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School in Derita turns a page

The former Derita Alternative School's new name acknowledges the potential that Principal Valoria Burch sees – and wants others to see – in its students.

As Turning Point Academy, the school's name conveys the hopes the faculty and staff have for sixth- through 12th-graders who have behavior problems.

Even more, Burch and her staff want students assigned here to recognize new possibilities within themselves.

“My goal is to introduce the students to experiences that will ultimately change their entire attitude toward school in a positive direction,” said Burch, 42, who became principal in February.

Derita Alternative School opened in 2001 at West Sugar Creek Road near Graham Street, replacing nine learning academies for students who have committed offenses that warranted suspension.

Other Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools alternative programs remained in place. Students are placed in alternative programs based on the recommendation of a school's area administrator.

The students might have been suspended for assaults, weapons possession or repeat behavior problems.

Residents in Derita complained about the school's name. They didn't want the school so closely associated with their community.

The CMS school board officially changed the name to Turning Point Academy last month with input from students, staff and the community. Burch is restructuring its programs.

The former Fayetteville educator and principal most recently worked for the Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh. Burch was a consultant for alternative education. She also recommended program improvements and offered training to those involved in alternative education. Turning Point Academy is her first job in Charlotte.

Students are assigned to the program for 180 days and must meet academic and behavior modification goals before they can return to their home schools. Enrollment for the coming school year is expected to reach about 200.

Intervention and prevention programs are Burch's strategy for turning the students around. Examples:

Positive Behavior Intervention Support – A program that offers techniques for improving a student's behavior in the classroom.

No Easy Walk – A social responsibility and gang prevention program that incorporates team building exercises. The staff will work with community partners such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Gang of One program.

Service learning – The program uses community service and academic programs to encourage civic responsibility.

Burch also plans programs that will encourage parents to become more involved in helping their children.

“Attitude is going to determine ultimately your success,” Burch said. “If you approach it (school) with a positive attitude, you will have success. We want them to make a turn towards a brighter future.”