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Never a Dull Moment

McLean High School prepares for the school year.

As principal of McLean High School, there is never a dull moment for Paul Wardinski.

"I'm never bored," said Wardinski. "I never look up and say 'wow, it's a slow day, I don't have anything to do.'"

Wardinski is preparing to start his third year as principal of McLean High School. Prior to his assignment to McLean, Wardinski worked at Marshall High School for 17 years. Wardinski said there is a lot to be excited about in the coming school year.

"We're going to continue to have our late start on Fridays," said Wardinski.

The Friday late start program started for the first time last year, and proved to be a success in terms of enabling students to have a solid time to meet with teachers and discuss issues and concerns. Likewise, it provides teachers with much needed time to plan projects and lesson plans with other classes.

"Teacher-wise, we got great results," said Wardinski. "The school day is so busy and so full of activities and after-school commitments that it's hard to have time to meet with teachers and talk, so we really felt the benefits of that."

Under the Friday late start program, students who need to meet with teachers are still required to be at school at the normal time of 7:20 a.m. Otherwise, they do not have to come in until 8 a.m. Buses still run at the same time.

MCLEAN HIGH SCHOOL was also one of only 20 schools in the county chosen for a special Teacher Leadership grant. The $117,000 grant will be used for a three-part program. In the coming school year, 13 teachers will create a workshop designed to aid students in the transition from middle school to high school. These teachers will also help students with poor grades during their freshman year. A workshop will then be set up for the summer of 2007 for McLean's most "at risk" freshman.

"We care about our student's success," said Wardinski. "The transition from middle school to high school is very difficult, especially when you are transitioning to a high achieving school like McLean — if you don't start off well it becomes a cyclical thing."

The third year of the project will simply continue the practices established by the team of teachers. If the county feels that the plan is going well and producing results, the project will continue to be funded $235,000 a year after the first trial year.

McLean also ranked in Newsweek's "Top 100 Schools," a fact that pleases Wardinski to no end.

"We got great results and I'm really proud of them," he said.

Wardinski said the school will continue to heed the guiding principle of "No Child Left Behind," noting that — regardless of whether or not you agree with the concept — it has "made us take a good look at whether or not we are doing everything that we can do for our kids."

"A few years ago, you just didn't hear about this kind of thing," said Wardinski. "If a few kids failed here and there, oh well — that was expected."

THE SCHOOL will see a number of staff changes as well this year. There will be 30 new staff members as a result of various retirements, relocations and marriages.

A new class that is being added to the curriculum is a Social Studies elective called "Street Law."

"There are four sections of it, that's how popular it is," said Wardinski.

Three more sections of Advanced Placement Psychology have also been added to the roster, moving it up from four sections to a total of seven. McLean students performed well on both its Advanced Placement exams and its Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.

"Not a single student was denied graduation in 2006 because of failing to meet SOL requirements," said Janice Dabroski, assessment coach for McLean High School.

FRESHMAN orientation will take place at the school on Sept. 1, at 9 a.m. Last year's freshman orientation was so well attended by parents that the school has decided to include a more comprehensive parent orientation as part of this year's program.

"Initially we set up 100 or so chairs because we didn't really know how many parents were going to show up, but then we went in there and it was just packed," said Wardinski. "So obviously this was a need that we were missing."

Wardinski said that parents of rising freshman have many concerns about dress codes, safety issues and schedules.

"Here at McLean we are very fortunate in regards to disputes, violence and gangs," said Wardinski. "We don't have to deal with a lot of the issues that other schools have to deal with... but still, parents are nervous because they see things in the news and that's understandable."

Wardinski said that McLean High School's strong sense of community is one of his favorite aspects of his job.

"We are right in the middle of the community," he said. "Our entrances open out right into the neighborhoods and you can't really get more community than that."