Changes across board at high school

S tudents at Granville High School will return to find a variety of changes, affecting everyone from seventh-graders to seniors.

Principal James Donnelly said many of the changes were a result of surveys done of part of the “school in need of improvement” status the school was placed on as a result of low standardized test scores last year. Donnelly said other changes were driven by teachers who got together to plan ways to improve the school day for students in their specific grades.

“We have gotten a great amount done this summer,” said Donnelly, who started last year as an interim principal and quickly took the position permanently. “The changes are going to be apparent.”

While some of the changes are not a direct response to Regents and standardized test score issues, many of them should have an impact on test scores, Donnelly hopes.

During the SINI surveys, junior high students said they sometimes felt intimidated by older students.

“We wanted to create a less stressful environment for them,” Donnelly said of the decision to give all seventh- and eighth-graders the same lunch period, separate from older students. “This will help them make the transition as a group,” he said. Donnelly said the gym will also be open during the junior high lunch period, “so they can blow off some steam if they need to.”

The junior high students will also, for the first time, have a dedicated “adviser-advisee” period where all 10 junior high subject-area teachers will be available for meetings, reteaching and other discussions.

“The kids said they didn’t have a chance to meet with their teachers when they had questions,” Donnelly said. “This gives us a chance for academic intervention.”

The teachers also share a common planning period at a time students have non-academic classes.

“The teachers will be able to collaborate better, and if they need to pull a student out so they can meet with him, or even meet with him and his parents, they can do that.”

 

At the other end

Seniors will also see something new, as a result of a collaboration among teachers Susan Hosley, Christine Cook, Marc Lambert, Dave Cosey and Jim Marsfelder.

The students will be taking part in a “senior seminar” that will include topics such as how to apply to college, how to decide whether to take out college loans, how to handle credit cards, job preparation and developing a working knowledge of computer programs such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

“We’re going to be working across the curriculum with this,” Donnelly said. “For instance, Chris Cook will be teaching economics. She might ask students to compare going to college and going directly into the work force. They would need to research that, and determine the most accurate websites, then they would use PowerPoint or Excel to analyze and present the data.”

Donnelly said he feels that “the biggest danger for our seniors, other than drugs, is diving into that shark tank environment of the financial world.” He said students will learn about student loans and credit-card issues. The teachers developed the program using grant funds.

Meanwhile, Donnelly said, the ninth-grade teachers are working together on a transition program to high-school level classes.

“We need to prepare these students for the realities of high school.”

 

Making connections   

Another major change is that in many instances, teachers who are doing social studies and English will be teaching back-to-back periods – in some cases in adjoining rooms.

“That way, if they want to go to a block period, make it one long period, they can,” Donnelly said.

He said the school is in the process of creating a math lab for students who need additional math help, will have math teachers available to help students in all but one period and is also developing academic-intervention programs during fifth period for students who need help raising their Regents scores.

Sondra Smith joins the staff as a guidance counselor, bringing the school back to its former complement of three. Sarah Barsukoff will teach chemistry and physics, Dan Lloyd will be in special education, and there will be three new social studies teachers – Sara Best Twardy, Michele Bromley and Kate Becker.

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