I am a product of the Vilonia School District. I was born and raised in Vilonia. Success for Vilonia students is a personal passion of mine because many from this school and community have poured so much into my life all along the way. My family lives here. My wife teaches for the Vilonia School District. My son will be part of the first fourth grade class to pass through the halls of the Frank Mitchell Intermediate School.
As the first principal of Vilonia Freshman Academy, I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead as we tread into uncharted waters. Having a 23 year background working with teenagers in both youth ministry and public education, I am excited to partner with students, parents, teachers and community members to build a bridge from middle school to high school for our students. For many years, a student’s freshman year of high school has presented a unique set of challenges. Educational research shows that the most pivotal year in determining whether a student will graduate from high school is the ninth grade. The freshman year generally has an above average population of students and is usually followed by a dip in population in tenth grade. There are several factors that go into this unique first year of high school that cause difficulties for some students. Statistics show that students who fail at least one course in ninth grade are less likely to finish high school and graduate. And for every additional class that students fail, the greater the probability they will not graduate high school. The Vilonia School District has chosen to address these issues in a new way with the creation of our new Vilonia Freshman Academy (VFA). At VFA, our goal is to reduce the number of classes failed during a student’s ninth grade year.
We will take a multi-pronged approach to reducing the number of failures. Our first goal will be to get to know each student well, both personally and academically.
Research suggests that, when each student is well-known by at least one adult, they are more likely to achieve. Each student will be enrolled in a third period advisory class that runs for 41 minutes the entire school year. Teachers will use these classes to get to know their students well and to introduce them to several important life skills including financial literacy, grade point calculation and putting together a four year plan for completing high school (among other topics). Our second goal will be to establish effective communication between students, parents, teachers and principal. To accomplish our goal of reducing the number of failures, we will need to work well as a team. This will require the help of all stakeholders in the educational process. Our third goal will be to give our students a voice in their own education. We rarely ask students for input regarding their education.
In a joint effort with Vilonia High School, our conversation about student voice began this summer. Giving students an opportunity to guide their learning will be accomplished by relying heavily upon our Student Advisory Team (SAT) for input from students and from regular student interest surveys of all students.
Our hope at Vilonia Freshman Academy is that our community will view this opportunity as a research based effort to reach a population of students who need support. We are excited to watch this new school take shape and impact the students of Vilonia in a positive way. If you would like to receive regular updates about the latest events unfolding at VFA, follow us on Twitter by adding @ViloniaFA to your Twitter feed.