UNION — During Monday’s meeting of the Union County Board of School Trustees, the district responded to a number of concerns expressed at a previous board meeting.
On Sept. 10, UCHS senior Morgan Morris and Michael Fowler, a parent of another UCHS student,addressed the board regarding concerns about scheduling and class availability at the school. On Monday, Cindy Langley Union County Director of Secondary Education, responded to those concerns on behalf of the district.
“We always appreciate parents and students asking questions,” Langley said. “Communication is vital to ensuring strong school, parent and student partnerships, and we seek opportunities to work with all students and their parents.”
Langley began addressing the concerns expressed two weeks ago by explaining the scheduling process. She said the district’s goal when building the master schedule is to fulfill requests for over 1,250 students with the fewest number of conflicts possible. She also pointed out that all course requests — including those of rising ninth-grade students from Jonesville, Lockhart and Sims middle schools — are submitted in March before spring break. This occurs after counselors have met with students and their parents during second and third quarter to select course requests.
Langley said documentation shows that the course load to create the master schedule for 2012-2013 occurred on May 1, 2012.
“At that time there were 1,289 students with requests, and 96 percent of the requests were satisfied; 85.5 percent of the students did not have any conflicts,” Langley said.
Langley also mentioned a report that identifies scheduling conflicts by listing the names of students and the courses missing from their schedules based upon their individual requests.
“One of the concerns expressed at the last board meeting focused upon the placement of so many AP and honors courses during 3rd and 4th periods,” Langley said. “Actually, most all of our honors and AP courses for juniors and seniors are scheduled during 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th periods to avoid conflicts with the dual credit classes scheduled after lunch at USC Union. Even with the parameters established for dual credit, only two students on the Non-Schedule Student Requests Report — dated June 5, 2012 — had a conflict with an AP class.”
Another concern Langley addressed was one about an independent placement in GT music.
“As has been done in the past for seniors only, the request was granted, and the senior is taking GT music with the GT music instructor during another music class,” Langley said. “Much of the instruction at the senior performance level in GT music is individualized, and the student is held accountable for the GT music objectives.”
Another concern expressed was that Spanish 3 was not offered at UCHS this year, but that was not the case.
“Actually, we did offer the class in an online virtual format,” Langley said, explaining that the decision to offer the class in that format was made based upon teaching slots and the number of student requests for all three levels of Spanish.
The district contracted with Aventa K-12 to provide Spanish 3 along with an online instructor both semesters. The same virtual model is being used in two middle schools in the district for exploratory Spanish.
“We do want our students to take a third year of Spanish, and in response to student and parent requests, we are developing an early bird Spanish 3 honors class,” Langley said.
The class will be taught by a UCHS Spanish teacher from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Thursday and during seventh period on Friday. Langley said additional Friday research sessions will be necessary to ensure that state requirements for course hours are met.
“As soon as all the details are worked out, guidance counselors will contact the parents of the eight students who were originally enrolled in the online Spanish 3 class,” Langley said.
A concern was expressed about the district not offering AP Chemistry in 2011-2012, but like many districts, Union County chose to alternate the years in which AP Biology and AP Chemistry are offered to increase student participation.
“We began the process last year with AP Biology and have followed through with AP Chemistry this year,” Langley said.
Langley went on to discuss information gathered from phone calls with counselors and administrators about dual credit and AP course offerings at six other schools of similar size in this region.
She said that the number of dual credit classes offered at UCHS — 17 this year — exceeds that of most schools contacted, with the only exception being one school which offers ten AP courses compared to the eight that are offered at UCHS.
A new AP Statistics class was added to the course catalog for the current school year, and AP Studio Art was added two years ago. Langley said the district will continue to review the addition of AP courses to the schedule.
“Two of the three instructors who were mentioned at the last board meeting as having AP certification were not employed by the district until the end of April and the first of June,” Langley said. “While it was too late to consider the addition of two AP courses at that time to our already full schedule for 2012-13, we will review that possibility for 2013-14.”
Langley also addressed a concern regarding a student who believed he had to drop a physics honors course he needed for college to take a class with higher weighting on the Uniform Grading Scale to remain in the top 6 percent of his class for the Palmetto Fellows scholarship.
“It is regrettable that the parent and student did not have the complete information and felt that they had to make that choice,” Langley said. While guidelines for the Palmetto Fellows require that students be ranked in the top 6 percent of their class, that ranking can occur in 10th and 11th grade as well as 12th grade.”
The final concern Langley addressed was in regard to a peer tutoring program at UCHS. Langley said the district is open to the concept. While the district is not prepared to remove students from a scheduled class for peer tutoring activities, she said the school administration would like to work with a team of students to develop a plan for tutoring to occur before or after school.
Langley explained that the school district and UCHS share the same goals as students and their parents.
“Our administrative team and guidance staff at Union County High School are among the best, and our joint district and school goal is for all students to graduate on time having had the coursework needed to transition successfully to two and four year colleges and universities,” she said.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.