275 parents show up for first Graduation 2002 meeting | RecordCourier.com
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275 parents show up for first Graduation 2002 meeting

by Linda Hiller

Hundreds of parents braved rain and snow Wednesday evening to attend the first Graduate Profile Night aimed at informing them of the impending “raising of the bar” for Douglas County school students. The first students who will have to pass the new competencies to graduate are the class of 2002, now freshmen at Carson Valley and Pau-Wa-Lu middle schools in Carson Valley and George Whittell High School at Lake Tahoe.

Wednesday’s meeting, scheduled for one hour but lasting two, was primarily for parents of the 260 9th grade students attending CVMS.

All these parents were called personally by CVMS staff members and received invitations in the mail.

“I personally made about 150 calls until my dialing fingers went numb,” said CVMS vice principal Howard Bennett. “Then the office staff took over, but we did telephone everyone personally.”

Parents who filed into the multipurpose room for the presentation were asked to pick up a pamphlet explaining the new graduation profile. The pamphlets were alphabetized and parents selected the one with their child’s name on it.

The leftover pamphlets provided a list of who didn’t attend, and those parents will be invited to a similar information meeting so no one will be left in the dark.

“It’s that important,” said Superintendent Pendery Clark. “We want to make sure everyone understands what is going on.”

The impressive turnout for the “informational night” was acknowledged by Clark as she spoke to the approximately 275 people in attendance.

She also explained that the passage of the bond issue in 1992 was actually the beginning of the idea of raising the graduation standards for the district, adding that the project had essentially been in the works since then.

“We as a district want to prepare our students for the 21st century,” she said. “We think our students should be competitive – to go anywhere they want after graduation. We believe the levels we’re requesting are the levels that all students need to be successful.”

Audience members listened quietly as Clark reviewed the seven competency levels addressed by the program – communications (reading, writing, listening and speaking), foreign language, math, science, social science, technology and employability. A video, starring district teachers and students, further explained the seven levels.

n Everyone’s committed. Clark said the school district personnel involved in implementing the new competencies are committed to answering all the questions that parents might have.

“You can be very proud to be a parent of a student at Douglas High School because when they walk across that stage to get their diploma, they’ll be literate and prepared,” Clark said.

Following the video, parents were asked to move into one of eight smaller groups in individual classrooms for a presentation by individual district administrators, and the opportunity to ask questions in a more intimate environment.

Concerns from a parent that the new standards might be too difficult for some students were addressed in one classroom by Roy Casey, assistant superintendent of education services.

“Two of the most frequently asked questions are ‘What about the safety net?’ and ‘What if a student wants to go higher?'” he said.

Safety net issues – making sure that some students don’t “slip through the cracks” – include summer school, offered at the middle school level this summer for the first time; repeating classes; before-school classes, after-school classes and Saturday classes; and ample tutoring opportunities.

Students will be assessed each year for proficiencies, and checked off as they pass each one. Teaching methodologies can be modified to reach each student the best way that they learn, Casey said.

“We hope to catch those kids early,” he said. “We hope that in a competency-based system, a student will be more involved in their own education.”

Casey said Douglas County is the first of the 17 Nevada school districts to start the competencies. A representative of the Clark County School District (Las Vegas) was present Wednesday to observe, he said.

“Will this help students compete worldwide?” asked 9th grade student Jeanne Dey, who was there with her mother, Terry.

n Opening the world. “I lived in Europe for three years, and I can tell you that in Germany, for example, those students have to learn English. It’s the same in France,” Casey said. “All students – even occupational education students – need a firm educational background to go out into the world, and we want to open the world to Douglas County kids.”

Many parents attending the presentation came to try and better understand what is going to be expected of their Class of 2002 children.

Sue Williamson, who attended with her husband Phil, felt the program was ultimately beneficial for her daughter, Maggie, who is doing well in school this year, as well as students who might be struggling.

“What I liked about it was that I thought it might catch some kids before graduating,” she said. “I have seen kids who I know are smart, but they’re not doing well in school. Maybe these ‘safety nets’ will catch them.”

Williamson said her son Jeremiah, a senior at DHS, has had the occasion to use his foreign language skills in his own employment in Gardnerville this year.

“He is in Spanish 4, and works at the car wash. One day, at the lube shop next door, they needed someone who spoke Spanish to tell a customer that his car had quit and wouldn’t run, so they came over to the car wash and asked if anyone spoke Spanish,” she said. “Jeremiah said he did, and he went over and talked to the customer. It took him some time, but he did it.”

Currently, foreign language credits are not required for graduation at DHS, but Class of 2002 students will need to be proficient on a conversational level in a foreign language.

n Parents pleased. Chris Fredrickson, whose son Greg is a freshman, said she, too, felt she had learned something at the meeting.

“I wanted to find out what the requirements would be,” she said. “I feel like I pressure my kids for grades sometimes, and I want to make sure I’m not being unreasonable. It was a good presentation. I’m glad I came.”

According to CVMS Vice Principal Pam Calhoun, it wasn’t only parents of 9th graders who came Wednesday.

“We have several parents representing 7th and 8th graders here tonight, also,” she said.

Laurie Smith, whose two daughters, Kelsey, 9th grade and Halley, 7th grade, are being home-schooled this year for the first time, came to see what to expect next year, when the girls return to public school.

Judy Larquier, mother of 7th grader Ann Marie, said she came to get a heads up on what her daughter will be expected to achieve to graduate from Douglas High School in 2004.

Feedback from the meeting has been “overwhelmingly positive,” according to CVMS Principal Roger Gerson.

“Most people were encouraged by attending the meeting and in support of setting standards and holding kids accountable,” he said.

Gerson said 104 pamphlets were picked up Wednesday night, leaving 156 families yet to be contacted for an important face-to-face presentation, whether it be at Pau-Wa-Lu’s group presentation Feb. 3, small groups at CVMS or individual one-on-one conferences.

“Our goal is to meet everyone face-to-face so we can answer all their questions,” he said.

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