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509-J considering advanced diplomas

MHS scores improve in reading, math


Oregon Department of Education representatives Denny Nkemontoh and Tim Wood congratulated Madras High School on its improvements at the Sept. 23 School District 509-J Board of Directors meeting.

Nkemontoh helped advise MHS during its three years of implementing instruction changes with School Improvement Grant funds. “Madras High School is near and dear to my heart, because it was the first SIG school I visited and I have followed it very closely. Madras has been a shining star for the rest of the state,” she said, noting she has asked Principal Sara Braman-Smith to speak at events and give advice to other districts.

Wood handed out charts that showed MHS’s improvements in reading going from 55 percent of students meeting state standards in 2009-10 (the baseline year), to 80 percent meeting reading standards in 2012-13. For math, the rate went from 32 percent meeting standards in 2009-10 to 60 percent meeting them in 2012-13.

“Just because the grant is over, doesn’t mean the improvement is over,” Nkemontoh said, adding MHS has learned how to build effective educators. “It’s incredible that this much growth has occurred in just three years,” she said.

Superintendent Rick Molitor introduced the board’s new student representatives, Ian Oppenlander and Sophie Gemelas. The students said this was spirit week at MHS, and the homecoming game is Friday at the Culver football field, since the MHS field is under construction.

“Seating is the only thing that scares me, because Culver doesn’t have enough. I’d suggest that people bring lawn chairs to the game,” Oppenlander said.

Advanced diploma

MHS Assistant Principal Paul Navarra and Central Oregon Community College Madras Campus Administrator Courtney Snead gave a presentation on a proposed “advanced diploma” for MHS.

To encourage more students to attend college, the program would offer a year’s free tuition to COCC. Students would be considered “fifth-year” seniors and have to earn a certain number of college credits.

Barriers that keep many MHS graduates from going on to college or trade school include lack of funds, transportation problems, cultural (hard to leave the family), and lack of belief in one’s capability, Navarra said.

“We want to break those barriers,” he said, adding that MHS has seen an increase in the rate of students believing in themselves and feeling they can succeed in college.

The program would be a partnership between MHS and COCC. Students would attend class at the Madras COCC campus, but could go to Redmond COCC for classes not available here. They would have to provide their own transportation, however.

To qualify for an advanced degree MHS seniors must:

• Be on track with a gpa of 2.15 or better.

• Participate in MHS graduation, but they will not receive a diploma.

• Attend COCC for three terms and earn from 27 to 36 college credits.

• Finish the program with an advanced diploma and the college credits.

The 509-J School District would receive funding from the state to pay for the student’s tuition, fees and books. If students are given a diploma when they graduate from MHS, the state won’t pay for college tuition, which is why the diploma is withheld until the year of college is completed.

If something happens, and a student can’t complete the year, they can withdraw from the program without any fees and get a regular high school diploma, Snead said. But, they must meet the college’s withdrawal deadline.

If the student just drops out, without filing a withdrawal, then they will be required to pay for the tuition and books before they can receive their high school diploma.

Pointing out the advantages of the advanced diploma, Navarra said, “It encourages kids that wouldn’t necessarily go to college to get one year paid for, and the hope is they will continue.”

The disadvantage he said is, “We will take a hit on the graduation rate.” That is because state reports will show those MHS seniors as not having graduated.

“But it’s only a one-year dip. They will come back as graduating seniors the next year,” board member Brad Holliday pointed out.

Navarra said MHS currently has a pool of 60 students eligible for an advanced degree. Crook County High School is starting the program this year, and Redmond High School has been doing it for several years.

He said a meeting to explain the program to the community and parents will be held in February. “I think it would be great to start out the year with 50 students,” he said.

In other business:

• The board approved a memorandum of understanding between 509-J and the Madras Aquatic Center to pay $37,500 for the MAC to provide swim lessons, swim team practices, life skills class visits, up to 50 hours of class parties, student athlete aquatic workouts, and other activities for the school year.

• A donation of $1,000 for each elementary school in the district was accepted from Wells Fargo Bank.

• The board asked for clarification from city planning department representatives on system development fees for the Performing Arts Center-Athletic facility.

• Under personnel: Scott Waite was hired as the MHS drama advisor, and the resignation of Shawna McConnell as MHS assistant girls basketball coach was accepted.



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