Academics: an afterthought of school “leadership”

Rosemont High School, stuck in academic mediocrity for 30 years, became a hotbed of educational change in a few short months with Debbie Fortunato as principal. Debbie met regularly with Superintendent Galvin and told him about the changes.

Superintendent Galvin mentioned these changes in brief public comments to the school board at their meetings, but they were clearly low on the priority scale for the school board and Superintendent Galvin. Debbie was fine with that as long as she was left alone to move the high school forward academically.

By the end of Debbie’s first year at Rosemont High the dropouts were significantly reduced – not in comparison with data that counted the former dropouts as transfers but in real numbers – and the news of the change never made the newspapers. (Score!)

The number of students participating in eleventh grade honors math, which included the accelerated tenth-graders, rose from 17 students to 41 students.

All of the 25 students who entered ninth grade as accelerated students and another 16 students who were not designated as “accelerated students” but who had decided to take on the extra challenge of honors math, were among the 41 students.

By year two, the English and science departments also decided to make the switch to the honors for all program. Other high schools were sending teams of visitors to Rosemont to see how these changes worked and how they might adopt them in their own schools.

The tutoring center had doubled in size. The center and the school’s new alternative program were established using savings from non-teaching and teaching retirements.

The failure rate in Regents exams also had been cut in half and the percentage of students scoring higher than 90 percent on important required course exit exams had doubled.

As the end of Debbie’s third year at Rosemont approached, even the teacher leaders who were initially reluctant to go all honors were bragging to their peers about the positive changes in their school and the important role they had in making these changes.

Unfortunately, senior teacher Lois Schafer wasn’t happy. The honors math program she “owned” for nearly 15 years was now in shared hands. Her classes were bigger and included students who struggled academically and behaviorally, and she didn’t know how to deal with them. Many ended up in the principal’s office for disciplinary reasons, which reflected poorly on her during her evaluations. She tried to talk to her old friend Tom Galvin about this multiple times but he was having problems of his own.

Why more students don’t study STEM click here

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