Committee to Study the Mission of CHS
May 30, 2006
Attending: Anne Freske, Lee Kounovsky, Devan Isenhour, Elena Connolly, Ron Blatch, Hugh Turnbull, Ellen Adler, Sharon Heater, Shirley Burrus, Ken Donner, Wendy Zacharias, Mark Risen, Jan Ophus, Sue Bowers
Anne Freske opened the meeting at 5:30 p.m. The group approved the proposed agenda and the minutes of the April 14 meeting. With a number of new faces present, a round of introductions was completed.
Jan Ophus introduced the topic of planned changes for next year aimed at helping the incoming 9th graders’ success in high school. With the movement of the Global Studies/Global Issues classes to the sophomore year, Social Studies teacher Mark Risen will have time available (for one year only) to teach four sections of Freshman Academy in the fall. (Mark also now serves as the CHS Athletic Director and will be the ASB Advisor next year.) Mark shared his initial ideas about the content of the Academy with the group, which includes four units: An Introduction to High School Life, Bulldog Culture, Successful Students and Four Years of My Life. He will spend time this summer preparing the curriculum more thoroughly. The group received his ideas positively. A question was raised about how to give similar introductory information about CHS to students who transfer here later in their high school career. One idea was to have peer tutors connect with new students.
Other changes in the works for next year are a resumption of the Reconnecting Youth program for at-risk students and a study hall supervisory position, which will allow for smaller study hall groups and free teachers to offer more class sections. Good communication between Mr. Risen, the study hall supervisor and freshmen teachers will be very important. The new .5 FTE teaching positions for English and Science will provide for smaller class sizes and more personalized instruction in those areas.
A new Senior Seminar course is another change planned for next year. This will give seniors the needed structure to complete their Career-Related Learning Standards (CRLS) and work on other success-after-high-school projects. Mr. Ophus noted that the budget for next year also includes stipends for class advisors, which will help with additional supervision of some of the extra-curricular activities. Having these resources and—hopefully—stability in the budget are essential to maintaining the planned improvements in future years. Maintaining staffing for the Freshman Academy will be an issue, as Mr. Risen will resume the Global Studies/Issues classes with sophomores in 2007-08.
Discussion next turned to matters of school climate. Parents of grade school families commented on their desire to feel good about the community’s high school, a sentiment some indicated wasn’t shared currently in all circles around Creswell. Mr. Risen noted that every student is looking for a connection, and some of the new programs for next year should provide more opportunities. He described his ideas for improving school spirit, including three planned Spirit Weeks during the year. The new athletic league should also help “level the playing field” for many of our sports teams, leading to more positive experiences for our student athletes.
School discipline is another component of school climate. For some time now both Creslane and CMS have been using the Effective Behavior Support (EBS) system, which provides incentives (Mighty Mustangs, Growl tickets, prizes, movies, etc.) for positive behavior and has been pretty successful in those buildings. CMS also teaches the Second Step curriculum in their homerooms. Dr. Adler said there has been a “high school version” of EBS developed and she knows a person who could provide more details and/or training about that. Anne asked the group whether we should invite that person to meet with us. Mrs. Zacharias described an earlier effort of this sort at CHS that did not work very well. Mr. Ophus and Devan both commented that the same types of “gimmicks” that work with younger students often do not motivate high school students. A significant amount of staff training and related work over several years, as well as consistent implementation among all staff, is needed for this kind of effort to be successful. As a related comment, Mrs. Zacharias reminded the group that when CHS had two administrators in place, the opportunity to share discipline administration was very helpful for the entire staff.
It was agreed that Mr. Ophus would consider further with his staff and possibly Site Council whether to pursue any kind of EBS approach. Mrs. Freske also asked that he report back to the Committee this fall how the various new programs are coming together. Another update should be prepared after completion of the first semester.
Discussion moved to issues of tracking and accountability. One metric that has been discussed is working to increase the percentage of incoming freshmen that receive a regular diploma four years later. Nationwide, this statistic has been around 70% for many years. Mrs. Zacharias noted this should not be interpreted as a 30% “dropout rate,” as it does not account for the whole variety of other avenues taken to help students finish their high school experience successfully. Questions the committee has been discussing through the year include what is happening with these students and why they are leaving. Other possible measures discussed included attendance figures, percentage of a class, and perhaps subsets within each class, with passing grades and numbers of referrals. It was noted that programs funded by grants, such as Reconnecting Youth, require a significant amount of tracking and that numerous reports are already prepared and submitted to the state every year concerning student placements.
Taking up the matter of expanded opportunities for upperclassmen, Mr. Ophus asked Mrs. Zacharias to share information about the Regional Technical Education Consortium (RTEC) program, which is coordinated by LCC. We have had 12 different students participate this year, most in the Automotive Mechanics area. Available grant funding reduced the cost to $500/student for those (11) who entered the 3-term, 12-credit program last fall. One other student took Computer-Assisted Drafting (CAD) online during spring term. Grant funding is being sought again for next year, but if that does not become available, RTEC costs will increase to $100 per credit. Other changes for next year include an expanded list of offerings offered at varying times and integrating the high school RTEC students with older students taking the same courses from LCC.
Mrs. Bowers next described this year’s online learning program. Participation grew significantly, with 17 participants first semester and 41 different students taking courses during second semester. Student success has also increased second semester, with implementation of a screening process involving teacher recommendations. This year’s participants selected a total of 32 different elective classes. The majority of these have been high school coursework offered through Brigham Young University. Thirteen have been dual-credit college classes offered through LCC, Chemeketa and Eastern Oregon University. The district’ budget has covered the cost for these classes, up to $300 per student per semester. Student feedback has been positive about the opportunity to take coursework in different subjects, with many commenting they like being able to work at their own pace. The clear downside is not having a “real live teacher” available regularly for feedback and help.
The Committee turned to a discussion about how to let the community know about the positive things going on and planned for CHS. Mr. Ophus shared that he has not had time to prepare and send out a parent newsletter this spring. Mrs. Bowers described the Edline computer system, which should be operational in the fall and will enable parents to access grade information regularly. It was agreed by all that communication with parents and the rest of the community is an ongoing challenge.
Summarizing the discussions of the Committee during the year, Mr. Donner noted the positive results in terms of the new programs for next year. Mr. Ophus sounded a note of caution, reminding the group that staffing for the Freshman Academy will be a question after next year. State funding for education is looking up now, with the improved economy, making increases possible in next year’s budget, but the system is still very subject to declines as well. He feels that a Vice-Principal position is a real need at CHS, but one that is not yet in the budget picture. The district will continue to face challenges and difficult choices. We want to be sure our schools are functioning in ways that inspire Creswell residents to say, “I want my child to go to school here.”
Mrs. Freske shared that the School Board has asked this Committee to continue its work next year. The next meeting will be set for sometime in September. She thanked everyone for attending and sharing their ideas and adjourned the meeting at about 7:50.
Respectfully submitted, Sue Bowers, Secretary