VALDOSTA — Valdosta High School Principal Brett Stanton is introducing several new initiatives for the next school year that focus on academic achievement, safety and discipline issues.

During the June work session, the Valdosta Board of Education voted to approve a VHS parent newsletter which outlines the initiatives.

The Freshman Success Academy is one of the programs falling under the category of academic achievement.

“The Freshmen Success Program will create a smaller learning community for incoming freshmen who have been identified at the middle school level as academically ‘at-risk,’” Stanton said.

The smaller learning communities will allow individual students to work at their own guided pace, the principal said.

In broader efforts to increase student achievement through “rigorous academic core and focus,” the high school will also eliminate low level academic courses. When classes resume in August, students will find increased access to academic courses that integrate college level concepts through contextual teaching and applied strategies.

These initiatives are positioning VHS to phase in the International Baccalaureate Program in 2009, which will offer students a well-rounded experience, emphasizing critical thinking and intercultural understanding. In preparation, an Honors Academy will open at the start of this school year for students in Grade 9, followed by a sophomore honors academy, which will begin in 2008. By the time these students become juniors, the application process to begin the IB program will have been completed, and they will go directly into the program model beginning in the 11th grade.

Faculty and staff will become part of the Learning Focused Schools Concepts.

“In an effort to improve teaching and learning, VHS will move forward with the process of full implementation of the Learning Focused Schools Concepts, which are closely aligned to the Georgia Performance Standards,” Stanton said. “There are several teaching and learning strategies involved in the implementation of Learning Focused Schools. Therefore, this will be an ongoing process involving the assistance of our Professional Learning Department.”

Focus on LFS Concepts will begin during the 2007-08 school year, as the VHS faculty begins to explore “a few strategies including curriculum maps,” Stanton said. “These maps will serve as the new format for lesson plans relative to successful teaching and learning. The Curriculum Map will indicate the topics and key concepts to be taught at that grade level or course using the standards.”

Classroom walk-through evaluations will allow administrators to review teachers and their in-class practices. Additionally, the implementation of daily advisement and mandatory tutorial programs for those considered to be “at risk” is expected to raise graduation rates.

School safety and discipline

Safety measures are also increasing this year with the issuing of identification cards. These cards will be distributed to students free at the beginning of the school year and must be worn during school hours.

VHS students and staff will be required to use ID cards to check out books and other Media Center materials and to purchase lunch. The cards will also be needed for faculty/student admission to all VHS extra curricular activities. Replacement cards will be issued at the student’s expense for $10.

Addressing issues of discipline on campus, a full-time staff member will supervise students in tardy isolation, and students who are tardy to class during the school day will be required to report immediately to the tardy isolation area.

“If students have an excused pass, they should report to the classroom and be admitted as normal,” Stanton said. “Classroom tardies will become a discipline violation upon the third time a student reports to the tardy isolation area. Each tardy isolation infraction will result in an absence from class, and after a certain number of absences credit of the class will be lost. Failure to report to the tardy isolation area within an appropriate amount of time will constitute a discipline violation.”

This year will also bring about the implementation of random student searches at VHS, by the use of hand-held metal detectors.

Any disciplinary problems will be recorded and count against a student if continued, as a new point system for student discipline will begin this year.

Under the system, “Any student accumulating 50 points is placed on a student behavior contract and is subject to the conditions of the required probationary contract. Any student accumulating 100 or more points will be recommended for expulsion,” Stanton said.

A full description of conduct violations will be included in the VHS handbook.

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