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Focused professional development, Freshman Academy at WMRHS


September 02, 2009
WHITEFIELD — A busy year of embedded professional development lies ahead at White Mountains Regional High School. The sessions will be designed to focus on meeting the needs of diverse learners, personalizing math instruction, and creating a culture of caring, principal Erik Anderson told school board members at their May 24 meeting.

Two consultants from Cristia Lesher Associates of Enfield — Polly Bath and Tom Schersten — plus John Elwell from Just ASK Publications and Professional Development of Newburyport, Mass., will spend varying amounts of time at WMRHS this year to provide on-site professional staff development, Mr. Anderson told the board. In a one-on-one interview on Wednesday afternoon, the second-year principal elaborated on what he expects these initiatives will bring to high school teachers.

John Elwell will focus on the key attributes of standards-based education and differentiated instruction designed to answer the question: "What do schools look like when they organize around the achievement of high standards by all students?" Mr. Elwell will work with teachers in the core subject areas of math, science, English, and social studies this year. "Walk-through days with classroom visits will be scheduled to ensure that the strategies are being practiced and implemented," Mr. Anderson said. "This is part of a two- to-three-year program, and other areas and departments of the school will be involved next year."

Consultant Polly Bath will return to do more work throughout the year to help staff develop strategies to manage behavioral issues, and near the end of October, Tom Schersten will work specifically with the math department.

"We want each and every one of our students to be successful, and we are working to improve the overall quality of instruction so that every student will be engaged in learning," Mr. Anderson explained.

The three consultants are being paid through the use of federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funds that were substantially increased this year because of an infusion of federal stimulus monies under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

To help ensure that every student is engaged in learning, a Freshman Academy will be put in place. The Academy allows those who teach members of the Class of 2013 to meet on a daily basis to specifically review student progress — or the lack of it, Mr. Anderson explained. This initiative should also help teachers to work more collaboratively with one another, benefiting our students, he said. Freshman Academies across the country have helped 14-year-old students to make smooth transitions from middle schools to high schools. They accomplish this by creating a greater sense of connectedness and belonging than in the past. "We're geared up to have a very good year," Mr. Anderson said enthusiastically, noting specifically that there has been very little staff turnover. "We're on the right track at the high school. We have a strong, committed administrative team and a team of teachers and staff who will work hard to make WMRHS the best it's ever been. I am excited about welcoming our students back."

Having assistant principal-athletic director Mike Berry on board is "super," he said, noting that he has the skills, experience, and knowledge to help "keep moving this place forward."

Approximately 435 students are expected to be on hand on Sept. 8, the first day of classes. Last year the enrollment totaled about 475 students. A whopping 141 Spartans graduated as members of the Class of 2009 in June, including several students — previously listed as juniors — who received the new "minimum standards" diploma that indicates on its face that only the state's minimum graduation requirements were met.

A number of new students have enrolled and some have transferred elsewhere. The official yearly enrollment numbers are tallied on Oct. 1

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