District to drop KIKS program

Though officials say they are not dissatisfied with the program, they have decided to explore other alternatives.

By: Lea Kahn
   The KIKS program, which teaches students to help each other stay out of trouble, is being kicked out of the Lawrence Township public schools.
   In its place, school district officials have proposed two new programs — Peer to Peer at Lawrence Middle School, and Transitions at Lawrence High School.
   The Lawrence Township Board of Education is expected to consider the recommendation of its Education Policy Committee to implement the programs, said Schools Superintendent Max Riley.
   KIKS has been offered in the district for about 15 years, Dr. Riley said. The program, sponsored by the Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, aims to teach middle school students how to deal with peer pressure and how to develop problem-solving skills.
   It will be discontinued in Lawrence schools at the end of this academic year.
   Though officials say they are not dissatisfied with the program, they have decided to explore other alternatives, Dr. Riley said. The recommendation to do so follows a study of KIKS by district staff, he said.
   KIKS differs from the proposed programs in several ways, the superintendent said. For starters, KIKS is led by volunteers trained by the Children’s Home Society. But the two proposed programs train teachers and students to be leaders, he said.
   It is better to use in-house staff, Dr. Riley said. They are more familiar with the school curriculum, so there is no overlap between the material that children study in class and that which is discussed in the small groups, he said.
   KIKS leaders were available only when they were in the school district. Training teachers and students means someone will be available all of the time if a student has a question or needs to talk, he said.
   "Peer to Peer and Transitions are a more powerful model for us," Dr. Riley said. "It will be more successful than KIKS. We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think so."
   Lawrence High School teachers and upperclassmen will be trained in leadership skills in the Transitions program, Dr. Riley said. The upperclassmen will work with 9th-graders.
   The Transitions program will dovetail nicely with the new Freshman Agenda program at Lawrence High School, said Principal Don Proffit.
   "Transitions empowers the students to conduct lessons with the freshmen during the school year. They will talk to the freshmen about life at the high school. They will talk about substance abuse and sex education," Mr. Proffit said.
   CHS President Donna Pressma said the society is very sorry to be leaving Lawrence after 15 years. CHS has had a long and excellent partnership with the school district, the students and their parents, she said.
   "KIKS works, and we are proud of the program. (But) the school administration has the right to choose the program it wishes for its students, and I respect that right," Ms. Pressma said.
   This isn’t the end of the program, she said. CHS officials expects KIKS will continue to be offered in the Princeton Regional School District, East Windsor and Trenton, said Ms. Pressma.