North Side and South Side Face Takeover

By Max Resnik
By John W. Davis

June 21, 2011 Updated Jun 21, 2011 at 10:40 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Parents, community members, teachers and FWCS administrations stood together Tuesday night, in support of two schools facing state takeover.

South Side High School and North Side High School are both in their 5th year of academic probation.

That means if either or both school do not pass this year's ISTEP test, the Indiana Department of Education "could" takeover those schools.

However, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett went out of his way to ensure parents that Fort Wayne Community Schools has made great strides since a 2009 report, that graded the then failing school.

Dr. Bennett also stressed that if North Side and South Side does not pass ISTEP, a state takeover is not imminent.

State educational leaders would choose between on of the following five options:

1. Merging the school with a higher performing school

2. State Takeover

3. Local control but new recommendations from the IDOE

4. Other options, which include closing the school

5. Local control but revising the school's academic improvement plan

(The five options are written verbatim and the end of this article.)

Dozens of people addressed the Indiana Department of Education at Tuesday's public hearing at South Side.

However, only a few of those people were actually South Side High School parents.

Most were local politicians, community leaders, alumni and teachers.

One of the few parents who spoke was Jeff Calder.

He said state educational leaders should not take full control over South Side but should force FWCS administrators and board members to create more public engagement initiatives.

Calder also called for more parental involvement.

"I think some management changes and I'm not talking principals and low-level management need to occur to improve our schools," said South Side High School Parent Jeff Calder.

"Should the state happen to takeover, what would the transition process be. How soon would the parents get a notification so that they could make decisions," questioned South Side High School Parent Frank Martin.

"We believe the implementation process with take place over time. It's not gonna happen overnight. So the state will be there to help support whatever the intervention is if necessary," explained Director of School Turnaround Jim Larson.

Meanwhile, state educational left community members who attended the South Side public hearing under the impression that Fort Wayne Community Schools was on the right track.

Dr. Bennett told Indiana's NewsCenter that FWCS administrators and board members did a great job of listening to state recommendations from 2009.

He said that was not the case in some school district across Indiana.

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At North Side High School, the auditorium was filled top to bottom with scores of students, parents, FWCS board members and alumni. In addition to the people themselves, excitement and anticipation filled the air as community members prepared their pleas for limited state intervention.

Dr. Tony Bennett said the only intervention he could foresee would be “appropriate intervention.” He said the state is not in the business of takeovers. Bennett said results of ISTEP tests and other data will be presented to the Department of Education beginning n August. After examination, a decision could come by the end of August as the 2011-2012 school year begins. Bennett says any action that would be taken at that time would not be a snap judgment and a change that would occur with progression.

Andrew Sherman, a graduate of North Side High School and member of the 2011 class, says he has seen it all in his four years at North Side. He described a high school in need of change, one that recognized the recommendations of the state and one that is prepared to turn the corner.

“We know of all the changes and expectations that were going to be held for us, and it was going to be a tough ride. A lot of hard work was done this year. A lot of expectations were held for us. Goals were set and we were expected to meet them. This means a lot. All the hard work that we did this year-- we're going to see if it paid off or not.”

Sherman does not fear a possible state takeover and believes that improvement in North Side’s structure, coupled with improvement in ISTEP scores, will be the key that keeps the doors to North Side High School open.

Actions Taken by North Side as a Result of the 2009 Recommendations:

-Create parent-teacher conferences, a first at North Side High School
-Use of data to track credits earned by seniors
-Classrooms post learning objectives for students
-Group learning as opposed to strictly lectures
-Seniors participate in a full seven period day
-A reading program available to students below grade level
-A highly visible principal
-A common, more demanding grading scale
-Improved teacher and student attendance

The following are the five "Year 6" options that can be implemented by the Indiana Department of Education's School Turnaround and Improvement team in the event that North Side or South Side High Schools do not pass this year's ISTEP test.

1. Merging the school with a nearby school that is in a higher category.

2. Assigning a special management team to operate all or part of the school. (Turnaround School Operator)

3. Recommendations from the Indiana Department of Education for improving the school.

4. Other options for school improvement expressed at the public hearing, including closing the school.

5. Revising the school's plan in the areas of school procedures/operations, professional development, or intervention for individual teachers or administrators.

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We have attached the most recent Indiana Department of Education School Turnaround reports, regarding South Side & North Side High Schools to the related content section of this story.




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