UP program to phase out

School board votes to extend program past 2019


Dylan Limas

The school board prepares for the meeting held on July 26. Members (from left to right) : Jeff Rank, Jim Needham, Shirley Thornton, Steve Ellis, Michael Morgan, Brian Grunberg and Jennifer Welp.

Anticipation filled the air on July 26 as seven individuals were faced with a decision that would impact hundreds of students.

The school board meeting started out with public comments from parents, students, and alumni. Only one of the 11 people who got up to speak supported ending the high school’s university preparatory program in 2019. Many people argued that ending UP in 2019 would be unfair to the underclassmen who had spent all summer getting ready to enter the program.

After roughly an hour and a half of comments from the public and the board, it was time for the school board to vote. In a 5-2 vote, the board decided to phase out the UP program rather than ending it after the 2018-19 school year. The vast majority of people in attendance were satisfied will the school board’s decision.

Steve Ellis, the president of the school board, said that the state changes “made it impossible to comply.” Ellis added that, the UPHS is currently out of compliance with state law, and that the board was forced to take action to restructure student opportunities for college credit. The school is also facing a one million dollar shortfall, which is partly due to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Junior and UP student Luke Tschritter stopped playing football after his freshman year in order to focus on his studies. Tschritter told the school board during the meeting that they should be responsible for keeping their promise to the UP students who have worked hard to be a part of the program.

“Let today not be the day that students were let down and taught that no matter how hard they try, a vote can destroy everything they have built,” Tschritter said.

A few parents voiced their concerns on the effectiveness of Advanced Placement and Dual Credit classes in comparison to UP during the meeting. UP parent Kimberly Grassedonio said that only about 40 percent of AP students on campus pass their AP exams. The parent also mentioned that students in UP have an opportunity to earn significantly more hours towards college than students in dual credit classes.

After all the parents were done speaking, it was time for the members of the school board to speak. Board member Jennifer Welp said the board hadn’t had a chance to discuss what should be done with the program. Some members weren’t present at the meeting in April when the board originally voted.

Everyone on the board besides Shirley Thornton and Ellis said they were in support of phasing out the program rather than ending it in 2019 so that the approximately 290 students enrolled in UP can graduate in the program.

Thornton said she was an at-risk student growing up, but was still able to succeed without a program like UP. She said that she believes that students will “carry on” even without the program.

Ellis said that the UP program was originally put in place to help disadvantaged students go to college. Things have changed, because most students in the program aren’t disadvantaged. Ellis also said that none of his children who graduated from Flour Bluff went through the UP program and have still gone on to have successful careers.

Ellis tried to calm the concerned parents down by saying that “UP students get the same degree as students in regular classes.”

Tschritter said he was pleased with how the board meeting went and how everyone discussed the UP program.

“I believe we had a really good response from both sides which is very dynamic,” he said. “Towards the end, we have to keep our eyes open and stay on top of the debate because there are still some loopholes into what they (the board) said.”