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Dropout Conference for City Schools Does Not Come Cheap

Times Staff Writer

Dropout conferences don’t come cheap for the San Diego Unified School District.

Last month’s two-day session on at-risk students cost about $68,000, with $20,000 alone going to pay travel fees and honorariums for the several nationally known speakers. Local and federal funds, as well as donations from private companies, covered the tab, and Board of Education approval is being sought today to pay the final costs.

By comparison, Roosevelt Junior High School wants $15,000 to start a dropout prevention program next year for its 1,100 students; the district wants to put $148,000 into a public-private student recovery center in Southeast San Diego for 60 students, and $38,000 is spent each year for the limited alternative education-work center at Garfield High School that helps 100 students.

“I know that, from the perspective of a (school) site hungry and thirsty for any additional money,” there could be questions about the cost of the conference, said Jeanne Jehl, district administrator who coordinated the conference.

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The two-day meeting was designed to bring together educators and business people in an effort to stem dropouts, but it attracted fewer non-educators than hoped.

“But those we did get are the leaders in the community, and I still say that the cost was worth it,” Jehl said, referring to the effect that the speakers had. Already, Jehl said, one speaker has been invited back by the Chamber of Commerce, an example of “a second-generation effect.”

“The people whom we invited are very high-powered and made this conference comparatively pricey, as these things go,” Jehl said.

“And I will tell you that I have never seen evaluations of a conference as specifically positive as these were.”

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