Connections: A New Program for Greenwood Community High School
Writer and Photographer / Julie Yates
Not content to rest on accomplishments, Greenwood Community High School will launch a new program, Connections, for the upcoming 2015-16 school year. The school has had the distinction of being named a Four Star School by the Indiana Department of Education for four consecutive years.
To receive this honor, it met the criteria of being in the top 25th percentile of schools in two ISTEP-based categories as well as earning an A rating under the state’s A-F Accountability Program.
When asked why a new program is being initiated since the school is already successful, Director of Guidance Bill Ronk stated that the idea developed from the collaboration of administrators and chairs from the English and Mathematics departments.
“Administration, under the leadership of Principal Todd Garrison, felt that we needed to do a better job of serving students who were not reaching their maximum potential in the traditional school environment,” he explained.
School Within a School
The process of converting several underused classrooms into a large open area that will house the program began in June. Connections will utilize the open concept model with spacious areas for small group instruction as well as a comfortable lounge for independent study.
Superintendent Dr. Kent DeKoninck has committed funds to purchase 30 brand new computers for the program. Participating students will be assigned a specific computer for their use within the Connections setting. Depending on grants approved, the space might also include a small café.
The school has applied for a Simon Youth Foundation Partnership and is hoping to receive its support for the upcoming year. The Simon Youth Foundation is a national 501©(3) nonprofit based in Indianapolis. Its goal is to provide funds to schools in order to help at-risk students who may consider the possibility of dropping out.
The Focus is College Readiness
Connections will serve up to 30 junior and senior year students with very different interests and academic aptitudes. Ronk elaborated, “There are no quotas in regards to race, gender or even the type of diploma a student is pursuing, but all must be enrolled in a Central Nine Career Center (C9) program and want a more personal environment in which to focus on college readiness.”
A cooperative career/technical school which serves nine area high schools, C9 is located at 1999 U.S. 31 South in Greenwood. It offers 26 programs that prepare students for immediate employment upon graduation from high school or readies them for further education at a post-secondary institution.
The courses offered are diverse and include health services such as pharmacy and nursing as well as criminal justice, computer programming and advanced manufacturing. Most C9 fields of study offer dual credit in which the student simultaneously earns college credit and high school credit and/or certification.
Students accepted into the Connections program would be at the Greenwood Community High School campus in the morning and then attend C9 classes in the afternoon.
Tailored for Each Student
Students in the program will fulfill core course requirements in math, English, science and social studies by taking classes online. In addition, certified teachers will come into the center for direct instruction and individual tutoring. A faculty member responsible for providing technical and logistic support while the students are online will also staff Connections.
They will be using a program that the school is piloting, Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations (PLATO), which is a computer-assisted learning system. The courses in PLATO are aligned to state standards and allow students to individually advance at their own pace while teachers view their progress and assist them in meeting assignment deadlines.
Connections students will also be provided with support for their senior project — a requirement for all students graduating from Greenwood Community High School. Considered a “stretch” beyond what they would normally learn, participants in the Connections program can coordinate their senior project to what they are doing in a C9 field of study.
An Environment to Increase Achievement
Students in Connections will still be able to interact with their friends since they will have access to all the common student areas. “Connections is not a discipline alternative school,” stressed Ronk, “but a way to tailor programs for specific students who would benefit from a more personal environment.”
It is hoped that this innovative program of combining online learning with direct instruction by both Greenwood Community High School teachers and C9 instructors proves to yield increased achievement in participating students.