It is going to take a community effort to improve Schenectady High School, parents and school officials said Monday.
Alfred Tompkins, pastor at Calvary Tabernacle, said students are dealing with very complex situations. They are coming from broken families and, in response, many of them turn to their peers for acceptance. This leads to the formation of gangs and other negative behavior.
“That detracts from the kids learning. I don’t think it’s to fair to blame the school,” he said. Tompkins was one of 20 people who attended a parent focus group meeting at Mont Pleasant Middle School about restructuring the high school.
The high school must make changes beginning this fall because of its low graduation rate of about 50 percent.
Among some of the ideas being discussed are creating a ninth-grade academy and improving the overall school climate.
Tompkins added that his church has a program where they talk to students at the high school during lunch time a few times a month. Getting to know students is an important step in building a relationship with them.
Jennifer Dobson, who teaches first grade at Pleasant Valley elementary, said she sees students who have not eaten or are dealing with the breakup of their parents. “I have to be a social worker, nurse, teacher,” she said.
Board of Education President Maxine Brisport said students do not feel connected to the school.
“That’s why we’re losing them. They get lost in this big world of the high school,” she said.
Class of 2005 graduate Michael Brockbank told those in attendance about how he was pulled into band and other activities by interested teachers.
School officials have been focusing particularly on improving the academic performance of freshmen. This year’s ninth-grade class of about 600 contains 147 students that are repeating the grade.
Parents who attended disliked the idea of creating a separate house for freshmen because of a fear that they would feel segregated from the rest of the school.
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