Q&A: Patrick Malley and Scott LaFever of Meridian Early College High School’s P.A.S.S. Program

Meridian Early College High School has a new effort to assist students who need help beyond classroom instruction, founded by principal Patrick Malley.

With the help of teachers Scott LaFever, Amy Huff and Sarah Rivard, along with Hailey Stepaniak, the school counselor, the school’s new P.A.S.S. Program aims to get students back on track for graduation and workforce readiness.

LaFever is in his fifth year teaching at Meridian Early College High School, and in his second of general education. He holds an M.A.T. in Special Education and a B.A. in special education with minors in History and Geography both from Saginaw Valley State University. LaFever also coaches varsity football and junior high girls track.

Q: Thank you both for joining us today. Can you tell me what the P.A.S.S. program is, and what it stands for?Scott LaFever, teacher, coach and P.A.S.S. Program instructor.

A: Malley: P.A.S.S. stands for Preventative After School Support, a new program we are offering.

LaFever: On the surface, it looks like a typical high school study hall. There are fifteen kids in one room, who are there twice a week with teachers. These teachers however, are trying to help those students pass their classes and obtain school credit recovery. The program has much deeper goals and the model of our school is that of a five-year high school.

Every student at Meridian is eligible to take on a fifth year where they can attend Bay Arenac, Delta College, Greater Midland Construction Academy, or Career Technical Education classes of their choosing. The main stipulation is that they have to be on track for graduation.

The bottom thirty percent of students get off track in their freshman year. During that time, they realize in order to receive the offsite training, they have to get back on track.

The P.A.S.S. Program was designed to help them earn their credits back so they can receive that offsite training.

Q: Have you found that the program succeeds in filling the needs of your students?

A: Malley: Absolutely. Where P.A.S.S. succeeds is mostly in the case management model where we take students that show risk, and provide them with more support from adults so they have advocates and liaisons to help make sure they have what they need both in life and school.

It goes beyond the classroom, and we have food services, communication skills and have discussions with parents. In the past, students have left for alternative high schools and left our district.

We now provide case management and supports so we can embrace the idea of helping every student and not just the ones who are easiest to provide for. Many students need alternatives that provide a fresh start. If we can help even two percent of those students, it’s a success.

Q: How long has the P.A.S.S. program been running?

A: LaFever: We just started it this winter, and it has been running since January. We are still in the pilot phase, which will run through the end of the school year and see where it goes.

Q: It sounds like you are finding success quickly. What kind of impact have you seen since implementing the program?

A: LaFever: If I look at my caseload alone, I have six students who were failing across the board. Within weeks of attending P.A.S.S. they were earning credits and getting themselves back on track. When they speak about it, they have talked about the benefits and our enrollment is growing. So far it has been successful in those regards.

Malley: Yesterday during a disciplinary meeting, our Dean was asked by a student if she could access P.A.S.S. because she wants to be successful. She knows she is struggling, she has friends who are in the program, and she wants to succeed as they are. It’s a good indicator that students are talking about this in a positive light and they want those opportunities.

Q: That’s fantastic! How many kids are in the program currently?

A: LaFever: There are eighteen members in the program. There are two case managers that each have about 7 students, and a few ESL students who have a similar support system. We want to maintain the program’s ability to support up to 20 students. We don’t want it to lose effectiveness, and that’s a comfortable number.

Q: What are your future hopes for this program?

A: LaFever: We would like to expand it, possibly move it into an in-school program, and allocate the budget to a bring in a half-time professional to manage the caseloads. My goals are less about the P.A.S.S. Program but more about the individual students themselves.

By earning offsite credits, and giving them opportunities to be employed individuals who are successful in society, that’s why we are doing this. We hope to see these kids in four or five years being an active part of the workforce.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Andrea Foster.

Andrea Foster is a writer for Catalyst Midland, and in her full time job an environmental educator for Little Forks Conservancy. She is a mother, a partner, an activist and a feminist. In her spare time she enjoys volunteering, kayaking, hiking, knitting, curling up on the couch with her cats and projects that benefit her community.