Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Windsor, Bond Hill reborn as 'redesigned' schools

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There is a sense of rebirth in the halls at Bond Hill and Windsor schools.

        After three years of academic decline, they opened doors to students Tuesday as “redesigned” schools.

        Everything but the buildings is new.

[photo] Bond Hill principal Thomas Boggs greets first-graders lining up in the hallway Tuesday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        Students, dressed in white shirts and dark pants or shorts, found new teachers, new principals and new academic programs. The halls smell of fresh paint.

        Most noticeable is the new energy for learning.

        Bond Hill Principal Thomas Boggs walked the halls, visited classrooms, helped parents register their children and gave eighth-graders a pep talk.

        “This year is important for you because high school is the next step,” he said to students gathered in a circle in Kimberly Brown's class. “At this time next year, no one should be here in this classroom.

        “I realize this is a big change for you, but I leave you with this: Life without change would be boring.”

        For redesigned schools, change is a mantra.

        Bond Hill and Windsor school communities spent all of last year and most of this summer reshaping and fine-tuning plans for how students will learn.

[photo] Windsor second-grade teacher Tonya Flannery said teachers were told to do whatever it took to ensure students show positive change.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        There were many community meetings. Parents helped choose an academic program — America's Choice — that will be used in both schools. Teachers attended several days of training to learn how to implement the program, which focuses heavily on reading, writing and math.

        The process is exhaustive and the pressure enormous on the schools now expected to improve.

        Yet those involved know they have the support of their communities. The Children's Defense Fund got parents involved with the curriculum decisions, going door-to-door to explain what was happening at their school.

        Families Forward and Victory Neighborhood Services will help extend the school day with after-school activities and tutoring, and programs for parents that include job skills training and a primer on buying a home.

        Business partners including Messer Construction provide more help and resources.

        “People understand that this is a good thing,” said Darlene Kamine, education director for the Children's Defense Fund. “The bottom line is our support for the students. With all of these things in place, does it make a difference in what's happening in the students' achievement?”

        Windsor Principal Leniese Fuqua is adamant that her staff do whatever it takes to ensure all students show positive change this year.

  Bond Hill K-8 school

 New principal: Thomas Boggs.
  Teachers: All but three are new to the staff.
  Uniforms: White shirts, black slacks, skirts, shorts.
  Added services: Families Forward provides after-school program.
  For parents: Classes in job skills and buying a home. New parent center teaches how to help them achieve in school.

  Windsor K-8 school

  New principal: Leniese Fuqua.
  Teachers: All but three are new to the staff.
  Uniforms: White shirts, black slacks, skirts, shorts.
  Added services: After-school tutoring, resources from Victory Neighborhood Services.
  For parents: Programs provided by Victory Neighborhood Services.

        “Everyone has to learn "the new Windsor way,'” Ms. Fuqua said. “People get discouraged when things don't go so well for a long time. The kids were used to doing things their way. Now it's up to us to make sure the adults are in charge.”

        Differences were obvious Tuesday.

        “I see a change today already,” Bond Hill parent Lynn Nettles said. “I see order. Peace and order.”

        Last year at the start of school, students were noisy and those who had not registered were scrambling to find a classroom.

        Tuesday, the atmosphere at both schools was quiet, calm and businesslike. There was a strong sense of professionalism.

        Windsor teachers Rhonda White and Tonya Flannery compared notes while their students were at lunch.

        “We've had to go over directions a few times, but it's been smooth,” Mrs. Flannery said.

        Ms. White was pleased, too: “It's been a "teaching moment' the whole time.”


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