Conflicting information coming from schools
Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 4, 2009
On or off? Happening or not? Confusion for public school students and their parents continued this week as conflicting information came from Vicksburg Warren School District personnel.
As administrators issued assurances last week that intercession classes would be held as scheduled, schools were completing or had already completed the sessions.
Assistant Superintendent Debra Hullum said May 28 that the fourth and final intercession of the 2008-2009 school year would be Tuesday through Friday this week for students who had not achieved academic goals for the final nine-week period of the school year.
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But Vicksburg High School Principal Derrick Reed said his staff has known for nearly a month that no intercession classes would be offered. “Our administrative team decided it would be too much to try to get kids in for intercession,” while preparing for summer school registration, which starts Friday for the six-week session that begins Wednesday.
The same was true for 13 other schools in the 14-school district.
“We held our intercession last week,” Edward Wiggins, principal of Warren Central Intermediate School, said Tuesday. The message was echoed by other area principals, including Sharon Williams of Vicksburg Intermediate, Jack Grogan of Beechwood, and Cedric Magee of Warren Central Junior High School.
The lone intercession exception was Warren Central High School, where retiring principal Pam Wilbanks said Tuesday that, after evaluating exams, her staff was contacting students who showed a need for extra help.
She reiterated that at the high school level, the first three intercession periods targeted students’ test-taking skills in preparation for the state-mandated Subject Area Testing Program. This week’s was intended for remediation related to second-semester coursework, she said.
Hullum said Tuesday that even though intercession was on the school calendar, it was always anticipated that it would be “very scaled back.”
“Intercession was included in the calendar,” Hullum said. “That stands. If there had been any students who needed it, they would have been scheduled for that intercession. We had always anticipated that at this intercession there would be very few students.”
Hullum also said she had not talked to any teachers to line up their services in advance for potential intercession classes, but that a potential lack of teachers willing to teach the classes was not a factor in the schools’ decisions to give students extra help during the last week or two of school.
“When we had our end-of-the-year principals meeting some elementary principals were talking about what to do (in classes) after the students finished their MCT2 tests,” Superintendent Dr. James Price said Wednesday. “The kids and teachers just shut down afterwards, they are so intense.”
Vicksburg students took MCT2 tests May 12, 13 and 14. The last day of school was June 1.
The suggestion was made, Price said, to offer intercession during the final week or two of school rather than try to introduce new material after the testing period.
The school year was the first to employ the calendar with the academic year divided into four nine-week class periods, each of which was to be followed by a one-week break for most students and a week of remediation for students who had not achieved academic process for the nine weeks. As adopted, the new approach was to reinforce material while it was fresh and limit the need for repeating entire courses in summer school.
As the year ended, some parents have said they did not know summer school was being offered. After hearing last week of the district’s summer school schedule and registration, some were unsure whether their children needed to enroll.
Norma Peterson said she went to a junior high Tuesday to find out if her child needed to register for summer school. Peterson said she’d received a letter informing her that her son was in danger of failing pre-algebra. “But I don’t know if that means he needs to go to summer school or not,” she said.
Hullum said Wednesday that a failing grade on a student’s report card would let parents know he needed either to attend summer school or repeat a grade.
Report cards at Vicksburg Junior High went out Friday, Price said, but at Warren Central Junior High they were not mailed to parents until Tuesday — after the last of final exams were taken on Monday. A separate letter was sent informing parents of failing students that summer school was available. Price said phone calls were made as well, and visits to the homes of any students not reached by telephone.
With registration for summer school closing by noon Wednesday, many would not have received notice in time.
“Registration has been extended through tomorrow to take anybody that shows up,” Price said this morning.
Price said the district never intended to eliminate summer school at any academic level.
“We never said we weren’t going to have summer school,” he said. At the elementary level, it was hoped that intercession weeks would help some of the hundreds of youngsters who would otherwise be in danger of failing and having to repeat a year, he said, and reduce the number of students needing to attend summer school in order to be promoted.
At junior high and high school levels, however, students are required to obtain “Carnegie units” — measures of academic credits. “We couldn’t tell them, ‘You can’t go to summer school,’” he said.
The 2009-2010 school schedule also includes four intercession periods, including several days at the end of the school year. Price said the summer school schedule would be adjusted to make sure all grades are issued in time for registration.
Attending during intercessions is free. There is a tuition charge for summer school.
Contact Pamela Hitchins at email@example.com
At a glance
• Summer school began Wednesday for elementary students and runs through June 30. It is weekdays at Beechwood Elementary from 8 to 11 a.m.
• Junior high school summer school is today through July 1 at Vicksburg High School, 7:30 to 11:35 a.m. weekdays.
• High school summer school is June 10 through July 22 at Vicksburg High School. Registration is Friday and Monday at VHS. Warren Central High School guidance counselors will also be on-hand to assist WCHS students with registration. Cost is $300 per course, $375 for out-of-district students and $750 for out-of-state students.
2008-2009 Intercession attendance (students attending at least one day; source: Vicksburg Warren School District)
• Elementary — 607
• Junior high — 170
• High school — 117
• Elementary — 640
• Junior high — 147
• High school — 80
• Elementary — 526
• Junior high — 278
• High school — 59