PCSD sees productive school year

PORTSMOUTH — The The Portsmouth City School District (PCSD) Educational Forum revealed the District is wrapping up the 2015-2016 school year on a good note, according to Scott Dutey, PCSD Superintendent.

“We had a really good year. When you look overall, some of the things that we have initiated throughout the year, such as our teacher-based team meetings continue to grow and that is a key right there,” Dutey said. “Having the opportunity for our teachers plan and meet together every week and talk about how they teach a particular content area, share successes they are having with one another it can make a tremendous impact. I honestly think that it is a huge benefit, and it is something that is needed.

“With the high school we are looking to expand, and they have never had a set time to be able to do their teacher-based teams. Beginning in the fall, every Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. until 8:10 a.m. they will be able to have those meetings, and I believe it will make a huge impact.”

Dutey expounded upon the SBIRT Program, which stands for Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral for Treatment. PCSD plans on piloting the program in the 2016-2017 school year in the fall.

“Clarence Parker, in his role with The Counseling Center, and I had the opportunity last week to visit Norwood City Schools, which is just outside of Cincinnati,” Dutey said. “We had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with some folks who have implemented this program. This is the second year that they’ve done it, and they deal with students grade six through nine, and have over 600 involved, and it all starts with a survey of questions. Then based upon the responses, it tells those who are doing the initial screenings what steps to take next.

“The vast majority of the students never go beyond the initial questions — have you ever been involved with drugs or alcohol? Have you smoked cigarettes or tobacco? Based upon their initial responses, that may be it, or they may follow up later to see what’s going on.”

A further look is given to ascertain a student’s level of involvement with drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and how their home life is affected by these substances. More intervention is implemented, depending upon the student’s responses on the surveys as well, according to Dutey.

“We already have three persons that work for The Counseling Center already working in our building. One thing that we did not want to do is add something else to our teaching staff, to our counselors, administrators,” Dutey said. “So we thought it was a natural progression, that if we followed this group of students for four years. I certainly hope that it has had some type of impact. I certainly hope it has helped students to understand that they have more choices they can make than to just say, I’ll try it.

Seventh graders in the PCSD that have gone through the four-year life skills training will be the focus for the SBIRT Program.

“So that is what we are going to do next year. Next year we are going to look at our seventh graders and we are going to look to pilot this with them next year,” Dutey said. “At the beginning of the school year there will be a screening of every seventh grader and it is not going to be where they are getting 15, 25 questions, we are talking three to five questions based upon the individual responses.”

Kristi Toppins, principal of East Portsmouth Elementary School, said providing incentive for students to read with the closure of the school year.

“To end out the year, we do the first week of May Book Fair, buy one, get one free. So, that week we try to encourage all of the kids to buy books,” Toppins said. “And that happens, Scholastic is very pleased with how many books we sell.”

Additionally, Toppins shared with the group about East Portsmouth Elementary’s Star Wars theme and gigantic, drawn Star Wars characters, and some made of cardboard that are also in the school building. Each classroom door is also decorated in accordance with the theme. She said everyone in the entire building has been involved with the project. The goal is to encourage each student to read all week.

There was discussion about seeking out funds through the Straight-A grant for purchase the IReady Program, as well as 1,200 Chrome Books to be purchased for all PCSD students to have access to.

“The cost for the program is approximately $48,000, which the district is committed, we are going to purchase the grant no matter what,” Dutey said. “The added benefit with to the grant is that we will be able to purchase those 1,200 Chrome Books, which are similar to an IPAD. I think that if we can get those into our kids hands on a daily basis, what an impact that could have.”

Beth Born, principal of Portsmouth Elementary (PES), provided the group with an update on the test-taking in PES and said they were able to successfully complete all of the testing with few glitches, as they still get acclimated to the new computerized format. Born also discussed the Pillow Case project, which included the third and fourth graders in which the American Red Cross came and gave instructions on what to do in time of a disaster.

“The students made a creative pillow case with supplies in it and they get to draw all over it,” Born said. “The students know that if something happens they can grab their pillow case and run. So it kind of prepares them, and puts them at ease a little bit should something happen, so that was definitely a positive.”

The Steven Hunter Fund supplies 120 students in PES with a meal each weekend. One of the teachers in PES thought of a way to help the students to learn to give back.

“We just finished the Steven Hunter Walkathon,” Born said. “This was basically an idea that Kathy Amburghey, a first-grade teacher, came up with. She wanted to see if we could give them a way to give back and to learn that when you need things, that’s great people are their to help you, but you can give back too, it doesn’t have to be money or things like that it could be good deeds. So that was the lesson behind it, the theme was ‘Trojans Give Back.’”

Angela Johnson, coordinator of Project Moore, and Intervention Specialist at PES, and Karen Porter, a third-grade teacher at PES, are in favor of the new techniques being implemented.

“Our State Support team coach who works with our region, which is about four counties in region asked if third grade would come and present at their Internal Facilitators meeting,” Johnson said. “Which was quite an honor to us because he felt that our team out of all of the districts that he works with, is a great model for how a teacher-based team should work, so that is a great testament to Portsmouth Elementary and to the District.”

Both Johnson and Porter shared information about the teacher-based teams in the District, and were candid that the teams do encounter obstacles and challenges, but always find a way to surmount the obstacles.

Amy Hughes, principal of PHS, said classes will begin at a later time on Wednesdays only beginning in the next school year.

“Next year we are going to have a late start for our students on Wednesday’s only, all school year,” Hughes said. “So, that will look like, our teachers will be in meetings, different departmental meetings, different grade level meetings from 7:30 to 8:10. At 8:15, the first bell will ring and at 8:20, the students will be considered tardy, and that will just be on Wednesdays. Students that ride a bus, or have no other way to get here, except for at 7:30, they will be in the cafeteria. We will still have plenty of supervision, and we will still have free breakfast. Those kids that do have a way can sleep in a little later, and that is going to be the
plan for next school year on Wednesdays.”

An ACT wall will be going up in the area of the school cafeteria for students that score a 30 or higher on their ACT Test will have their picture placed on the wall, according to Hughes. She also said they will be erecting a billboard near Wal-Mart in New Boston that will highlight wonderful things that PCSD has to offer as a school system, which she said is forthcoming. Hughes also disclosed the date and time for the PHS 2016 graduation ceremony which is Saturday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at the school football stadium. The alternative location for the ceremony is the main gymnasium in PHS, should rain occur.

By Portia Williams

[email protected]

Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.

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