Principal and the governor

Seaside High School Principal Jeff Roberts, left, talks with Gov. Kate Brown during her visit to the school on Jan. 24.

Seaside High School is taking steps to improve attendance, increase its graduation rate, and enhance its offering of certified technical education programs.

At the Seaside School District’s January meeting, Principal Jeff Roberts gave a brief update on how the school administration has used grant funds from the state, as well as their plans for the future.

Measure 98 — or the Oregon State Funding for Dropout Prevention and College Readiness Initiative — was approved by voters in November 2016. During 2017-18, the first year of implementation, school districts and charter high schools received their first allocation from the state’s High School Success fund.

In order to be eligible for the second distribution of funds, schools submitted a four-year plan. The high school received approximately $217,368 during the first year and $230,582 the second year. Schools that received funding, including Seaside High School, have until June 30 to spend the second distribution.

The first year emphasized planning, Roberts said. This year, the school is more vigorously putting the plan in action.

A freshmen push

In the Seaside community, Roberts said, “we have a chronic attendance problem.” To combat truancy, Roberts and staff have shared ideas with other school districts about strategies that have led to success. Area schools work collectively toward trying to improve countywide attendance.

For the 2018-19 school year, vice principal Jason Boyd made home visits to families, targeting incoming freshmen who struggled with attendance in eighth grade. When he meets with families, he welcomes them to the school and discusses opportunities available to students.

“Often times, these parents’ contact with school was as a result of negative interaction,” Roberts said. “We wanted to try to get in front of that, and make sure that initial interaction was positive.”

When students miss class, a staff member calls parents or guardians, rather than them receiving an automated message, which is easier to ignore. Additionally, the school is taking opportunities to recognize students who attend school regularly.

Going forward, Roberts said, they plan to continue with family and community outreach; increase recognition on an individual and classwide basis; and reduce suspensions, or opt for alternatives such as in-school suspension.

Grad track

The high school also is working to improve graduation rates as part of its fulfillment of the state’s Measure 98 criteria. Freshmen are the focus, although that doesn’t mean they are unconcerned with the other classes, Roberts said.

“We had to start somewhere,” he said. “We had to make a concerted effort someplace.”

English teacher Ann Susee is coordinating the freshmen on-track team, which meets at least monthly. Staff members are assigned to reach out to students who are not on track and discuss what interventions can be offered. In particular, students are considered off-track if they are falling behind in their core classes.

In 2017, seven freshmen were off-track after the first trimester; in 2018, two students were off-track. Roberts acknowledged that number will increase throughout the year— “we have a lot of challenges in front of us,” he said—but “the trend is positive.”

The school also is implementing a requirement for all freshmen to take a whole year of math as a response to underclassmen struggling in Algebra 1. After the first term last school year, 18 freshmen had failed math; that number was 10 in the 2018-19 school year.

“Is 10 an acceptable number? No,” Roberts said. “But again, the trend is significantly pointed in the right direction.”

The school also is offering a credit recovery class led by math instructors, rather than putting students in the computer lab without mentorship. Additionally, the school is considering implementing an after-school math lab that includes transportation.

Tech training

In the past, the school has had two sustainable CTE programs: Construction and Information and Communication Technology. Under Mike Verhulst, the Information and Communication Technology program has morphed into Business and Management, with an added focus on entrepreneurship, marketing and other business-related subjects.

Teacher Jeff Corliss still oversees construction and other woodworking classes. Roberts hopes to see the program evolve by increasing connection with local contractors and giving students opportunities for hands-on work at project sites, as well as developing a contemporary computer drafting curriculum.

The state this school year recognized the school’s culinary arts program as an official CTE offering through 2022. At the end of the previous year, about 190 students — or half the student body — had expressed interest in taking a culinary arts class in 2018-19, Roberts said.

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