Editor’s note: As discussions continue about discipline and whether there are enough alternative schools and programs to meet unique needs of some students in Oklahoma City public schools, Oklahoma Gazette explores alternative paths available that help students graduate high school with the skills needed to enter adulthood. This story is part of an ongoing series.
RyAnn Proctor is an intelligent, independent, capable Emerson Mid-High School honor student who works hard and appears to have a bright future ahead of her.
She’s also a mom. Each day, she brings her 2-year-old daughter to school with her. The high school senior uses the on-campus day care, which is certified by Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS).
Emerson’s wraparound approach to alternative education — and keeping youth involved in the learning process — helps many students like Proctor graduate high school.
Proctor is one of many adolescents attending Oklahoma City Public Schools who benefit from attending Emerson, which specializes in educating independent students.
Senior Anthony Hayward recently told Oklahoma Gazette that he now is able to work “only one job instead of two” to make ends meet for himself and others in his family because he received a raise at his full-time job.
He credited the school’s flexible scheduling with helping make that happen.
Students may choose one of two sessions or both: one that runs 8:20 a.m.-1:10 p.m. and another that runs 11:35 a.m.-4:25 p.m.
Even with the schedule flexibility, Hayward said his teachers — and their patience — are key to his success.
“They are really down-to-earth,” he said. “They don’t expect more than they know that you can give.”
Looking to the future, Proctor said she hopes to attend Oklahoma City Community College and go on to the University of Oklahoma to earn a nursing degree.
“[Knowing my daughter is close by and safe at the day care, (housed in one wing of the building) helps me to stay in school and get my education,” she said. “It’s pretty good.”
Teachers and staff who work with Proctor as part of the school’s outreach to pregnant and parenting youth are supportive, too. She described them as nice and caring.
Emerson’s wraparound approach also features student access to medical care and other state-supported services, which are coordinated by a DHS worker. Soon, a clinic, now under construction, also will allow on-site medical care for students and their children.
Principal Sherry Kishore always is on the move throughout her long school day. Her priority is to provide opportunities for her students.
“My goal is that every student who walks into this building has the opportunity to learn what they need to … be productive citizens,” Kishore said. “Whether they choose to go to college or … go out and work in business or industry; whatever choice it is, they need to be prepared to get there.”
Senior counselor Jane Taylor spends much of her day helping solve class credit “mysteries” for former high school dropouts who have rededicated themselves to earning the credits to graduate.
She said Emerson does two important things for its independent students.
“We fit what they need in the hours that they can attend,” she said. “[And we] won’t let them make a zero.”
That’s not to say every student automatically gets passing grades. To the contrary, teachers return problematic work to pupils and help them until they understand and complete the assignments.
Emerson’s flexible schedule gives the campus a feeling of perpetual motion as students, staff and community providers come and go long after most schools would fall silent for the day.
Emerson also is the administrative hub for 11 extended, off-campus education programs for students at detention centers and medical and psychiatric facilities across the city.
Print headline: Exceptional education, Alternative paths: Emerson Mid-High school provides wraparound options like flexible scheduling and onsite day care for independent students.