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Team recommends improvements at Geneva HS

GENEVA, NY (Thursday, March 3) – A team of educators is reviewing data on Geneva High School and talking with students, teachers and administrators this week to figure out the best ways to return the high school to good academic standing.Dr. Robert Young, superintendent of schools, explained that the high school is in restructuring because of its low graduation rate and students’ scores in English language arts. Students’ test scores have improved annually over the past six years, but haven’t met state standards, which also have increased each year, he added.The Joint Intervention Team led by an educational expert and made up of a State Education Department (SED) representative and regional and local school officials is conducting a site visit at the high school all this week and will submit a report of recommendations for improvements.Dr. Stephen Uebbing, a former Canandaigua City School District superintendent who has been working on the Geneva district’s strategic plan, is leading the intervention team. Uebbing is currently an associate professor at The Warner School for Education Reform at the University of Rochester. Assisting are the following educational experts:- English as a Second Language Specialist Paul Tucci, professional development coordinator for ESL at Monroe BOCES 2;- Urban Education Specialist Shaun Nelms, chief of schools, Rochester City Schools; – Turnaround Specialist Susan Meyers, principal, Greece Odyssey High School;- Literacy Specialist Laurie Andres-Amis, literacy coordinator, Greece Odyssey High School;- Math Specialist Cheri Modeen, math coach at Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES;- State Education Department representative Casey Jakubowski; and- Geneva District Representative Lawrence Wright, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.They are assessing the high school’s educational program in seven categories: curriculum; teaching and learning; school leadership; infrastructure for student success; collection, analysis and utilization of data; professional development; and district support.Next they will make recommendations to Dr. Young that will lead to the development (or modification) of a school-restructuring plan. Dr. Young said he will engage the Board of Education in developing the restructuring plan, focusing particularly on how it might affect the school budget. “Always ask ‘why’ to make sure you have drilled down to the point where you have identified the causal factors,” the State Education Department advises in paperwork explaining the intervention process.“I welcome an external review,” Dr. Young said. “Our district and staff have been unable to come up with solutions for these persistent achievement problems in the high school.”“Our dilemma is we have to raise our expectations and demand more from our families and students – and engage them in the educational process,” Young said. “Our obligation is to meet students where they are and help them progress as far as they can go.”Young said schools don’t get a passing grade if just one sub-group of students doesn’t meet the state standard. Persistently underperforming subgroups at the high school include English language learners, students with low socio-economic status, students with disabilities and African-American and Hispanic-Latino students. GHS is in a similar situation to that of schools in Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Utica and other upstate city school districts. Sixty percent of the restructuring schools are in New York City. “Were an urban district in a rural setting,” said Young. In his five years here, the number of free and reduced price lunches, an indicator of poverty, has increased from 42 percent to 62 percent. “The pressure of poverty works against us,” said Young, “but it’s not an excuse. For those students for which school has significant meaning, they’re doing fine. You can get a great education at Geneva High School, but not if you don’t take it seriously. We have to demand more from families and students.”“It all comes down to teaching in the classroom and how we motivate the staff,” Young said.Dr. Young said the district’s other three schools – Geneva Middle School and North Street and West Street elementary schools – are all in good academic standing. Geneva High School will be the only local school involved in the state process, which is part of the federal No Child Left Behind program.

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