No more senior project at Jonathan Alder


(Posted Sept. 16, 2015)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

No longer will students at Jonathan Alder High School have to do a senior project.

School board members voted on Sept. 14 to eliminate the project after English teacher Jennifer Danner said it isn’t working. In recent years, the project has fallen to English-12 students and there aren’t that many students in English-12 anymore, she said.

“Out of 150 students, 81 of them are not in English 12,” Danner said, noting that seniors are taking different types of English classes.

She likened the senior project to a visit at the nearby popular restaurant Der Dutchman where customers have the option of visiting a salad/buffet bar or ordering off of the menu.

“You can go to the salad bar and pile all your food onto one plate,” she said of the project that required a proposal, documentation, reflections, research, bibliography, collaboration and presentation.

“Without it, you have multiple plates for an all-you-can-learn extravaganza,” Danner said.

Removing the senior project does not affect graduation requirements because the state has been changing such requirements, pointed out Principal Mike Aurin.

“Without it, you open up so many ways to teach, and students get more personalized attention. They have more options,” Danner said.

Among the options are a focus on reading and writing in classes on the students’ schedules.

Education Foundation

Former school board member Dr. John Adams spoke to the board about the JA Education Fund, leaving members with something to think about.

He said the fund, which is set up as a 501(c)3 non-profit, contains a substantial amount of money.

The fund receives money through donations. Its board members have talked about ways to accept real estate and life insurance as donations, as well.

The fund awards six named scholarships and has made contributions to the school district’s athletic facilities, but there are additional ways the money could be used, Adams said.

“The money is there and Gary (Chapman, district superintendent) wants to use it,” he said.

When school board member Steve Votaw asked if plans are in place for growth in the fund, Adams assured him there are.

How does the United States rank?

Ever wonder who is included in studies that say where the United States ranks in education compared to other countries around the world? Jonathan Alder can answer that.

Forty-two Jonathan Alder High School students, all age 15, have been randomly selected to participate in tests used in such studies.

Curriculum Director Misty Swanger said a worldwide socio-economic organization that provides the ratings contacted the school three years ago. Students will take the test in October.

Their scores, along with those of other students in the United States, will be tallied and compared with students worldwide.

Principal Mike Aurin said the participation in the study will show “where we are strong and where we should improve.”

The organization conducting the study, Program for International Student Assessment, is sponsored in the United States by the National Center for Education Statistics and internationally by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Mental health help

A mental health program soon will be available to students and staff at Jonathan Alder.

Special Services Director Shawn Heimlich said the district worked throughout the summer with mental health offices from Union and Madison counties.

Union County will provide a mental health person to work one day a week in the Jonathan Alder district.

“We’re excited to have Suellen Hughes working with us,” Heimlich said. “Emails have been going back and forth in the past few days as we work to set up a program.”

The district is working with Madison County officials on a mental health first aid program. By Oct. 23, all adults in the district should be certified, then a program will be set up for students.

Chapman said discussions for such programs have been going on since last February, after two students took their own lives less than two weeks apart.

Such programs are not limited to the schools. They are getting out into the community, too.

“Pleasant Valley Fire Department is also sending out feelers for such a program,” Chapman said.

Board approvals

The board approved a contract with the Ohio School Leadership Foundation for an enrollment projection study.

“We need to know what is going on so we can plan for the future,” Votaw said.

The contract is for $4,500. The foundation does five-year projections on the number of children in the district.

The board also approved:

  • a shared services agreement with Fairbanks Local Schools for the services of treasurer Aaron Johnson;
  • a resolution to waive competitive bidding for the replacement of security cam-eras; and
  • plans for the high school softball team to go on an overnight trip and participate in a tournament in Ashland April 22-23, 2016.
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