By Mike Linn
Stephen Page didn’t like Clovis High School. The classes were too big and he felt he wasn’t getting the attention he needed as a student.
But instead of dropping out, Page spent his senior year at Choices, an alternative high school for students who don’t fit into the typical school setting.
“If it wasn’t for Choices I probably wouldn’t have graduated (high school),” the 2004 graduate said. “The teachers, I worked real well with them. They don’t give up on you. If you’re behind they’ll stay late or come in early. They want to see you succeed.”
Clovis school officials say alternative schools like Choices are doing wonders for the district’s dropout rate, which has fallen from 12 percent for the 1995/1996 school year to 4.3 for 2002/2003 school year, according to figures gathered from officials with Clovis schools and the New Mexico Public Education Department.
Choices opened about seven years ago and caters to students who have either had a series of disciplinary problems at Clovis High School, have been through the juvenile court system, or have dropped out and want to return to school. The student to teacher ratio is about 15 to one, or about half what it is at CHS, and there are anywhere from 75 to 135 students who attend Choices each year.
Besides Choices, New Visions — an alternative school on the campus of CHS — has also provided a safety net for keeping students in school. New Visions started about six years ago and serves students who have better success in a smaller class setting, according to Assistant Superintendent Ladona Clayton. The program also allows students to complete course work online, she said.
Clayton said New Visions has between 100 and 125 students, and there is currently a waiting list to get in.
Choices Supervisor David Briseno said when the program began the effect on the dropout rate was almost immediate.
“It’s more of a family atmosphere here,” Briseno said. “A lot of times we tell students they can go back to Clovis High and they say they don’t want to.”
Prior to Choices and New Visions the only option for students besides Clovis High was night school, which according to school officials served its purpose but was not nearly as effective at helping students graduate.
About 25 students earned a high school diploma this year from Choices, school officials said.
For Page, the degree has given him an opportunity to set goals for the future.
He said he hopes to attend college — possibly in Albuquerque or at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales — and wants to start his own business eventually.
Thanks to Choices, he’s closer to attaining those goals.
“It’s a great school,” he said. “I had a really good time there.”
High school dropout figures for students in the Clovis School District:
School year Dropout rate
1995/96 12.2 %
1996/97 10.2 %
1997/98 7.8 %
1998/99 6.0 %
1999/00 5.7 %
2000/01 2.6 %
2001/02 5.1 %
2002/03 4.3 %
Source: Clovis Municipal Schools and the New Mexico Public Education Department