Senior Odyssey questioned

School Board discusses mandatory program

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Some parents criticized the Senior Odyssey program, a new graduation requirement for seniors at Steamboat Springs High School, during Monday's School Board meeting.

Parent Pam Brenner said she felt that seniors already have enough on their plates without requiring them to complete a senior project. She suggested that students entering college could gain more from taking an Advanced Placement class and that mandatory programs do not have as much student buy-in as voluntary ones.

Anita Handing, a parent and teacher, said some students have the attitude that the senior project should be done with as little effort as possible.

On Tuesday, Gayle Dudley, the high school's career and college counselor as well as its Senior Odyssey coordinator, defended the program. Senior Odyssey helps make senior year more meaningful for all students, Dudley said. With just days left until graduation, students are act--ively engaged, and most have gained skills in communication, time management and directing their own learning, she said.

"We're really trying in a lot of ways to prepare them for not being in high school, but for being in the real world," said Dudley, who was not at Monday night's meeting. "That's what senior project is all about."

The concerns come less than two weeks before seniors present and are evaluated on their projects. The class of 2005 is the first for which Senior Odyssey is a graduation requirement. The program was piloted during the past three school years.

Through the program, seniors spend one semester working on issues such as defining career goals and honing interview and application skills, then work the second semester to complete a senior project.

School Board member Jeff Troeger said he thought the program was valuable, but pointed out that it was not a state requirement.

"I like the option of choice," Troeger said.

Board member Pat Gleason said he thought that taking an AP class might be more valuable to some students.

"I've never really been sold on this thing," he said.

Board members Michael Loomis and Tami Havener, however, said they fully support the mandatory program.

Loomis said he thinks the program challenges students in more ways than an AP class does. He also said he was interested in hearing critiques of the program, as those would help make the program better.

Information and feedback about the Senior Odyssey program will be collected this year from students, parents, project mentors, community members and teachers. A formal program evaluation will be completed next year.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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