Statesville High principal proposes major changes for 2018-2019
BY KARISSA MILLER
Statesville High School Principal Hans Lassiter told the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education that he wants to make some radical changes to how the school is run.
Among the proposals are moving to a different academic calendar than the rest of the school district, requiring teachers to reapply for their jobs, and launching a freshman academy to boost student retention.
Statesville High is classified as a Restart School, which means the district has charter school-like freedom when it comes to the school calendar, teacher contracts and exemption from North Carolina Final Exams. Statesville Middle, N.B. Mills Elementary and Troutman Middle are also Restart Schools.
SHS is in year one of Restart, which is a planning year. Major changes would likely occur in the second year.
Lassiter, who made his pitch to board during Monday's Committee of the Whole meeting, said his recommendations are the result of collaborative work by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and I-SS officials and are based on a comprehensive needs assessment at Statesville High.
Why teachers who teach matter
For the 2018-19 school year, Lassiter recommends implementing a teacher vetting process that will require all teachers to reapply to work at the school.
Lassiter explained he wants teachers that are there to teach students -- not those who are just showing up to collect a paycheck.
School board member Max James said supported that part of the initiative, reasoning that the board holds principals accountable so principals should be allowed to hold teachers accountable.
Setting a new school calendar
As part of the restart proposal, Lassiter asked the board to approve a school calendar waiver for the 2018-2019 school year. Classes would start two to three weeks earlier. The waiver would allow Lassiter to align the school calendar with those of the early college high school and Mitchell Community College.
Doing so, he said, would allow “smooth entry into the programs of study without delay or being behind due to not beginning classes until three full weeks after school has been in session.”
Initial feedback from the school board was overwhelmingly positive; however, after some reflection Chairman Martin Page expressed concerns about the calendar not being in line with the Career Academy and Technical School schedule.
Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Melanie Taylor explained that this was the one area of the plan that must be approved by the board. Other areas of the plan can be approved by the executive cabinet leadership team, she noted.
Proposed Learning Academies beginning 2018-2019
The restart proposal also includes a Freshman Academy for ninth-graders.
The goal is that it will provide freshman with a “gradual and progressive introduction, induction and orientation into high school,” Lassiter said.
“If a student is retained as a freshman, the likelihood of dropping out of high school increases by 70 percent,” he told the board.
The other learning academies include:
- Pre-professional Academy: The academy will revolve around student interest. This will be used to help motivate, stimulate and graduate a group of college, work and future ready students.
- Accelerated Learning Academy: This will involve improvements to the current Advanced Placement Academy.
- Fine Arts Magnet of Iredell Statesville (also known as FAMIS): A plan to keep FAMIS for students. It would later be determined whether it should act as a separate magnet or included into one of the proposed academies.
- Extended-Day Learning Academy: This will allow students that have dropped out of school with a place to come and make up their work so that they can earn their high school diploma. Students will be able to utilize online resources during late afternoon to evening hours.
Lassiter reassured the board that a majority of the ideas won’t have a financial cost.
Earlier in the year, the board approved the district joining a Restart consortium. This allowed the Restart principals to network with partner schools, and learn about other innovative resources to turnaround their school.
Superintendent Brady Johnson has encouraged Restart schools to remove the box —instead of saying think outside the box — asking leaders to be bold in their strategies to help revive their schools.
Statesville High’s plan is the first Restart proposal brought to the board.
Johnson asked the board to consider voting on the school calendar flexibility recommendation in January. However, board members took a straw vote and decided to postpone a decision until February’s board meeting.
The next meeting is Monday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m. at the Iredell County Government Center, located at 200 South Center Street, Statesville.