Faculty, student and parental recognition of a growing change in culture at Hope High School has created greater confidence in both campus life and academic progress that is emerging at HHS, the Hope Public Schools Board learned Monday night.
Two overviews of the HHS campus reported to the board Monday night emphasized progress which has been made and recognized challenges which remain, as HPS School Improvement Specialist Carla Narlesky presented the board with an outline of the district’s 45-day report to the Arkansas Department of Education, and HHS Instructional Facilitator Judee Gunter reviewed academic progress at HHS.
Overall, Narlesky told the board that a strong emphasis upon professional development across the district has produced results, and that development of a curriculum committee to produce and monitor a central academic standard should result in a draft proposal by August.
Narlesky said the document will outline “what students must know at each grade level and how to get them there.”
Progress has been ongoing at each campus, she said, pointing to a phonics-based initiative at Clinton Primary School; after-school academic intervention at Beryl Henry Elementary School; a literacy initiative at Yerger Middle School; Hope Academy of Public Service students’ participation in the National Beta Club Conference; development of a 4H club program at the Creative Action Team School; and, 9th and 10th grade interim assessment testing showing growth at HHS.
Narlesky said staff, students and parents expressed growing confidence that HHS is a “safe and reliable place to learn” in recent polling data, as well.
HPS Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart said he was pleased with the changes at HHS.
“I think the culture in that building and academic performance turnaround has been outstanding,” Dr. Hart said.
Hart, Narlesky, and Gunter all credited HHS Principal Bill Hoglund with leadership which has fostered renewed confidence from faculty, students and parents at HHS.
“He is a national board-certified teacher,” Gunter said. “He has been a leader in the district in creating the standards that we must meet.”
Gunter, who has taught in Arkansas since 1974, mostly in the HPS, said she came out of retirement to assist at HHS simply because, “I love Hope High.”
She said that despite obstacles, HHS has moved from an “F” rating by the ADE to a “D” and is closing in on a “C” in the current year.
Gunter credited a number of changes with aiding a renewed academic focus at HHS, including the elimination of cell phones in classrooms; restricted hallway access for students with monitoring by HHS Dean of Students Sam Bradford and HHS Assistant Principal Donald Patton; and, a serious focus upon academics.
She noted that the Office for Educational Policy of the University of Arkansas recognized HHS with its Beating the Odds award this year for academic growth.
Factors contributing to that kind of success have included an emphasis upon literacy across course disciplines, she said.
“If you are a student at Hope High, at the end of the year, you will have written eight essays,” Gunter said.
Challenges still remain, Gunter noted, including teacher turnover in core subject matter such as English and math; better student performance on standardized testing; improvement in goal-centered teaching; a growing need for so-called “wrap around services” for students during testing periods through community partnerships; and, a loss of human resources because of retirements and reassignment.
Zone 8 Representative David “Bubba” Powers spoke to the human resource challenge, asking how that can be addressed when the district is losing enrollment and corresponding state funding.
“What can be done?” Powers posed.
Gunter acknowledged the difficulty in an era when more women are leaving the teaching profession for other challenges; and, Narlesky said research has shown that salaries are not the issue in teacher retention as much as the need for the professional development of new teachers through mentoring and peer review.
“The progress that you have made has been extolled and lauded,” Powers noted.
But, Gunter said the community has yet to grasp the whole story because of historic perceptions, adding that more information needs to be pushed out into the community through avenues such as social media.
“We realize the stumbling blocks that have been created through the years,” she said.