06/03/08 — Wayne Early Middle College High School continues to grow and add new programs

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Wayne Early Middle College High School continues to grow and add new programs

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 3, 2008 1:49 PM

Two years since being introduced on the Wayne Community College campus, Wayne Early/Middle College High School is on the threshold of being at capacity.

Part of Wayne County Public Schools, WEMCHS opened in the fall of 2006 with 60 11th and 12th graders, graduating 30 students last spring. This year, 65 ninth graders were added.

The fall will mark the first time the school offers all four grades, said Principal Lee Johnson.

"I'm excited," she said. "The kids are going to feel like they're at a real high school."

It used to be that schools focused on the three R's -- reading, writing and arithmetic. The current high school reform model has a variation on that theme, with the R's referring to rigor, relevance and relationship.

At WEMCHS, Mrs. Johnson said that students frequently share that they enjoy the family atmosphere and freedom to be themselves.

"I think the relationship process and the family culture, it's obvious it's been important to the students. That's what we set out to build and we want to maintain it," she said. "We had such a great year with our ninth graders.

"I hope that as we increase the size that we can continue our family atmosphere and our family culture. To me, that's the glue."

Among the other additions in the fall will be expansions to technology.

In the spring, a grant provided laptop computers for every student. The difference was immediate.

"Students transformed once that laptop was placed in their hands," she said. "They're just embracing the new technology.

"It's just sparked a fire in some of our students and the teachers are excited about doing things differently."

Three full-time and one part-time teacher also have been hired for the coming year, including a technology facilitator to assist teachers in implementing technology into the classrooms.

The partnership with the college has also been a positive one, the principal said.

"The college has given us more rooms and another wing," she said. "They're allowing us to grow and just being so supportive. ...

"We're growing, our staff is growing, we're growing academically."

While test scores for the year are preliminary and unofficial, Mrs. Johnson said she was pleased with the results.

"Our student have just excelled across the board," she said. "We have exceeded our goals for this year and just really turned things around from our scores in the last year."

In fact, the accomplishments have been numerous at the school.

"The students, I was pleasantly surprised with how well these ninth graders have done with the college classes," she said. "They have finished their ninth grade year with 10 college credits on their transcripts.

"They have realized now that they can handle college classes and they're excited about going forward. ... They have proven that they can do college work."

It's the climate officials had hoped to create at the outset, she says.

"Part of our design principle is to be 'college-ready' and pass along the message that, 'You're going to college, so don't think any other way,' and that's working," she said.

One important footnote, she said. The recent graduating class of 32 students reported plans to build on the work already begun in the high school and college classrooms at WEMCHS.

"Only one student reportedly was going straight to work," she said. "All the rest said they were going on to college and most are going on to Wayne Community College, either to finish here or transfer to a four-year college."

Broken down further, she said 13 indicated plans to return to WCC in the fall, 12 will go to another college or university and six intend to return to WCC as part of its transfer program.