If they would have taken the approach above- the Star Program would still be in operation and the district would have invested in their staff and kept a much needed program.

Latest Activity: Aug 13, 2014 at 10:14 AM

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jmcabee commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 10:35 AM

To touch briefly on one of your questions (something which I didn't have room to get to in my article): Two behavior modification specialists were intended to fill the gap left by STAR's absence (Dr. Lee specifically said in email correspondence that the behavior modification specialists were not "replacing" STAR). In her May superintendent report, it was presented that one BMS would be full-time, at a cost of $85,047.59, and one would be part-time, at a cost of $32,418.61. However, at the board's regular meeting on July 8, the part-time BMS position was upgraded to full-time by a unanimous vote of the board, based on a recommendation from Lee. Although Lee would not comment on whether the second full-time BMS' salary would equal the first's (she directed me to personnel for such information -- I have not followed-up with them), it's probably safe to assume that it will be in the same ballpark. Even granting a total of $80,000 for the second, that puts the district's total cost for two behavior modification specialists at $165,047, compared to $188,375.60 for STAR's contract, which included four STAR instructors. Lee also would not comment on whether those BMS salary figures included benefits packages or were just gross salary.

gacpl commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 10:52 AM

it might not be over money, a lot of people are against the star program due to the harshness of the program. my kids were in the star program at one point. one for behavior, and one for grades. the star program fixed the problems at school quick. it was a hassle to get them in due to a administrator thinking the instructors were to tough on the kids and did everything he could to talk parents out of putting kids in it. but once you become the superintendent, you can just cut the program. then blame it on money

shannalat commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 10:58 AM

It is a shame! Cutting this program is a shame!

PoliticsNation commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 11:09 AM

GACPL- thanks for sharing. You stated your child was placed in the Star Program because of grades? Was the poor grades related to behavior or learning? I wouldn't recommend placing a child that has issues possibility related to learning in boot camp. If the issues were directly related to " behavior" than I certainly understand.

You stated " the program fixed the problems". Was the problem fixed for that school year or was the problem fixed long term?

I hope you're not offended by my questions. Your feed-back gives me a better picture of star and it's great to hear a success story.

PoliticsNation commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Jmacbee- thanks for the quick response. I thought your article was informative thought provoking and detailed. Great job!!

gacpl commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 11:53 AM

he didn't have any learning problems, he would do his homework, then not turn it in. in class he would doodle and not pay attention as much has he should of. the problem was fixed for good after 1 month in the program. the instructor in long county was cpt ratford. (not sure if i spelled it right). she was strict and really watched out for the kids. even if you were out of the program, she still would check up on you. to keep the fear of the consequences if the problems start up again. from our experience the program really works and is a real loss to the school system not to have it.

PoliticsNation commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 12:06 PM

The Chatham County Board of Education has the Behavior Modification Specialist/Behavior Interventionist job posted for 50,000 less than the County Board of Education.

Behavior Interventionist


PoliticsNation commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 12:07 PM

"less than the Liberty County Board of Education".

HMJC commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 13:30 PM

Does anyone stop to ponder and ask; why are the same stringent practices regarding discipline part of the "normal" education environment? Even the "best kids have the propensity to buck the system. In my day a smack on the ass from the school, Mom, Dad, Uncle, and Family pet seemed to be able to balance discipline and education in the same setting.

As a society we are affronted if corporal punishment is considered an option concerning behavior modification We are also the same society that seems content with expecting teachers. coaches, and guidance counselors to raise our children. Not all got it, but teachers are no longer regarded as authority figures. We tend to question a teachers observation of misconduct and do not accept that our kids could actually be out of line and in need of an attitude adjustment.

Programs such as STAR should be geared more towards kids in a make it or brake it scenario. I mean no disrespect but if my kid is not doing their homework I will engage in my own version of behavior modification. The sad truth is the guidance and stability found in such programs is not found at home. If the lessons learned in STAR do not continue in the public classroom with re-enfacement in the home, the situation perpetuates itself.

I do concur that there is still a need for the program but the mainline school populous and STAR standards should not be too far off. At the end of the day it is getting them to behave in the same manner regardless of setting

shannalat commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 14:14 PM

the mainline school populous and STAR standards should not be too far off.
HMJC well said!

JimmyMack commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 16:35 PM

@jmcabee: I just want you to know that you are doing a great job of investigative reporting and to please keep at it. I think the more questions you ask and dig is going to reveal probably some astonishing facts about LCSS and the Superintendent.

I encourage you to press Dr. Lee on her "no comment" comments and to aggressively pursue the many issues swirling around her tenure including salary raises given while under contract for a specifically stated salary. Who got them? Was it legal? Who 'authorized' the raises?

I hope you will be given the time to pursue this story that begs questioning in many areas.

PoliticsNation commented on Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 at 18:57 PM

HMJC- I enjoyed reading your post. Well said.

JimmyMack commented on Saturday, Aug 16, 2014 at 16:21 PM

jmcabee: I have a source that wishes to remain anonymous that Dr. Lee was NOT hired for the Superintendent in Birmingham Alabama due to errors in her resume; grammatical, lack of references and other issues.

Probably worth a look.

JimmyMack commented on Saturday, Aug 16, 2014 at 16:47 PM

It seems the 'meat' of the reasons for her non-hire can be discerned in the comments from the various people regarding the specificity of her "Doctorate" and where it was attained, her improper grammar in her submitted resume...etc

JimmyMack commented on Sunday, Aug 17, 2014 at 08:57 AM
shannalat commented on Monday, Aug 25, 2014 at 09:50 AM

So why does Liberty County settle for what Alabama wouldn't?
Liberty county children deserve better

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