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Harrison leader goes on door-to-door hunt for dropouts

By: RYAN MAYE HANDY
February 23, 2013
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photo - School District 2 superintendent Andre Spencer leads a group of volunteers through an apartment complex Saturday in search of high school dropouts. Spencer and other volunteers were visiting former student to invite them to return to school.  Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE
School District 2 superintendent Andre Spencer leads a group of volunteers through an apartment complex Saturday in search of high school dropouts. Spencer and other volunteers were visiting former student to invite them to return to school. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE 

Colorado Springs School District 2 Superintendent Andre Spencer hit the streets on Saturday to make at least 100 dropouts an offer they couldn’t refuse: A high school diploma.

Spencer came to the district from Houston on Jan. 2, and is pioneering a new way of luring dropouts back to school based on a strategy he used in Texas — going door-to-door.

On Saturday, Spencer was one of more than 100 volunteers knocking on doors in southeast Colorado Springs, to track down dropouts from Harrison and Sierra High Schools.

Spencer built an enrollment packet — a one-page, “quick and dirty” application, to give the targets, he said.

“Our goal is 100 today,” he said, before driving to the first student’s home.

Some students received advance notice of Spencer’s visits. Others, whose phone lines had been disconnected, did not.

“They are not all sure that we’re coming,” Spencer said.

Spencer’s plan for the students includes a place in an online high school program, as well as classes on subjects that can lead right to jobs, including construction skills.

Spencer said the district was approached by local building companies looking for skilled workers. So, students re-enrolling with District 2 could find themselves learning trades from drywalling and framing. They’ll also be on track for a high school diploma.

The application process is simple, but tracking down the students wasn’t.

Spencer’s first two stops were at the Pine Creek Village apartments, at 720 Chapman Drive. It took the first student a few minutes to answer the door.

“I’m not sure if he was awake or not,” Spencer said later with a laugh.

The sleepy student had already re-enrolled in another high school program, leaving Spencer and his car-load of volunteers to head for another apartment.

No one answered the door. Not one to give up, Spencer marched over to the complex’s rental office, explained his goals, and left some application packets with apartment managers for dropouts they know in the area.

At Spencer’s next two stops, students had moved, or no one answered the door.

Still, he tried to leave packages at rental offices, and asked a few neighbors if they knew where the students had gone.

Spencer said he won’t give up — even one dropout is too many, he said.

Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261

Twitter @ryanmhandy

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