Liverpool Throughout much of her high school career, Mary Commisso dreaded going to school.
“I always had trouble in school in a big setting, and I felt like I wasn’t able to get the help and attention I needed, because the teachers had to help other kids as well,” said the Liverpool High School sophomore. “There’s just so much drama [at the main building], too many kids. And the teachers weren’t really treating me well.”
So when Commisso and her parents heard about the experimental FOCUS program the district was offering for struggling kids, they signed her up.
The difference, she said, has been immense.
“[I’ve done] a lot better here,” she said. “[It’s] a huge change. I never even wanted to go to school last year. This year, I want to come every day. I don’t even want it to be summer. I want to come to school every day during the summer.”
Commisso said her grades have increased along with her interest.
“This has really helped me because it’s smaller,” she said. “You get to have a connection with the teachers. It’s more personal, and the teachers are able to help you get more of your work done, and sit down and write it out so you understand it, because everyone learns differently.”
Commisso’s is one of many success stories at Liverpool’s FOCUS Academy, which opened up in the former Wetzel Road Elementary building this fall. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the alternative high school program, which houses about 40 ninth- and 10th-grade students, won’t reopen in the fall.
Budget forces closure
From its inception, the program was met with opposition from some members of the community who objected to the fact that it was set up in the old WRE building, which was closed supposedly to save money. FOCUS Executive Principal Mark Potter said some of those community members seem to believe that FOCUS was closing because it hadn’t accomplished its intended mission.