New Initiatives Underway As School Sets to Open

New Initiatives Underway As School Sets to Open

Laptop computers given to students at Minnie Howard.

Students at the ninth grade center and at T. C. Williams will notice a difference in some of their academic programs, but their facilities will still look the same.

There is no construction at either school as the year begins but that will change as the year progresses. “We are, of course, continuing to plan for our new building,” said John Porter, the principal at T. C. Williams. “Our academic program planning committee is looking at piloting some of the concepts that we might use in our new building.”

One of those programs is a teacher mentoring program. Between 70 and 100 tenth-graders have been selected at random and are being invited to participate in the pilot that will pair one teacher with three to five students. “The idea is to help the tenth-graders assimilate into life at T. C.,” Porter said.

Amy Plaza, a World Civilization teacher at T. C., said, “We will have large group meetings once a month and teachers will meet with their assigned students every week. When the large group gets together, we will have discussions about career goals, academics and college preparation. If individual students are having difficulties, we will work with those students to address those concerns.

“Each year, we hope to expand the pool of students until we have tenth, eleventh and twelfth-graders involved in the program three years from now,” Plaza said.

Teachers will plan activities as well. “Our first real activity will be a tailgate party before the first home football game,” Plaza said. “We are really excited about the program.”

Porter is also looking forward to the new school year. “We have made good progress in improving our SOL and SAT scores and we want to keep that momentum going,” he said. “We are ready for the students and looking forward to seeing them on Sept. 2.”

THE MAJOR NEW initiative at Minnie Howard is that every student will have his or her own laptop computer. Students will receive Del D500s that will be fully equipped with the software that students are expected to use.

Parents received a letter from acting principal, Randy Mitchell, explaining the program. Each student will be responsible for bringing the computer to class each day and for doing homework on the computer at home as appropriate. Computers will not be equipped with CD-rom drives or floppy disk drives to discourage students from downloading games and videos from the Internet. Parents and students must sign forms agreeing to abide by the School Board’s computer policy and must agree to pay a $30 insurance premium if the computer is lost or stolen.

Cherie Carroll has a son who is entering ninth grade. She thinks this is a wonderful opportunity for children who don’t have computers at home to be able to use these laptops to do homework. “However, I am just not clear exactly how this is all going to fit with the curriculum,” she said.

Those answers will hopefully become clearer as parents receive more information about the use of laptops at meetings later this week.