By Joseph Pratt
In an effort to foster a positive relationship between Portsmouth City School District (PCSD) and members of the community, the district started its quarterly Portsmouth Educational Forum once again last week, with a large group of prominent community members, parents, and Portsmouth citizens for a luncheon with members from every Portsmouth school, including the administration staff.
A lot of school-wide positives were discussed, as well as individual success stories from each building, ensuring the public that the school year has been started off on the right foot.
Superintendent Scott Dutey spoke heavily on testing. He released information on Portsmouth testing dates and discussed the benefits of later and reduced test times this year. Dutey also spoke about the changes in Portsmouth staff, saying that he feels confident in, and comfortable with, the 20 new faces to join the Trojan teaching staff.
Principals from each school spoke about how students and staff started off their year as well.
Principal Amy Hughes, of Portsmouth High School, discussed the coursework many students will be participating in, saying that it is the best Portsmouth has offered since she has been there. She sited the increased educational standards coming from the school’s growing College Credit Plus classes.
The school has been working alongside Shawnee State University to ensure their high school teaching staff is qualified to teach at the college level, so the students who pass their advanced placement courses can also earn college credit from time spent earning a high school diploma.
Hughes said that the school has 11 classes in the program and 133 students participating, earning college credit as they go along.
Dutey also spoke on the subject, saying it is instrumental for the future of education and the betterment of students. He said that students currently have the potential of earning upwards to 33 college credit hours during their time at Portsmouth High.
At Shawnee State, a student with 33 credit hours would be considered a sophomore, so Dutey pushes the importance and benefits of earning an entire free year of college while students receive high school credit as well.
Hughes also spoke about high school students receiving free ACT prep courses, which would cost their families if they enrolled in a similar class in most places.
She also highlighted the school offering online courses for students to participate in during after school hours. The online classes allow students the possibility of catching up once they fall behind, but they have also been used for students who are taking all advanced placement classes to earn college credit and need an extra required class they cannot fit into their daily schedule.
Principal Kristi Toppins, of East Portsmouth Elementary School, spoke about the positives of her school, reminding everyone just how involved in Portsmouth City Schools, and the community, her Sciotoville students are.
Toppins discussed the benefits of shipping students to Portsmouth Elementary School to participate in the music department and other programs, such as traffic scout trips.
She also talked about the influence teachers in her school have on the young learners. Impressed with the development of a volunteer pool of retired teachers, Toppins said the Trojan staff members truly show their dedication to their students, even after they’ve left the building and retired.
Principal Beth Born, of Portsmouth Elementary School, discussed a lot of positive changes in the school, building on both education opportunities and morale.
The Project MORE program, which works to increase reading fluency in students through one-on-one reading sessions, has not only grown to encompass even more students and 100 community members, but the school has also hired a full-time teacher to oversee the development of the program.
The school is also building morale of students by starting a program called “posi-grams.” Each week, teachers are sending little notes home with their students that highlight something special the teacher noticed about the student that week. The notes are to remind students that teachers appreciate and are proud of them, while engaging parents in what happens in the classroom.
The next Portsmouth Educational Forum is slated for a breakfast meeting on Thursday, February 11, from 8-9 a.m. The final educational forum of the year will fall during lunch on Thursday, My 12, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The guests were also very involved in the forum, including Portsmouth Police, who gave some information to the school about how they can offer assistance.
Dutey said he is happy with how the first one went and looks forward to the remaining forums.
“The first forum was informative and it was good to hear from Chief Robert Ware on the ways we can work with the Portsmouth Police Department throughout the year,” Dutey said. “We look forward to meeting with him and planning future opportunities for us to have officers in our buildings and working with our students and staff.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.