San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 14th, 2009
Pathfinder and PRIDE rise as Phoenix

San Marcos High School graduates celebrate their big day. Photo by Linda Contreras.


The San Marcos CISD Board of Trustees approved a plan on Aug. 12 to combine PRIDE High School and the Pathfinder Learning Center into the Phoenix Learning Center.

The merger is a response to the new requirement that high school students graduate within four years or the district will be penalized. The Phoenix Learning Center will be considered part of San Marcos High School (SMHS).

Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency released its ratings for school districts, ranking San Marcos CISD as academically unacceptable even though all of its campuses came in at academically acceptable or better. San Marcos CISD was brought down in its overall rating because TEA, for the first time, factored in graduation rates, requiring that each “subgroup” graduate 75 percent or more of its students within four years of entering high school. The San Marcos district graduated 74.5 percent of its economically disadvantaged students in the Class of 2008, thus pushing the district down to the academically unacceptable rating.
“San Marcos CISD is becoming even more proactive in its approach to identifying students who may not complete high school in four years,” said San Marcos CISD Superintendent Patty Shafer. “While we acknowledge the tremendous successes of PRIDE and Pathfinder, the expectations have gone up, and we’re moving quickly to meet those expectations.”

The Phoenix Center will be located in the Lamar Annex, 500 West Hutchison Street, the former home of the Pathfinder program. Judy Mitchell, the principal of PRIDE, will now be the principal of the Phoenix Learning Center. Bea Flores, the principal of Pathfinder, will take on the role of director of the center and the district’s alternative discipline center, Rebound.

Twenty years ago, PRIDE High School was created to serve students for whom a traditional high school was not the best option. It accepted juniors and seniors who work independently with a different learning style. In its two decades, PRIDE has graduated 1,200 students with an average of 80 students per year.

The Pathfinder learning center was formed five years ago, serving students who struggle  academically and are behind on their credits. Their yearly percentage of graduates has ranged between 15-18 percent of the total of SMHS graduates. The center is at enrollment capacity and has found it difficult to serve the students who need intervention.

“Completion rates have become a crucial factor in the Texas Accountability Rating System,” Flores. “No longer is it good enough to just graduate from high school. The law states that students must graduate within four years of beginning high school. Each student counts.”

Added Mitchell, “PRIDE is proud of its legacy. It’s been a unique program that has served the community well. However, when it was designed the focus was on ‘drop-outs.’ That model has changed, and the focus has shifted. Rather than be a stand-alone campus, the PRIDE staff looks forward to joining forces with the high school and the former Pathfinder group to become an even more unique and effective center of learning.”

The merger was planned by a team consisting of the principals of SMHS, PRIDE and Pathfinder, as well as  other central administrators. The team recommended  “one instructional model with a common purpose by merging the Pathfinder and PRIDE programs using existing budget, personnel, and facilities.”

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0 thoughts on “Pathfinder and PRIDE rise as Phoenix

  1. Does this change increase the capacity of these programs, so that more students can graduate on time, or does it just add a little padding to our overall graduation numbers, to get us over the 75% mark?

    I hope it is the former, as merging these programs to attempt to mask our poor performance would be incredibly unethical, distasteful and a slap in the face to the citizens of San Marcos.

  2. Always a conundrum, the relationship between statistics and reality. Always a marvel, the ability to paint different pictures from the same set of statistics. I too hope this news is not simply rearranging chairs on the deck. I do have confidence that our local school administrators and teachers are very competent and committed to improving the future possibilities for our youth.

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