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Case, Litchfield pursuing IB status

5/1/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

New Eagle Scouts and brothers, from left, Gary, Garrison and George Hearst are shown with Board President Lisa Mansfield at the Akron Public Schools Board of Education meeting April 28.
Photo: Becky Tompkins
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Staff members at Case Elementary and Litchfield Middle schools are hoping to join their cluster high school, Firestone, in gaining the coveted International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

The IB is a very rigorous academic program with demanding requirements for its students.

Case and Litchfield staff members updated the Akron Public Schools (APS) Board of Education on their progress at the April 28 board meeting.

Case Principal Sharon Hill-Jones said the push to apply for the IB came from the staff.

“We have a dedicated staff, and we want our students to reach their potential by giving them the IB research-based opportunity for learning,” she said.

Litchfield Principal Dyan Floyd explained that for the younger children, there is a Primary Years Program (PYP) and Middle Years Program (MYP), and the schools have applied for both levels. The staffs at the schools are excited about the opportunities they can offer their students, she said.

“We want to offer neighborhood families a prekindergarten through 12th grade IB continuum at their home schools,” she said.

According to the Ohio Association of IB Schools website, there are only 51 IB schools in Ohio: 22 high schools in the Diploma Program, nine schools in the MYP and 20 schools in the PYP. Firestone is the only Akron-area school with an IB program.

It is a three-year ongoing process to become an IB school, Floyd said. Case Intervention Specialist Jen Victor said the Steering Committee has already done site visits, held trainings and community meetings, done feasibility studies and recently completed the applications. They expect to hear the results by June 1.

Board member the Rev. Curtis Walker said the IB program “will affect every child in both schools” and said he hoped the remaining schools in the Firestone cluster would also join in, to feed into the Firestone program.

In other business, APS Director of Student Services Dan Rambler presented a summary of the numerous programs his department has in place to help combat and prevent behavior problems, as well as new directions they are taking in the efforts.

The Akron Education Association (AEA) has filed a grievance with the district for its allegedly light punishment of students who got into a fight last November at a Kenmore and East High School football game. Kathy McVey, human resources director for the district, said the AEA has requested arbitration over the district’s decision, and the issue is currently with the APS legal counsel’s office to set up the arbitration.

On April 11, another fight at Kenmore, allegedly among rival gang members from Kenmore and Buchtel Community Learning Center, said Rambler, resulted in the arrest of 15 students after school officials reviewed tapes of the fight.

Walker questioned the district’s large number of suspensions and expulsions, ranking the district high among school districts in the state. Rambler agreed that “suspension alone doesn’t work” and said the district is working on ways to improve school climate and culture to help prevent incidents before they occur and get students suspended or expelled.

The district has 11 alternative programs, including partnerships with the Akron Police Department, the Summit County Juvenile Court, the YMCA and others to help change the behaviors that got the students removed from their schools, Rambler said.

APS officials have visited other school districts, including the Cincinnati Public Schools, to bring back best practices for alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, he said. Numerous Akron schools have very good programs in place that are proactively improving their school cultures, he said, and officials hope to replicate those practices in other schools.

The Pledge of Allegiance to begin the meeting was led by three West Akron students and brothers, Gary, George and Garrison Hearst. All three brothers received their Boy Scout Eagle Scout rank April 19.

Gary is a senior at Firestone High School, George is a sophomore at Firestone and Garrison is an eighth-grader at Litchfield.

They were all students at Portage Path Elementary School of now retired fifth-grade teacher Karen Grindall. Grindall encouraged the boys in Scouting and said they all became excited about being outdoors when they went on her four-day field trip to the Environmental Education Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The APS Board of Education’s next meeting is scheduled for May 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, located at 70 N. Broadway St. in Downtown Akron.

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