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Firestone marching band tops in competition

11/8/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

The Firestone High School marching band was honored by the Akron Public Schools (APS) Board of Education Nov. 5 for sweeping away the competition at a recent band contest.

At the 37th New Philadelphia Marching Quaker Band competition Oct. 20, the 112-member Falcons band received its highest-ever score, winning both categories it entered.

In the overall competition among 15 bands, Firestone won Best Visual, Best General Effect, Best Music, Best Overall Auxiliary and Best Overall Percussion.

Band Director Tom Weaver and 10 of the band members attended the school board meeting, where school board President Jason Haas read the resolution honoring them for their “incredible talent and dedication.”

In other business, Assistant Superintendent Ellen McWilliams presented preliminary results after one year of an intensive Impact Network program. Eleven of the lowest-performing schools were chosen last year as Impact Network schools to receive special focus and work to improve student growth. The program is supported by Race to the Top federal funding, she said.

Eight of the schools partnered with the University of Virginia’s School Turnaround Specialist program, and the other three with the U.S. Department of Education and Ohio Department of Education (ODE), through a School Improvement Grant program.

Although the Impact Network experts said results should come after two to three years, McWilliams said, she wanted to show off the results after only the first year.

On the 2011-12 school “report cards” recently released by the ODE, all but one of the 11 target schools met or exceeded its previous year’s value-added score after just one year of the intervention.

Helen Arnold Community Learning Center (CLC) improved one level (from Academic Watch to Continuous Improvement), and Crouse and Seiberling CLCs, along with the Akron Opportunity Center (middle school), went up two levels each.

Buchtel CLC improved its graduation rate from 84.3 percent to 87.9 percent, the fourth-best in the city, McWilliams said.

She praised the school principals and staff for their hard work and the schools’ improvement in just the first year.

Haas said the board members had been working hard in the schools and community in support of Issue No. 61, the district’s emergency operating levy on the ballot the next day. A phone bank of volunteers was at work in the basement of the administration building during the meeting, he said, and he expressed appreciation for the “tremendous volunteer support” the APS was receiving for the levy.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Nov. 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 70 N. Broadway St. in Downtown Akron.

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