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Teachers yet to learn about East, West assignments

By BY JULIAN CAVAZOS - JCAVAZOS@VICAD.COM
Jan. 9, 2010 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 8, 2010 at 7:09 p.m.

Memorial High School student Jaci Tripp asks a question of teacher James Wisdom about his power point presentation on the economic conditions of Europe during WWll on Friday.  "I think it will be very conducive to a good education for our students," Wisdom says of having two high schools.

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The Memorial High School Senior Campus has about 290 teachers, while the Stroman Campus has about 100 teachers.

Toward the end of last school year, district officials gave MHS teachers from both campuses a list of schools at which they could teach next school year, which included Victoria East, Victoria West, the Advanced Learning Center, the MHS Career & Technology Campus, the credit recovery site, or in the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program.

Teachers were asked to rank their preferences and district administration tried to grant those requests based on their qualifications and what each campus will need.

The majority of teachers will have their assignments by February, Superintendent Bob Moore said. The school district will continue to finalize assignments through the end of the summer as they find out which classes students want, as well as any graduation requirement changes modified by the state.

Texas high school students may choose to follow three graduation plans:

The 22-credit Minimum High School Program

The 26-credit Recommended Program

The 26-credit Distinguished Achievement Program

In the last legislative session, the State Board of Education revised the requirements for the recommended graduation plan, which is the plan followed by most Texas public school students.

The state removed a one-semester health course, a semester of physical education and a one-year technology applications class, said Suzanne Marchman, a Texas Education Agency spokesperson. By doing so, students could take more electives.

"That was done to provide more flexibility in elective courses to give them ideas about what they may want to pursue in their college studies," Marchman said.

Making changes to only the recommended plan caused it to not be aligned with the other two graduation plans.

"It makes it difficult for students who start on one plan and move to a different plan," Marchman said. "The board is trying to align all three plans so that they match."

The state will finalize those changes on Jan. 15. Any approved changes will cause the Victoria school district to modify its teacher assignments to its secondary schools.

All students, regardless of under what plan, will still be required to follow the "4x4," which includes four years of math, science, English and social studies.

Editor's note: This is part of an ongoing series examining the opening of Victoria's new high schools.

Starting in the fall, Susie Sides will teach at a brand new campus, Victoria West High School.

Teaching there was her first choice, said the world history teacher at the Memorial High School Stroman Campus.

"The main reason I chose the West campus was because that's where our principal, Mr. Richard LeFavers, is going to be," Sides said. "I wanted to go where he goes because he has helped bring stability and has brought leadership to Stroman."

The school district's new campuses, Victoria East and Victoria West high schools, will open in August. The money for the schools comes from a $159 million bond project approved by voters in May 2007.

The Victoria school district is in the process of assigning its nearly 400 MHS teachers to either Victoria East or Victoria West high schools.

Others may be assigned to teach at the Advanced Learning Center, the MHS Career and Technology Campus, the credit recovery site, or in the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program. Some teachers could be assigned to more than one campus, depending on student course requests and teacher certification.

James Wisdom, an economics teacher at the MHS Senior Campus, is going to Victoria East.

Wisdom is looking forward to having a modern classroom.

"I think it's going to be a lot better," Wisdom said. "In the room I'm in now, the Internet outlet is not in the best location where I can use an operative projector. I think it will be very conducive to a good education for our students."

School district administrators said they are trying to grant the teachers' requests as to where they'd like to teach, though not all teachers will get their top choice.

"We're trying as much as possible based on certifications and needs to honor what they have asked for," said Nancy McCord, assistant superintendent of secondary education.

Besides teachers' qualifications being a factor in campus assignments, administrators will determine assignments based on changes in graduation requirements by the State Board of Education.

The state will finalize those changes Friday.

"Once the state finalizes it, we, as a district, need to determine which of any of those courses we need to stay in the curriculum because they're necessary components," McCord said.

Teacher assignments also will be determined by what courses students register to take this coming year, McCord said.

Pre-registration begins in February, McCord said. Non-required courses must have at least 15 students for a class to be made.

"If we have a lot of students who decide to take a course, we might have to move a course to both campuses if there's enough students," McCord said.

Results of requested classes will be tallied by May, McCord said.

Victoria school officials expect each academic class to have at least 20 students, which is consistent with the state's average, Superintendent Bob Moore said.

In the 2008-09 school year, Victoria secondary schools had an average of 19.5 students per class, which is lower than the state's average of 20.5, according to a report by the Texas Education Agency.

District officials do not anticipate hiring additional teachers. Any new hiring will be based on an increase in enrollment, Moore said.

"We should be really close with what's in existence now," Moore said, speaking of the number of teachers needed in the school district for 2010-11 school year. "That was our plan."

High school teachers will also be part of different focus committees to help students succeed, McCord said. Some committees include guidance and advisement, transitioning from eighth grade to ninth grade and transitioning from senior to post-secondary schools.

Teachers will also receive training on an initiative called High Schools That Work to improve students grades.

"We have a lot of programs and processes and structures we've been putting into place," McCord said. "We're not just building buildings and hoping that's going to improve everything."

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