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Parents revisit trials and tribulations of high school

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

Many parents looked uncomfortable during Douglas High School’s parents’ night Wednesday – as if wandering the halls, searching for classrooms and sitting in front of the teacher might have reminded them of their own tempestuous teen years.

When asked, however, most parents resumed the authoritative tone of voice to answer that they were just there to ensure their children are doing everything they should be.

“I just wanted to meet the teachers and see what they expect of kids – get that information because you don’t always get that from the kids,” said Robert Vogel, dad to Christopher, a junior, and Michael, a sophomore.

The evening started with a speech urging students to become involved in at least one extracurricular activity from Principal Charlie Condron and vice principals Susan Baldwin and Tom Morgan.

“Statistics show that kids who are involved outside of the classroom have a 95 percent graduation rate. The other stuff connects them,” Baldwin said.

She said parents’ night is a good way for the school to communicate with the parents.

“At the high school level, parents are attempting to wean the kids and it is real important to get them here so we stay connected and don’t become a foreign entity,” she said.

The evening soon became all about academic requirements, and specifically, competency requirements, as parents went through a condensed version of their child’s class schedule. They spent 10 minutes in each class, with five minutes to get to the next one.

Trish Koepnick, mom to Steve and Becky, both juniors, said by her third class, she had heard little about the competencies and needed more information.

“They haven’t mentioned much about it yet. It seems like there is such a focus on that, they might overlook other things and some kids will slip through the cracks because it is kind of going in the opposite way it was intended,” Koepnick said.

Kathryn Chase, mom to Ian, a junior, and Graham, a sophomore, said she comes to every parent night to stay informed.

“I want them to achieve their goals and grow up and take care of themselves and move out,” Chase said with a laugh.

Chase said she also still has many questions about the competencies requirements.

“I worry they exclude certain types of learning and students who learn differently from the norm,” she said.

Sue McDole has a senior, Katie, and a son who already graduated and attends the University of Nevada, Reno. Katie will just escape passing the competencies and McDole said she has been extremely pleased with the education her children received.

“Seeing the curriculum always amazes me. I’m always impressed how well thought out everything is,” she said. “I’m very impressed by the quality of education here. My son graduated from here and is doing very well at UNR because of the education he got here.”

Diane Hannpaa was also very happy with her son Daniel’s education.

“They are very willing to give the assistance, you just have to be responsible as a parent and ask,” she said. “I don’t know very much about the competencies, but I know he is doing well. He has filled a lot of requirements without any problems.”

Debbie Beemer couldn’t be happier about the school district and about raising standards even higher. Her two middle children, Steven Castro, a senior, and Austin Beemer, a sophomore, are currently DHS students.

“The teachers are great. They have a lot to teach and they have a good concept of what they are doing,” Beemer said. “If there are any problems, we get the calls, and I’ve heard that from other parents, too. I’m happy, overall. They’ve taken the (competency) tests. They do stress the importance of passing the tests, but they are teaching what they will need in the future. The tests show what they’ve learned, what they are lacking in and that the school is not just pushing them through.”

Other parents were more cautious, although still optimistic.

“I wanted to know more about the competencies, like how much of a focus is on the competencies verses learning the curriculum. The answers I got were that the two should go hand-in-hand, but may not always match,” said Nancy Epstein, whose daughter, Jencie Lejeune is a junior. “It is something I want to continue to monitor.”

Epstein said she also came away from parents’ night with a conviction that students should be a part of teacher evaluations.

“I would like to see kids have input and review teachers. I think teachers should be accountable and when a monitor comes in, it changes the dynamic. We don’t give kids enough credit for knowing what good teachers are,” she said.

Julie Arneson came with her daughter Ashley, a sophomore, and said she supports the district and the competencies.

“I’m hopeful and hope they will be successful. One teacher explained a student can have a 4.0 and still may not pass the ALT, even through they are given many opportunities. That’s kind of scary,” she said.