Payson Education Center Heads Into Second Year

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The Payson Education Center opened in February of 2006 under the direction of Gila County School Superintendent Linda O'Dell.

"We have all our computer equipment and programming in place to run fully individualized educational programs based on skills, needs and academic goals of our students," O'Dell said.

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In 2006 Gila County School Superintendent Linda O'Dell opened the Payson Education Center for students, who otherwise might fall through the cracks.

PEC provides several dozen students with what could be a last chance to pass the AIMS test and earn a high school diploma.

They are students who may have had issues with the juvenile court system or simply did not fit into a regular high school setting.

One student may have passed the first semester of freshman English and the second semester of sophomore English. Another might have most of his or her history and science credits, but lacks passing grades in all of their high school math classes.

"Our focus is on success because many times, success has not been part of their lives," O'Dell said.

Text-based work is graded traditionally. Students taking computer-based assignments must earn at least a ‘C' or 75 percent. Additional projects created by the students and signed off on by a teacher can also factor into final grades and credits earned.

Robin Nelson and Linnea Leas will spearhead the yearbook project that is part of the fine arts course.

"I can get more done on the computer," said Nelson. She likes to work alone and plans to be done with her classes so she can graduate June 1.

Leas also plans to graduate in June.

She came to PEC to fill in some missing credits.

"I had planned to return to Center for Success, but I decided to stay here," Leas said.

After several teachers, O'Dell has found the mix that fits the nontraditional school.

Teacher Carol Moore splits her time between the Globe Education Center and Payson. Patty Joseph is the instructional assistant. Gary Hampsch is the mathematics and business instructor. O'Dell sometimes rounds out the staff.

"It takes a teacher who is not afraid to look a student in the eye and be very direct and fair and not get caught up in whatever emotion the teen might be presenting," O'Dell said.

Social skills and proper behavior are another focus at PEC.

"We embrace a close relationship with parents," O'Dell said.

Both PEC and GEC are part of the Gila County School District.

The district received a grant for a LEARN Lab through the Arizona Office of the Courts that paid for 40 computers.

"We are here for the students and we are continually evolving to meet their needs," O'Dell said.

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