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The Suburbanite
  • Canton Schools unveils plan for 'brighter tomorrow'

  • An ambitious restructuring plan to place more emphasis on reading and math at the preschool through grade 2 level and develop specialized schools at the middle school level is in the works for Canton City Schools.

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  • An ambitious restructuring plan is in the works for Canton City Schools that will reconfigure buildings and realign curriculum to offer students more choice and personalized learning, and to place a greater emphasis on reading and math in the early grades.
    Dubbed “A Brighter Tomorrow” the plan could be implemented as early as this fall, although Superintendent Adrian Allison said his timetable for rolling out all the changes hasn’t been fully worked out.
    Allison presented his vision, which will mean a specialized curriculum for teachers, in a series of meetings Thursday with school principals and union leaders, and Friday with the remaining staff, including teachers and non-certified workers.
    The plan, he said, is designed to provide more opportunities for students and families because they’ll be able to choose which academy they want to attend depending on the curriculum or specialty each student wants to study. Also, there still will be traditional schools for students who want to follow the traditional academic tract.
    It will mean major building changes:
    • The district’s 14 elementary school buildings will remain neighborhood schools, but be converted to seven pre-kindergarten- through second-grade schools and seven third- through fifth-grade schools. The pre-K- through second-grade schools will be paired with nearby third- through fifth-grade buildings in nearby neighborhoods within the same city quadrant.
    • Early College Academy will move from the Smith Annex at Timken High School to the former Souers Middle School, where it will serve students in grades four through eight.
    • The STEAMM Academy, slated to open in the fall at Hartford Middle School, will accept students in grades four through eight, and focus its curriculum on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, along with arts and medicine.
    • Crenshaw Middle School will become the Altitude Academy for students in grades four through eight and will cater to students with an interest in physical fitness, sports, wellness, training, sports medicine and nutrition.
    • Lehman will remain a traditional sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, and the Arts Academy at Summit also will be unchanged.
    • The high schools will create “freshman academies” to allow the younger students to better adapt.
    FACING CHALLENGES
    Allison told his staff that the district must be proactive in dealing with the changing educational landscape.
    Significant state and federal policy changes, and especially the new “common core educational standards,” require that teachers be able to give deeper instruction in most subject areas. Allison said teachers cannot be expected to teach every subject at the depth required.
    Reconfiguring the buildings to create special schools will allow better collaboration among teachers, he said, and allow them to specialize in subject matter.
    The third-grade reading guarantee presents further challenges. Allison said the district’s preschool program must be renewed to better prepare students for third-grade state testing. Canton City has 277 preschool students this year. Allison said his goal is to increase the number to 1,000.
    Page 2 of 2 - Once those third-graders pass their achievement tests, Allison explained, their fourth- and fifth-grade years will be spent learning and growing, with a goal of picking a middle school academy that best fits their needs. Or, students may choose to stay on a traditional educational course.
    “We’re small enough that every child should have an adult that knows that child’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said, adding that grades three through five schools will be “learning communities where you find out who they are, what are their interests, and then put them on the right track.”
    EMBRACING CHANGE
    The timeline for all the changes will be a much debated topic over the next two weeks.
    “We will also involve the community in the conversation,” he said, but no public meetings have been announced.
    Allison said he plans to launch a website to collect community feedback.
    Elementary principals who learned of the plan Thursday enthusiastically told Allison that they are “all in,” and suggested the restructuring be done swiftly, as opposed to a gradual phase-in over a two-year period starting this fall, with completion by the 2014-15 school year.
    Worley School Principal Elena Monahan told colleagues, “I’m excited as an educator and thrilled as a parent.”
    Monahan, who has two children in Canton City Schools, added, “We’ll get to tailor our child’s education to what fits them and allow them to excel and grow.”
    Belden School Principal Andrea Smith said the plan is a way to keep the district from losing students, and that she admires her district for its willingness to change with the times.
    “I’m ecstatic. This plan is innovative and for today’s education,” Smith said, calling Allison, and the plan’s other designers, Assistant Superintendent Faith Kittoe and Director of Instructional Personnel Dan Nero, a “dream team.”
    Nero expects the first concern of many staff members will be how they fit into the plan.
    He said the district, so far, does not anticipate adding staff, and that efficiency will be important when implementing the restructuring. Busing costs are expected to increase because students will be able to choose schools outside their neighborhoods.
    Nero said officials plan to give teachers as much time as possible to prepare for their new assignments.
    “This is a great opportunity for us to get better, significantly better,” he said.