Grant helps keep class sizes small at CHS

April 9, 2010 10:53:00 AM

Jason Browne - [email protected]


Columbus High School is the first school in the state to start thinking small. 


The $1.3 million Smaller Learning Communities grant has helped CHS implement several programs aimed at tailoring learning to individual students. As Principal Craig Shannon and academic coach Lori Cargile explained to the Columbus School Board Thursday, the pilot program has been a success. 


Speaking of success, Project SUCCEED, one of the programs under the grant, helps eighth graders make a smooth and comfortable transition to ninth grade. Freshman Academy assigns first-year high schoolers to one of three teams of four teachers to keep class sizes down and provide continuity. Average classes contain 19 students. 


Cargile, whose position as academic coach was created by the grant along with a graduation specialist, says the programs utilize more personalized instruction in the smaller classrooms, along with up-to-date technology and a more rigorous curriculum to foster student achievement. Data on those freshmen are also being analyzed to improve the program. 


Smaller Learning Communities also integrates with the high school''s existing International Baccalaureate program, which is aimed at teaching students to learn from a global perspective, and Career Academies, which exposes them to employment possibilities. 


Shannon says the program has gone a long way toward giving freshmen a strong start to high school. 


The school board lauded the program, which will return next year. 


"When a child feels personalized and individualized, they will respond to that. I think we''re well on our way to success," said board member Alma Turner. 


Lowndes County School District alternative school students are on their way to Columbus'' alternative school facilities after the board agreed to reenter its interlocal agreement with LCSD. Lowndes students formerly were bussed to Starkville every day to attend the Quad County Alternative School. 


"They reimburse us $5,500 for each slot they purchase, and they purchase 40 slots," said Columbus Superintendent Del Phillips of the agreement with Lowndes County. "We have the same number of spots. The cost is primarily split in half. 


"They were spending quite a bit more because previous to us working out this agreement they were having to go to Starkville to Quad. So each time they ran a couple buses over there and back it was a bunch of fuel and a driver working most of the day. I think this is beneficial financially for them." 


The board also renewed another interlocal agreement with Lowndes County to allow students from Columbus Air Force Base to decide whether to attend city or county schools. 


Columbus administrators working 236-day contracts had their vacation time approved by the board. 


A trio of awards were given or received as Brandon Bowles, a eighth grader at Lee Middle School, was recognized by the board for qualifying for the State Geography Bee. Kursten Washington, a senior at McKellar Technology Center, was honored for bringing home first prize in Culinary Arts from the State Restaurant Services competition. 


The entire McKellar facility was also honored by the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, which named the school an Accredited Training and Education Facility School. McKellar Director Kathy Kemp was on hand to accept the award on behalf of the school. 


In other business the board: