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Back to school: Randolph schools open Monday

By David DeKunder | Wingspread staff writer | Aug. 23, 2007

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Enthusiastic educators, new teachers, high expectations and some academic changes will greet Randolph Field Independent School District students when they come back for school on Monday. 

Elementary students will start the day with the first bell at 8 a.m. and get out of classes at 3:15 p.m. High school and middle school students will begin classes at 8:05 a.m. Middle school children will get out at 3:30 p.m. and high school students will be dismissed five minutes later. 

Anticipating a great year, Randolph educators are eager to meet the hundreds of students who will walk the hallways when the first bell of the 2007-2008 school year rings. 

"I have been at school for two weeks getting ready and I'm so excited to get started," Randolph High School freshman English teacher Bethany Johanson said. "I just want to get the ball rolling." 

Ms. Johanson, who will start her second year at Randolph on Monday, said if her first year was any indication, the students she will be teaching will be willing and ready to learn. 

"They make coming to work worthwhile," she said. "For the most part, these kids are actually motivated and enjoy school." 

As with the start of each school year, school administrators have academic goals and expectations they want their teachers and students to meet or exceed. 

Bruce Cannon, Randolph High School and Middle School principal, said improving test scores and giving more students an opportunity to go to college are two goals he sets to accomplish. 

He and his teaching staff plan to take a hard look at the students' Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test results and create a plan from them. TAKS tests the mastery of students in grades 3-10 in the core subject areas of reading, writing, math, science and social studies. In order to graduate, high school students must pass the 10th grade version. 

The Texas Education Agency uses TAKS scores to determine the accountability ratings of districts and schools across the state based on four categories: exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable and unacceptable. 

The accountability ratings are based on how well the total student population and groups in the school perform on TAKS. 

During the last accountability ratings, released earlier last month, both the high school and middle school received recognized ratings. 

With a commitment to academic excellence, Mr. Cannon said he is optimistic that the rankings will be even better next year. 

"Every year we want to be exemplary," he said. "We do not want to leave any students behind in terms of knowledge. We are going to see where the students are and what we need to do to get them to where they should be." 

Mr. Cannon said he also wants to see more students who want to go to college take the Advanced Placement, SAT and ACT exams as well. 

"We want to include everybody in those testing opportunities," the principal said. "We want all of our students to have everything in place if they want to go to college."
Changes in the state high school curriculum will affect incoming ninth-graders this year. 

The state is requiring that high school students take an additional math and science class before they can graduate. 

The previous requirement mandated that students have only three credits of math and science while requiring four credits of social studies and English to graduate. 

Jennifer Adams, one of five new teachers at the high school and middle school levels, said she is looking forward to her first year at Randolph. 

"I am just excited to be working somewhere known for its academic excellence," said Ms. Adams. 

Eight new teachers are starting their first year at Randolph Elementary School as Principal Karen Bessette starts her 13th year at the school. 

The elementary school, which also received a recognized rating from the state for its TAKS scores, will aim to have an even better year in developing their students academically and socially. 

"We are proud of our TAKS scores," Ms. Bessette said. "We were really close to being exemplary as our scores increased from the previous year. We will continue to improve so our students can achieve at the highest level." 

Ms. Bessette said she and the teachers are looking at ways to improve the learning process for the children. 

"Our theme for this school year is 'Teaching with Heart,'" she said. "We are going to pay attention and support the whole child, not just the academic part." 

Lisa Hughes, who is back teaching second grade at Randolph after two years in Rhode Island where her husband was stationed, said she is ready to teach Randolph youngsters again. 

"Everybody here is kind, warm and loving," Ms. Hughes said. "It is a very nurturing environment here and one of the best experiences for a military child. Parents can be assured their child's needs will be met, whether their child needs some support or if they need to be challenged aca-demically."