David School survives financial woes

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Associated Press

Posted on January 5, 2013 at 11:01 AM

DAVID, Ky. (AP) — An Appalachian high school that serves as an alternative for at-risk students was on the brink of closing last year, but has manage to survive.

The David School Principal Diantha Daniels told the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/Uo9GEW) that 20 students were enrolled in the fall and four more are expected to begin this month at the Floyd County school.

The school was founded in the 1970s by a transplanted New Yorker who was shocked by the poverty of Appalachia.

The school has always struggled, but last year things got really bad — paychecks were late, and a nearby mission had to donate food.

After a judge removed the founder from control and a new board was appointed, the situation started to get better.

"Things are starting to turn around," Daniels said. "We're going to make it."

Students who attend the school haven't fared well at other facilities due to being bullied, not fitting in or falling behind.

Since the school is small, teachers have the opportunity to find the learning needs and styles of each student, science teacher Alexandra Werner Winslow said.

"It's so thrilling to get to know where kids are and where they need to be, and having the resources to get them there," said Winslow, who graduated from Columbia University last year and ended up at the school through the Teach for America program.

Teachers receive $300 each month and free housing, according to Daniels, who said the job is essentially mission work.

She said about 500 students have graduated since the mid-1970s, many of whom wouldn't have gotten a high school diploma otherwise.

Although Daniel J. Greene started the school and has received high accolades for keeping it running, the Attorney General's Office began investigating last year after concerns of mismanagement.

Ned Pillersdorf, a Prestonsburg lawyer and new vice-chairman of the school's new board, said at some point Greene started to think of the school as his "personal piggybank."

Greene, who no longer lives in Kentucky, has denied misusing school money.

Although funding has been tight, donations from longstanding and new contributors have helped.

As an example, school board Chairman Dennis Dorton said the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church gave $7,500 for food service.

"We have been able to keep our nose above water, barely," Dorton said.

More money is needed, and new school board member, staff and others say they'll work to rebuild relationships with donors and creditors to assure that the school stays open.

"I think that the mission is as relevant as it's ever been," Daniels said. "It's just about planting seeds and making little differences."

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com

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