Auxiliary Services for High Schools History
2019 is the 50th anniversary of the largest high school program ever, and perhaps the best at giving students of all ages an opportunity to continue their education when few other options were available.
Auxiliary Services for High Schools became a New York City Board of Education alternative school in 1969, after having been a federal government-funded demonstration project called the Jobs Counseling Center for 5 years. Becoming known as ASHS (pronounced Ashes), the first school location was on the first floor of the BOE's administrative offices at 65 Court Street in Brooklyn. The first population served were veterans returning to complete their high school education, and to receive counseling and job training skills on-site and through referrals.
ASHS quickly expanded to also provide High School Equivalency Exam (GED) preparation for an increasing number of dropouts from traditional high schools. Filling a need not readily available elsewhere, ASHS expanded its number of locations and curricula to include classes for literacy skills, basic education, high school equivalency, college preparation, GED preparation paired with bilingual education (Spanish, French/Haitian Creole, Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek and Italian), and English as a Second Language. Later in its evolution ASHS also provided LYFE Childcare Centers and a Pregnant Teens Center.
ASHS Learning Centers (see list on our homepage) were located in all 5 NYC boroughs and operated day, evening and summers. Students of any age 16 and over were admitted at any time throughout the year. Classes often were a mixture of teens, adults and some senior citizens, all having the same educational needs. Opportunity was available for dropouts to quickly earn a diploma; for adults to get another chance at improving their skills; for those referred from courts as an alternative to incarceration; for those with medical issues; for children of UN staff from other countries; for traveling theater companies needing to continue their education; etc. ASHS is most proud of creating an educational program that allowed students to progress at their individual capability. Admission, promotion to the next level, and graduation could take place at any time of the year!
At its peak, ASHS was truly a mega-alternative school program. There were 92 learning centers operating throughout the city and throughout the year. They were located in school buildings (elementary, intermediate and high schools), churches, court buildings, probation department offices, job training centers, housing authority project buildings, drug rehab facilities, community centers, police department facility, colleges, BOE headquarters, PAL Centers and hospitals. 13,000 students were on the monthly register and 45,000+ were served during the year. 5,000 students would earn a High School Equivalency Diploma each year. There were 175 full-time and 450 part-time staff providing services. The annual school budget was 37 million dollars. ASHS the alternative school program was bigger than a number of school districts in the city!
The Board of Education, mandated partially by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, had to reorganize to put greater emphasis on keeping students on track to earn a traditional high school diploma. In 2007 ASHS was closed and the students were referred back to traditional high schools, other GED (now called TASC) programs, alternative high schools, adult education centers and commercial schools.
As Richard Organisciak, former Superintendent of Alternative Schools and Programs said, "Auxiliary Services was a national, if not international model for what could be done." The spirit of ASHS though lives on. This foundation was created to continue the ASHS legacy of providing the best individualized learning opportunities where there are few others.