As the end of the school year nears, students are looking forward to graduation, warmer weather, and vacations. At Grundy County High School, the end of the 2013-2014 school year offers Principal Amanda Lance the opportunity to reflect back on her first year at the high school and offer us a preview of new things to come in 2014-2015.
Lance came to GCHS with several goals in mind. First and foremost, she wanted to increase parent and community involvement with the school. “Peer pressure and identity crisis is a huge problem among students. I wanted to get the parents and community back into the building and show their support for our students,” she says. “We began with a Community Awareness event before the start of school. Over 2,000 people attended the event.”
This year the school has partnered with the University of the South, the Grundy Arts Council, the Grundy County Health Council (Zumba), and Youth Leadership. A fall carnival for the community was held at the school.
“Another event that brought the community and our school together was the Veteran’s Day program,” says Lance. “This type of event had not been held at the school for some time and David Patten helped make this year’s program a success.”
Junior Kelsey Arbuckle enjoys the new women’s empowerment luncheons. The group meets weekly to discuss improving the school environment and women’s empowerment. “We recently placed a box outside the guidance office for students. It is our ‘Let it Go box’. Anyone can write down their problems and place the paper in the box. It is a great way to get things off your mind,” said Arbuckle.
Interactive notebooks are one of the biggest changes in the classroom this year. These notebooks allow students to organize their notes and serve as a textbook when it is time to study for tests. Everything the student needs for end of course tests should be in the notebook. History teacher Allison Borne says the notebooks are an excellent tool for keeping the students organized. She also feels they help students gain a deeper understanding of the material.
Individuals at the school are recognized by Lance on a weekly, monthly, and semester basis. Good grades, excellent behavior, and going the extra mile can earn students, faculty, and staff classroom supplies, gift cards, and more. Last semester, Lance gave iPads to three lucky winners. Classroom awards are also important and the U.S History class received donuts in the fall for receiving proficient/advanced on their end of course test.
Coach Chase Jones has seen many improvements this year and enjoys working with Lance. “This is my eighteenth year as an educator. Mrs. Lance is the most professional, hardest working principal I have ever been around,” says Jones. “The work ethic she demonstrates on a day in and day out basis is absolutely amazing to me.”
Accessibility is a priority for the principal. “I make it a priority to get back to people and get information out,” she says. The school Facebook page is constantly updated and Lance personally returns all calls. She is very visible at athletic events, school club meetings, and booster club meetings where she welcomes interaction with parents and students. And, if this did not keep her busy enough, she attends community events such as the Gruetli-Laager Church of God’s Women’s Retreat.
Change makes everyone nervous, and some parents and students were initially apprehensive about having a new principal. “When she first came I thought to myself, ‘the kids are going to be miserable, she will really be hardcore.’ As a first-year parent I was worried. However, at the first gathering I knew my daughter would be in good hands,” says Wendy Tipton. “In this world there are enough rude people that turn their cheek. Mrs. Lance is a virtuous woman. She is tender and kind, a great listener, and very supportive. I have seen her at all the dances and sporting events when you don’t see a lot of support from others. She makes every effort to make an appearance and makes sure the community knows what is going on.”
Interestingly, the biggest complaints to the school office deal with issues that Lance has little to no control over. Parents and students have complained about the dress code and attendance policy this year, but Lance says both issues are county-wide policies. It is her job to enforce these rules.
To improve attendance and tardies Lance has implemented a new intervention program. This program alerts parents when their children are not making it to class on time and holds students accountable for being in school. With limited instructional time in the classroom, “even five minutes can make a difference,” she says. The intervention program goes beyond tardies and attendance in helping teachers and the administration monitor missing assignments and student behavior.
Serving as principal at GCHS this year has allowed Lance to identify problems and set her goals for next year. She hopes to have a redesigned website to further improve interaction between the school, parents, and the community. A new calculus class will be offered that will help prepare students for college without the financial burdens of Dual Enrollment. And, students will have the opportunity to get a “second chance breakfast.” Grab and go stations will be set up throughout the school for students who do not eat breakfast before classes. Breakfast items can be purchased at these stations using the student’s lunch number.
In addition, next year’s schedule will include forty-five minutes of Response to Intervention (RTI) time. The time will be used for enrichment and remediation. Plans are in the works for motivational speakers, creative writing sessions, resume writing instruction, and research to be included in the RTI block. This will give teachers more time to collaborate and plan.
Looking back at this school year, Lance sees many successes. The school is moving in the right direction and becoming competitive with other school districts. “I really enjoy my job and getting be a part of the students’ lives. I am looking forward to next year,” she says.