LIMA — While the Lima school board officially eliminated Lima Senior High School’s three small schools Thursday, the work to fully create one high school continues with input from staff, students, parents and community members.
“It will be a work in progress,” Superintendent Jill Ackerman said. “We will have a pretty good sketch of a master schedule by the end of February, but it will most likely be evolving and changing.”
Ackerman announced in December that she would ask the board to return to one high school next school year. The decision came after meetings with staff, teachers and students and two community meetings.
Several design team meetings have been held this month, including one with nearly 80 people attending. The first two meetings, Ackerman said, dealt with things like priorities and a mission statement. A staff meeting this week talked of specific classes and the flow of courses.
“I think that from a cultural standpoint, we know a lot,” Ackerman said. “From an academic standpoint, we will probably know a little bit more as we move through the content focus parts of it.”
Harmony Brenneman, teacher and building coach in the School of Multiple Intelligences, said the common theme in developing a mission revolved around meeting students’ needs, getting them into 21st Century skills and making sure they are prepared for life.
“And then there was a big push for a lot of Spartan spirit, which has been a common theme,” she said.
Certain things are clear from the meetings, Ackerman said. Dual enrollment and other higher academic level offerings are important to people. The school will likely include a combination of scheduling, including modified blocks to give students more time in some classes.
The school needs to find ways to incorporate students more in decision making, Ackerman said, and continue to work to become a unified staff again. Real work began this year in trying to “rebuild Spartan spirit,” she said.
“We see a gap in our own communication pieces and public relations pieces that we recognize we need to work on,” she said.
Officials have known from the beginning that they wanted to continue positive relationship building between staff, students and parents. It is something a small-school concept is supposed to promote and it did so at Lima Senior. Brenneman, who is helping to facilitate the meetings, called it the biggest thing that has to remain.
“You will have loads of kids in and out of your classroom, but we are looking at ways to still make sure that the ability to build relationships with the kids is there because that has been instrumental since we started this 10 years ago,” she said.
It is possible students will be able to follow a certain pathway. Possibilities includes arts, engineering, college bound or vocational work. The school will continue with pieces of the NewTech program currently used in the Progressive Academy. Lima Senior has an agreement with NewTech for two more years.
Students will have better opportunities to access all courses. That had become a problem under small schools. Brenneman said programs like the moonbuggy team and college-ready programs that work now will remain.
Ackerman said there could be pieces incorporated in the high school that haven’t been seen before. The recent meetings have included discussion of the need for more mental health services.
Moving to one high school will save the district money in that staff reductions will come. Staffing should be figured out in March. Ackerman envisions one principal leading the school. The board will likely eliminate the small school leaders for next school year at a future meeting. Then the position will be posted. Ackerman said she purposely waited.
“I don’t want the work to be one person’s agenda. I want it to be the group’s agenda, the agenda of the students, the staff, the parents, the community,” she said. “I want them to create it, not one administrator.”
Enrollment has declined at the high school, and that is partly why officials began looking at a change. There are about 900 students at the high school this year. Two years ago there were 1,100. Ackerman said there are not enough students to sustain having three full high schools.
Lima Senior began the small-school concept when it moved into the new Lima Senior at the beginning of the 2004-05 school year. The district received funding from Knowledge Works of Cincinnati to implement small schools. It is no longer getting Knowledge Works funding.
Brenneman believes the new model can be successful, but that everyone needs to get behind it.
“We need to get everyone to buy in — students, parents and staff — and realize we are trying to do what is best for the students,” she said. “They are the ultimate goal. Helping them to reach full potential is our main goal and main push.”
*The school board also voted to officially put a 10-year, 7.67 mill renewal levy on the May ballot. The request combines two existing operating levies. The two combined will raise $2.2 million. It will not mean any additional money for taxpayers.
Lima Senior HIgh School