While most of the county's attention has been focused on Great Crossing High School, a new day is dawning at Scott County High School and staff and students are seizing the opportunity.
"We are looking at this as a brand new school with half the staff and students," said Meocha Williams, beginning her second year as principal at SCHS. "This is a chance to create a new school and new culture."
And with half the student population, the opportunities are there to do things differently, and they start this week.
Freshmen had their own orientation days on Aug. 12-13, based on their last names. Williams said a lot of attention are being paid to the new high school students.
"The two days of orientation will allow them to know their classmates better coming in and they and their families are invited to a cookout at the end of the day they attend. They can get their schedules those days, and we are having a Club rush so they can go ahead and sign up for clubs," Williams said. "We want to make sure every freshmen is involved in something because research shows the more they are involved the more successful they are."
And speaking of getting involved, about 200 freshmen will be Link-ed in thanks to a group of upperclassmen called the Link Crew.
"We have about 45 upperclassmen, and we are pairing up about 10 freshmen per one or two upperclassmen so they have a contact," Williams said. "They will meet at freshmen orientation, and throughout the year, the Link Crew will have activities and events to make sure their mentees are having a good transition to high school. They will create their own team identity and connect throughout the year."
Crew members are excited about reaching out to the freshmen.
"Getting kids involved and let them know there is someone here for them they can bounce questions off of will be helpful," said Madison Hepp, a senior. "It will be something fun."
"We will be there both days of orientation meeting our students," said Sydney Glenn, also a senior. "This would have been great to have when I started."
Last Saturday, adults and students worked together at Cardinal Cleanup, a campus beautification project that included fresh mulch being put down, new flowers and plants in the pavilion area, fresh coat of paint on the chairs outside the front entrance, and a mosaic logo being put together with construction paper. The FFA and SCHS boys basketball team were on hand, along with several Link Crew mentors.
Williams said other changes will be noticeable starting with this week's Open House on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m., including meeting the new counselors and assistant principals. Parents can sign up for the various communication channels the school is offering and sign up for the new PTSA, which the school has never had.
"We want to make our systems more effective and stronger. Part of that is doing more to connect with community and parents, making sure we are involving all of our partners," Williams said. "That's where PTSA comes in. I would like to have monthly events for parents where they can come in and learn how to do things like apply for financial aid. I'll be doing more breakfast with the principal type events where they can come in and have a donut while we talk about how things are going or how can I help."
Last year's Open House led to grumbling from parents due to crowding and traffic control.
"Parents were able to access schedules online at the end of last week, so some upperclassmen may not feel the need to come. And the freshmen will already have their schedules, so that will help too," she said. "We felt we had to have more control on where and when people could go last year, but this year it will be more open and people can go at their own leisure, again because there will be less students."
Staff has been busy undergoing various trainings, and Williams said students and parents will notice more focused work in certain areas.
"Our theme is connecting the dots, changing the trajectory. We want to do more focused work, and not just more work," Williams said. "We have worked to ensure more consistent grading and language across the school, so parents and students know what it takes to be successful. We'll be doing positive recognition of students and staff, like maybe have karaoke Fridays at lunch if they keep the cafeteria clean and meet behavior goals. We will have a hard work cafe designated for students who may fall through the cracks but always do the right thing. They may not be overly involved, but we want to make sure we are recognizing them during CARD time."
She said the school will be partnering with Commonwealth Credit Union on financial literacy training, and students completing those projects will be recognized. Eventually, Williams envisions a credit union at the school.
Teachers will also be receiving recognition throughout the year, such as a designated parking space for the Teacher of the Month, courtside dinner at one of the games and recognized at halftime.
"We want to be more intentional and more focused on doing programs well because we have the management piece in place now," Williams said. "I will also say we needed to go through last year to recognize the need and power of the groundwork to have a structure in place. We saw the need for student leadership groups and acknowledge people doing right things. Last year worked to help us grow and evolve into what we are going to be this year."
Steven McClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.