HSMS pro­gram wins award

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - JAY BELL

The Hot Springs School Dis­trict re­ceived un­ex­pected na­tional recog­ni­tion this month for the suc­cess of the Jobs for Amer­ica’s Grad­u­ates pro­gram at the mid­dle school.

Hot Springs Ju­nior Academy, pre­vi­ously known as Hot Springs Mid­dle School, re­ceived a Peak Per­for­mance Award for the pro­gram’s re­turn-to-school rate. The school is now a con­ver­sion char­ter.

The award was pre­sented dur­ing JAG’s 34th an­nual Na­tional Train­ing Sem­i­nar July 12-14 in Las Vegas. Prin­ci­pal Natasha Lenox had to check with Utana New­born, as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal, to make sure she heard the an­nounce­ment cor­rectly dur­ing the awards cer­e­mony. The school’s new JAG teacher, for­mer Hot Springs In­ter­me­di­ate School math teacher Stephanie Good­man, also at­tended the event.

JAG is a state-based non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion with pro­grams aimed at pre­vent­ing dropouts among young peo­ple who are most at-risk. JAG-Arkansas was es­tab­lished in 1996 and now op­er­ates 39 pro­grams for stu­dents in grades 9-12 and out-of-school/ dropout re­cov­ery.

“The whole point is to im­prove their aca­demics, school be­hav­ior, at­ten­dance and con­fi­dence,” said Kerry Dear­dorff, the pre­vi­ous JAG teacher.

The Ju­nior Academy clas­si­fies as one of only four ju­nior high schools in Arkansas with a JAG pro­gram. JAG Model pro­grams are de­signed to iden­tify stu­dents with a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of bar­ri­ers to stay in schools, ob­tain a high school diploma, se­cure an en­try-level qual­ity job to lead into a ca­reer and pur­sue a post­sec­ondary education. The pro­grams have helped al­most

750,000 young peo­ple achieve those goals.

Most JAG pro­grams are in­stalled at the high school level. JAG-Arkansas spe­cial­ists each work with 35-45 stu­dents in their own schools.

Dear­dorff man­aged a full course load. Hot Springs was rec­og­nized af­ter all 187 sev­enth-grade stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram’s first year re­turned for the 2016-17 school year.

“You re­ally get to know the kids,” Dear­dorff said. “I think that is the funnest thing about it. You re­ally get to know that child and what you can do to help them. That is what teach­ing is all about.”

Many JAG pro­grams ob­tain grad­u­a­tion rates of at least 90 per­cent with at least 80 per­cent ex­pe­ri­enc­ing pos­i­tive out­comes in a 12-month post-grad­u­a­tion fol­low-up pe­riod. Pos­i­tive out­comes in­clude em­ploy­ment, mil­i­tary en­list­ment and en­roll­ment in post­sec­ondary education.

“We want our kids to be col­lege- and ca­reer-ready,” New­born said. “This pro­gram is great for this school dis­trict and that is one rea­son we re­ally want it to move on and grow into the high school.”

The Mid­dle School Pro­gram is de­signed to help stu­dents more eas­ily tran­si­tion into high school and prepa­ra­tion for life af­ter grad­u­a­tion. As­pects of the pro­gram in­clude ex­pe­ri­en­tial-based learn­ing, com­mu­nity-based learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, ac­tiv­i­ties and mon­i­tor­ing stu­dent suc­cess af­ter­ward.

The mod­ules of the cur­ricu­lum for the sev­enth grade are self-un­der­stand­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, or­ga­ni­za­tional skills, study skills, de­ci­sion-mak­ing, char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment and team-build­ing. The eighth-grade mod­ules are “dream­work,” life­styles, ne­go­ti­a­tions, ca­reer-based learn­ing, lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment and high school tran­si­tion.

The Hot Springs pro­gram be­gan in the mid­dle school’s al­ter­na­tive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment pro­gram for grades 5-8 in which Lenox was a fa­cil­i­ta­tor. For­mer mid­dle school prin­ci­pal Ge­orge Wil­son ex­panded the pro­gram to the rest of the stu­dent body and hired Dear­dorff out of re­tire­ment.

