09/18/05 — Schools set to keep up with governor's reforms

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Schools set to keep up with governor's reforms

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 18, 2005 2:03 AM

Wayne County Public Schools are responding to Gov. Mike Easley's call for high-school reform, focusing on improving learning opportunities and performance countywide.

Principals of the county's six public high schools, armed with their individual proposals for improving student support and lowering their dropout rate, made presentations recently at a meeting of the Wayne County Board of Education.

"We're preparing for the next wave of change in high school," said Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for instruction. "We are ready for the three R's -- rigor, relevance, relationships."

The program calls for schools across the country to incorporate measures such as offering more advanced classes and academic study groups and reviewing graduation requirements and standards.

Some of the goals in Wayne County's schools are to shore up the relationship between high school and college, offering an honors curriculum, year-long advanced placement classes and actively seeking grant money to support the program.

At the meeting, principals reviewed some of the efforts under way at their schools.

Charles B. Aycock Principal Randy Bledsoe said his school has initiated a freshman academy, worked on a balanced student schedule, and used student planners as a communication tool for students. A "freshmen accelerator" was also used in the summer for incoming ninth-graders to work on leadership and team building.

Rapport between students and staff is also an important component, Bledsoe said.

"We're really talking relationships this year, a nurturing environment," he said. "We want a climate where students talk with teachers, teachers with parents, with the community."

At Eastern Wayne High, Principal Gene Byrd said there will be an emphasis on linking the middle schools with the high school. He said some means to accomplish that include the visibility of the high school staff at middle school functions, inviting middle school students and parents to high school events and having a separate orientation for incoming freshmen and new students.

Byrd said students will also be encouraged to take advanced classes, to use the Jump Start program for college credit and to explore distance learning options.

Pat Burden, principal at Goldsboro High School, said some of the ideas being used at her school include providing tutoring for all students, special tutoring for geometry students, moving core courses for the junior and senior years, and offering a freshman academy.

"This summer, we would like to identify students and invite them to Goldsboro High School for a program to introduce them to our high school program," she said.

Rosewood High School Principal David Lewis said he hopes to emphasize rigor and relevance as well as a framework that moves students "toward an ability to adapt knowledge and skills to predictable and unpredictable circumstances."

He said the school's goal is to increase student involvement and ownership in the school, working to make the senior year more rigorous and to better prepare students for college.

At Southern Wayne High, each counselor is assigned the same students for all four years, Principal Richard Sauls said. The school also uses "homeroom looping," he said, explaining that students will have the same homeroom teachers for all four years.

"They know them and can give them individual help and guidance," he said.

Steve Clingan, Spring Creek High principal, said in addition to things his peers had mentioned, several programs are being enhanced in response to student interest.

The agricultural education program has been expanded at the school, he said. Future Farmers of America, or FFA, has also shown an increase to membership, from 45 members two years ago, to 85 members.