CITY DISTRICT Youngstown moves toward Small Schools Initiative

An Early College High School also opens at Youngstown State this fall.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Small school communities will be piloted at each of the city's high schools this fall, the first step of a Small Schools Initiative that will completely transform city high schools by fall 2006.
Organizers say the small schools within each high school will have no more than 400 students each and offer a more rigorous and relevant curriculum:
UAt The Rayen School, the piloted small school will be "Class Academy" and focus on discovery, or hands-on, learning along with the Paideia teaching method that stresses lifelong learning.
UAt Wilson High School will be the "Center for Interactive Exploration," focusing on project-based instruction and technology and preparing students for both college and careers.
UAt Chaney High School, a "Center for Excellence in Academics, Athletics and the Arts" will have teachers focusing on the best practices of the profession.
Source of funding
The transformation is funded through a grant from the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation. Details were discussed this morning at a report on the city schools presented by the district's Urban Congress.
Superintendent Benjamin L. McGee said the initiative offers a needed change.
"There hasn't been a lot of change in high school structure; however, there has been change in what kids need and what kids bring to the table," McGee said.
Design teams, led by teachers, have created the three models, said Heidi Martin, a counselor at the district's John White Alternative School, and an academic dean in training for the small schools project.
The three models will be piloted in 2004-05. In the following school year, each model will be available at each high school. In fall 2006, the district will open its new East High School and renovated Chaney with the small schools in place.
Rayen and Wilson will no longer be high schools in 2006 but will be rebuilt as middle schools.
At both Wilson and Rayen, 300 students have voluntarily signed up for the pilot schools. "It's obvious our students want something different," Martin said. "They're saying it by the volunteerism."
Students at Chaney are still signing up and numbers are not available, she said.
Deans appointed
The district has appointed deans who will oversee the small schools within the fall 2006 East and Chaney high schools. They are Martin; Robert Spencer, current principal at Chaney; Bill Esterly, assistant principal at Chaney; Henrietta Williams, Rayen principal; Sallie Dutton, a counselor at the Choffin Career and Technical Center; Kathleen O'Connell-Sauline, the district's supervisor of libraries and media; Jerome Harrell, assistant principal at Rayen; Hubert Watson, principal at Wilson; and Pete Lymber, a teacher on a special administrative assignment in health, physical education and athletics.
Administrators also discussed the Early College High School that will open in the fall. A collaboration between the district and Youngstown State University, the school will offer a high school on the YSU campus and allow at-risk students to graduate high school with two years of college credit. Its start up was also supported by a KnowledgeWorks grant.
"We are just so excited and enthusiastic," said Marcia Haire-Ellis, a Hayes Middle School counselor who will serve as counselor at the new high school. "Our mission is to take students who are in eighth grade presently and who might not just fit. ... We know they have it in them to succeed."

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