Dear­dorff, as JAG spe­cial­ist, iden­ti­fies eco­nomic, per­sonal and other bar­ri­ers to grad­u­a­tion, em­ploy­ment and the pur­suit of a post­sec­ondary education. She worked with stu­dents, mon­i­tored their progress and com­piled the data, which was used by the na­tional JAG or­ga­ni­za­tion to de­ter­mine the award.

Good­man re­ceived the dis­trict’s teacher of the year award in 2015 and was one of four fi­nal­ists for the 2016 Arkansas Teacher of the Year award. She has 13 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in education and taught at the in­ter­me­di­ate school for the past eight years.

“In or­der for this pro­gram to work, you have to have some­one who is en­er­getic, goes the ex­tra mile for these kids and thinks out­side of the box and out­side of the four walls of this build­ing,” Lenox said. “Stephanie Good­man was the per­fect fit. When she was on board, I had to fight, be­cause they didn’t want to let her go.”

“Teach­ing is my pas­sion,” Good­man said. “Math wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily my pas­sion, but men­tor­ing kids is. This pro­gram is more men­tor­ing of kids, walk­ing along­side of them where they are in life, help­ing them dis­cover who they are, what ca­reers they want and get them on a path. That is what in­trigued me.”

Dear­dorff ac­cepted a new po­si­tion with Oak­lawn Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts Mag­net School this year. Good­man said Becky Ros­burg, ex­ec­u­tive prin­ci­pal for the in­ter­me­di­ate school and Park In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate Mag­net School, and the dis­trict saw long-term ben­e­fits in al­low­ing her to suc­ceed Dear­dorff in the pro­gram.

“Ul­ti­mately, I want our com­mu­nity to reap the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits of this when they see the hard­work­ing cit­i­zens in jobs all over the city,” Good­man said. “Re­gard­less of what the job is, to see these kids have work ethic, hon­esty, a pas­sion for what they choose to do, what­ever it is that they do.

“I don’t want it to be con­sid­ered a pro­gram. I want it to be a life­style.”

The JAG Model com­bines class­room in­struc­tion with adult men­tor­ing, lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment, guid­ance and coun­sel­ing, job and post­sec­ondary education place­ment ser­vices, an ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem, tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, and link­ages to school- and com­mu­nity-based ser­vices.

The Ju­nior Academy plans to in­cor­po­rate 12-month fol­low-up ser­vices to mon­i­tor stu­dents as they progress to Hot Springs World Class High School, which be­gan as a con­ver­sion char­ter in the 2016-17 school year.

The na­tional con­fer­ence in Las Vegas of­fered train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for new teach­ers, ex­pe­ri­enced spe­cial­ists and ad­min­is­tra­tors.

“That was some of the best train­ing I have been to in years,” Lenox said. “I re­ally got some good stuff.”

“A lot of the train­ing I re­ceived opened my eyes to some things we can start now with our stu­dents,” she added.

Good­man and New­born will at­tend an­other train­ing ses­sion in Septem­ber in Lit­tle Rock to be­come spe­cial­ists. The cer­ti­fi­ca­tion adds an en­dorse­ment to their li­cen­sures.

“I think I would be ly­ing if I said I wasn’t a lit­tle ner­vous, but Mrs. Dear­dorff is still in the dis­trict,” Good­man said. “I have her phone num­ber. Mrs. Lenox and Mrs. New­born, they are all go­ing to be very sup­port­ive. I know that if I have any ques­tions, I have three peo­ple that can help me an­swer them.”

“One ques­tion on their last as­sign­ment was, ‘What do you have to tell the new teacher?” Dear­dorff said of the end of last school year. “One of the girls said, ‘It’s Mrs. Good­man. She’s got it.”

Sub­mit­ted photo

PEAK PER­FOR­MANCE: Hot Springs Ju­nior Academy Prin­ci­pal Natasha Lenox re­cently ac­cepted the school’s Peak Per­for­mance Award from the na­tional JAG or­ga­ni­za­tion dur­ing the 34th an­nual Na­tional Train­ing Sem­i­nar in Las Vegas. New JAG teacher Stephanie Good­man, left, and Utana New­born, as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal, also at­tended the event. Kerry Dear­dorff led the mid­dle school’s pro­gram for the past two years as a JAG spe­cial­ist.

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