Portsmouth High School (PHS) Principal Amy Hughes is stepping into her office for the first time this year, after serving seven years as the school’s vice principal. Just weeks ago, when asked to give a presentation at the school district’s first educational forum of the year, she explained she had a long list of things she could touch base on —from student input making the school a more enjoyable place, to student reward programs, philanthropy work accomplished by students, and more— but she said she settled for one she believes to be the most important: educational opportunities.
Hughes said she is pleased with the direction the school’s curriculum is taking and claimed it has more opportunities than ever for students to succeed.
“We are extremely excited for, and proud of, our students for working so hard to excel at the opportunities we’ve placed before them.” Hughes said. “They are top of the line and we couldn’t ask for a better student body.”
Hughes said the administration and teaching staff has been hard at work to build what they now have, from post-secondary education opportunities at Shawnee State University (SSU) and Ohio University Southern, to the College Credit Plus classes offered at the PHS campus, to free test prep, and more.
In fact, the curriculum offers so many opportunities for students, that some classes clash and the school has begun offering their online courses to those students who want to make the most out of free college credit while in high school.
“Our online classes were offered to those students who failed a course and didn’t want to fall behind, or become embarrassed by repeating a grade,” Hughes explained. “We would give them the option of enrolling in the class online and then, once they pass, allow them to enroll in the next level. We now offer this same program to students who need a credit, but can’t fit it in their schedules because they want to take an extra College Credit Plus class.”
Hughes said that the school’s strongest growing asset is the College Credit Plus program that allows students to earn up to 33 college credits.
According to Hughes, the school has 11 classes in the program, with 133 students participating, earning college credit as they go along.
The school has been working alongside Shawnee State University to ensure their high school teaching staff is qualified to instruct at the college level to make the program possible. When students pass their advanced placement courses, they can also earn college credit from time spent earning a high school diploma.
“We are preparing our kids for college,” Hughes said. “We often have students who are testing out of freshman math and science classes and students passing out of their English and history classes. I don’t know what more we could ask from our teachers, than having them ensure this kind of future for our kids.”
Superintendent Scott Dutey also spoke on the subject, saying it is instrumental for the future of education and the betterment of students.
“Our district is pleased that we are able to offer 11 College Credit Plus courses, four ACT prep classes, and AP offerings to our students without them leaving our high school. They are able to seamlessly transition from high school to college coursework each day,” Dutey said. “We look forward to providing more courses next year, taught by our very own high school staff.”
At Shawnee State, a student with 33 credit hours would be considered a sophomore, so Dutey pushes the importance and benefits of earning an entire free year of college while students receive their required high school credits.
Of course, like any other local high school, PHS has partnerships with local higher education institutions for students to enroll in classes. While PHS has been growing its in-house opportunities, the administration said they still highly value the partnerships with institutions like Shawnee State.
“We have a great relationship with Shawnee. We have a lot of their teachers in our building and we hire a lot of their students,” Hughes said. “They provide us a lot of college opportunities, along with OU Ironton. We are grateful for these institutions.”
Hughes also spoke about high school students receiving free ACT prep courses, which would cost their families if they enrolled in a similar class in most places.
“These courses help the students understand how the ACT tests work and how to perform better during them,” Hughes said. “Even if they only raise their score by two points, that is a great thing. Two points on the ACT could mean the difference of getting into their school of choice or not, as well as earning scholarships.”
Some of the additions to the high school include student reward days, where they compete in outlandish games for prizes, student feedback to the administration, the opening of the courtyard for passers through, and more general themes and events to increase Trojan spirit and pride. PHS has been expanding and growing. as a new atmosphere begins to form, with increased school pride and educational opportunities.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.