Meeting Challenges Head On

Kate Griffin Junior High School Principal Vicky Hood described her first two and a half months in the position as "very challenging."

"A lot of the problems that we have at this age have nothing to do with what the kids are supposed to learn in school," Hood said.

While things are looking up for the school, which in a year's time moved up from a Level 1 to a Level 3 because of rising test scores, Hood said one of the major problems still is discipline.

In fact, since the start of school in August, Hood said there have been more than 800 student referrals to the office for everything from just being late to not listening. To combat the problem she says the school is “stepping outside the box”, so to speak, in terms of solutions.

One of the strategies is inviting guests from the community, such as reformed drug and gang leader William McClelland, to come in and talk to students who are most in need.

"Look at me," McClelland told students. "I failed a lot of people but look at me now. A lot of people are praising me."

"Kids are not bad. They only get involved with some of the bad things in the streets and they think it's cool and hip," he said.

Hood said it's only a small group from the school that causes most of the problems.

To help guide them in the right direction, Hood said teachers are getting more proactive and doing things such as decorating classroom doors. She said even local inmates are lending a helping hand by creating inspirational artwork for the hallways.

The question now is how long will this continue?

"Well, Rome was not built in a day but we're going to do it on a continual basis until we see that the things that we're doing are making a difference with our kids," Hood said.

To help with discipline, officials at Kate Griffin are now also offering special rewards for students who demonstrate exceptional behavior and achievement.

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