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PECHS Update Presented To School Board

PRINCE EDWARD – School board members have been presented with an update on high school turnaround efforts. Principal Craig Reed, in what is a monthly update, outlined priorities that included meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (the federally-driven AYP goals), graduating all seniors, SOL accreditation and increasing academic achievement for all students.

“And the 45-day plan addresses all of these things,” Reed told the board at their March meeting, “and that's what we've been focusing on for the last month.”

Cambridge Education has assisted the school in the transition process. Among the highlights of the report, which also included comments from a Cambridge spokesman:

*Reed cited that they have seen improvement in several areas following their last benchmark including: English 9, English 10, English 11, Algebra I and II, Biology, and World History II. “…Those are the areas where we had those meetings, but it's also the areas where…Cambridge is providing that support,” Reed said.

He also cited that the achievement gap narrowed between designated subgroups and 196 of their students were to be recognized at the next breakfast.

*School officials meet weekly in core subject areas. They identify areas where individual students are weak in and try to identify the remediation that they're going to give them, and what they're doing to help them.

*Teachers, in several instances, have met by subject group with an instructional coach who helps them put together a lesson. That lesson is taught the next day by one of the group of teachers and other teachers, free for that period, can observe their colleague and there is a feedback session.

“…The change is going to be gradual,” cited Internal Lead Partner Michelle Hairston, “but what we want is…for it to be sustained over time and so we're imbedding practices into the instructional program at the high school that's shifting the mindsets of staff and that's shifting the mindsets of…students, because that's where the change takes place…You have to begin to shift mindsets.”

She also cited, “…What you saw today and what we're seeing is the change is slow but it's steady and we're moving that ship in the right direction.”

Ms. Hairston added that they're putting systems in place to be able to address the needs.

Board member Dr. Ellery Sedgwick cited concerns over a group of students that have failed their SOL the first time, who don't get benchmarks and are not in the class that is preparing them for the SOL.

“I would read into the result that what is in place now is not working and…you're trying other things but I think one component of it is requiring the students to expend time on task…,” he said.

The data from the next SOL, Chairman Russell Dove cited, is going to be critical. If that doesn't show significant improvement, they know their current strategy isn't working and they have to re-focus.

Nursing Program

Dr. Melody Eaton, Director of Longwood University's Bachelor of Student Nursing Program, discussed the program and a proposal to have students in the nursing program placed with school nurses as part of their pediatric clinical experience.

Dr. Smith assessed that it would be beneficial to them and the Longwood program.

The request, warmly received, was a non-action item on the board's agenda.

Recognitions

School board members recognized middle and high school students selected for district honor band. Honorees included middle school students Rebecca DeCamp, Ellie Swanson, Christian Kinzer, Ian Burns, Joel Thomas and Craig Burns. High school students honored included Chelsea Robertson, Estephanie Luperon, Dylan Abrams, Jessie Bass and Sarah Kinzer. School board members also recognized their instructors.

*The school board recognized the high school's ACE (or Academic Competitive for Excellence) team, which finished the regular season in third place in the Southside District with a 12-3 record. The ACE team qualified for the Virginia High School League Scholastic Bowl Regional Competition and finished second to Powhatan High School in the District finals. ACE Varsity Team members include Carter Chassey, Malcolm Vaughan, Kyerra Hurt, Matt Breckinridge, Sydney French, Chelsea Robertson, Erika Carrera, and Haylee Lewis. They also recognized team coach Paul Jenkins.

*School board members recognized students participating in the Regional Skills USA Competition. Among those participating were John Edward, first place electronics technology; Ben Byrnes, second place electronics technology; Keiston France, first place tie, cabinetmaking; Ryan Steward, first place tie, cabinetmaking; Joe Gills, first place, auto servicing; and R. J. Draper, first place, auto maintenance. Instructor Bob Zava was also recognized.

*It was also highlighted that the Virginia High School Coaches Association All-State Team presented an honorable mention to Kylie Dyer for girl's soccer.

*Spelling bee winners were also announced. The division winner was fifth grader Chaney Sheehan; second place honors went to Ivelisse Ortiz-Clark and third place to Dorothy Cheuk. Ivelisse Ortiz-Clark was tapped to represent Prince Edward at the regional bee. Chancey Sheehan was not able to attend due to another commitment.

*National Geographic Bee winners for Prince Edward included Russell Chassey, first place; Samuel Godfrey, second place; and Christopher Word, third place. Chassey was tapped to represented Prince Edward County Public Schools at the National Geographic Bee at Shenandoah University.

In Other News…

*School board members, sparked by Linda Leatherwood, discussed a proposed school calendar. While it was an information-only item, it did open discussion on heritage and recognition of Veteran's Day, November 11.

Board members discussed citing the holiday.

The proposal would set the first semester to end prior to winter break, increase the number of teacher workdays and professional development days, schedule Spring Break after the end of the fifth six weeks grading period, and factor nine built-in make-up days (including two in the fall). Teachers would begin August 2 and school starting August 10, with the year ending for students May 22 and graduation May 19.

*School board members will, in a first sampling, seek input on a school board evaluation document with an internal survey that will include school board staff, all administrators and directors. A more extensive survey is planned later in the year.

The board approved the evaluation document.

*The school board approved a $1,000 donation to help fund the After-Prom party for students. The event aims to offer students a drug-free safe place to hang out after the prom. This year's event is scheduled to be held at the bowling alley.

*School board members agreed to continue with The Local Choice and Anthem health insurance plan for the school year and approved Key Advantage and Key Advantage 500. Premiums for Local Choice Program increased 3.6 percent. The estimated cost is $1,659,500 and the 3.6 percent increase is projected at $56,800.

*School board members agreed to a four-day workweek this summer, spanning June 6-July 27. Workers will work Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in extended days. The school board office, even with the change, will remain open five days per week.

*Board members were presented with a list of policy updates provided by the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA). Policies include: advisory committees to the school board, reporting acts of violence and substance abuse, purchasing procedures, unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession or use of a controlled substance, evaluation of professionals staff, programs for gifted students, acceleration, suicide prevention, and service animals in public schools.

*School board members were asked to consider appointing a school board member to the school health advisory board.

*It was reported that 18 cameras would be installed inside the middle school.