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Making South a better place to learn

By Jesse Zhang
Published: December 2008

In an attempt to enhance the quality of South’s community, South teachers, administrators, and members of the Newton South School Council have developed the School Improvement Plan, a three-year initiative to “develop a healthy and effective school community and increase unity among students, faculty, and parents.
The School Improvement Team believes that increased connections and improved interpersonal relationships will alleviate student stress and improve the quality of the students’ experiences.

“Teachers, parents, and students report a feeling of ‘Ëœdisconnect’ exists and describe it as feeling a lack of school unity, the team stated in the latest draft of the plan.

The plan includes three goals to reach the team’s objective: recommend ways to increase faculty collaboration, develop modes of communication on the progress, behavior, and attendance of students, and develop opportunities for connections for all students to be engaged in school activities.

Though the group is still in the process of developing these initiatives, Principal Brian Salzer feels confident about the ultimate success of the School Improvement Plan.

“This is one of the best plans I’ve ever been part of. It truly represents the voices of teachers, faculty, and students, Salzer said. “This is the first plan in the history of this school implemented by the teachers [that will make significant and lasting change to our school for the better].

In order to improve its effectiveness, the team has worked to incorporate the voices of the students. It has met with a student panel during its last meeting and plans to meet with other groups of students in later meetings. The team intends on hearing what the students believe the team can do to improve South.

The team will continue the development of the plan in January. According to Salzer, they will have two meetings and a workshop, during which they will build “the benchmarks, goals, and details of the plan.

Although opinions differ, most South students agree that unity within South can be improved. Many of these students feel that the main problem lies in student-teacher connections.

“Improving student-teacher relationships would strengthen our whole school, junior Ben Chesler said. “We should have time outside of school when we hang out with our teachers. I want to see teachers not as teachers, but as friends.

Other students question the effectiveness of what they consider a somewhat forced unity. They feel that it’s the student’s choice and responsibility to connect with other students and teachers.

“We have J-block, sophomore Thomas Li said. “If students don’t think they know their teacher well enough, they just aren’t caring enough about the class.

Finding some sort of personal connection between students and teachers depends on the personalities of the particular students and teachers, junior Mika Braginsky added. “Some students don’t want to find connections.

Senior Kenny Lu feels that student-student connection problems generally result from students reluctant to talk to other students outside of their social groups.

“It is ultimately the student’s responsibility as to how connected they want to be with other students, Lu said. “If a student doesn’t wish to part of the community, then we shouldn’t impose it upon him or her.

Other students believe that teacher-parent connections can and should be improved.

“Conferences between parents and teachers happen too infrequently. It should be more of a daily or weekly thing, senior Leiv Cohen said.

Cohen feels that lack of communication between parents and teachers hinders school unity and that parents should be more aware of the behavior of their kids.

Ultimately, some students feel that the School Improvement Plan will create a better school for everyone.

“It’s good that our school administrators are seeking to further strengthen the South community, junior Ben Chelmow said. “A friendlier, more receptive environment will be less stressful and more constructive for all.

Others believe that although it sounds good in theory, the plan’s current suggestions many hard to execute. More school activities might result in the requirement of more funds, and many students also may not want to be engaged in such activities even after they are established. Braginsky feels that increased teacher collaboration could work “as long as that standardization doesn’t stifle an individually good teacher.

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