By: Sharah Denton
Coach Lamar Thomas has been in education for over fifteen years. While balancing family life, coaching and education, Lamar has realized what his purpose is. Impacting and making a positive change in the lives of at-risk students particularly in high school. This year what was once known as the Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) has been restructured as the Delta Innovative School in Quitman, Georgia.
According to Lamar, the school name change was due to it being restructured from a program of discipline, to a school of opportunity for all students. “Delta Innovative School specializes in offering a small educational setting for students who may have a need for a small classroom size setting, individualized instruction, and higher achievement opportunities. DIS uses a blended model of instruction for its curriculum,” says Lamar.
Lamar’s vision is to have the school grow into an opportunity of molding and developing the students it serves not only in the classroom however, in the community as well. “If we can get these students motivated, then we can make better people and better communities,” says Lamar. With revamping the structure of what was once known as the alternative school, Coach Thomas says although the school is making a positive impact with its students and their parents, it still faces barriers, one major barrier they face is resources. According to Lamar there is a lack of consistent resources. When trying to meet the individual needs of these students especially At-Risk Students there is the factor of limited staff members, enough technology opportunities, as well as a facility with enough space to support individual spacing.
For Lamar, it is important for the community to understand that every student has the potential and opportunity to be successful. This simply can be done by caring adults and the right situation. The community is always welcome to visit and volunteer at the school and there are upcoming outings that have been planned where students can participate in service projects within the community they live in. No matter what obstacles the school has faced Lamar is very proud of how far they have come as a school in a short time. He says that it makes him proud to be able to erase the stigma associated with students who are negatively labeled. “Students are judged and labeled so much that they start believing that they are not capable of achieving. But here at Delta we refuse to let other people’s opinion determine our future. I am most proud of the students that have bought in to that philosophy and, are striving to meet their goals,” says Lamar.
For the future, Lamar says that the school believes they will overcome the stigma of being the place for “bad kids”. “Everyone that has had a chance to visit has been amazed at the behavior and attitude of the students involved here. I also believe that when we have our first graduation ceremony we will overcome the challenge of not being a real school,” says Lamar. The school will have a graduation in May as any typical high school which motivates the students to reach their potential and the goals they have set out to achieve.
The Delta Innovative program is designed for students who are in need of a change academically and are in danger of not being successful in regular school settings. Each program within the school is designed so that students are offered the opportunity to complete courses at an accelerated rate. Instruction is a combination of direct instruction and computer-based instruction. Students at Delta are given an opportunity to also participate in the Georgia Move On When Ready program and other school opportunities. For more information about the Delta Innovative School visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/deltainnovativeschool/ or their website at sites.google.com/brooks.k12.ga.us/delta/home.