Looking forward to lots of change

The math hallway is bare cinderblock, waiting for its mid-year transition to a temporary library and college career center.  Teachers occupy additional trailers moved on campus this fall. These are the harbingers of the big renovation due to start imminently. Change is in the air so the staff of tjTODAY decided to reflect on the highs and lows of the past year as shown in a variety of changes in policy, action and physical plant.

The STEMbassadors outreach program continues to reinforce our school’s mission to the community. Student involvement in the program is growing as more volunteer opportunities are advertised on the Intranet and through email. What started as a summer pilot program is now an all year experience.

The TJ Admissions Office weathered another year of scrutiny. While the changes mandated by the School Board remain relatively minor for now, more revisions in the admissions exam process and the way students are encouraged to consider a STEMmandated curriculum may become more specific and concrete in the coming year.

The Intranet is proving to be an increasingly important tool to disseminate updates to students and increase student involvement in school-wide programs. It has also facilitated communication on the renovation process this year. Most believe the process is going smoothly with minimal inconvenience.Though some of the changes are inconvenient for students, such as fewer available parking spaces and lockers for upperclassmen, the educational environment does not seem to have been disrupted. Many classes were moved to new trailer quads last month, but the new trailers are wellequipped with Smartboards and individual temperature controls.

Thanks to some much-needed streamlining in eighth period logistics, both students and teachers find navigating the attendance process much more user friendly. Paper attendance is virtually obsolete, and standing in long lines to switch blocks rarely happens.

Teachers sloughed their way through the first year of a new state-dictated evaluation process that added additional layers of SMARTR goals and assessments to the extent system. So far, students aren’t feeling any strain from extra work, but teachers are straining under the need to provide common assessment metrics that seemed to be working just fine before.

A school-wide initiative that has become increasingly more successful this past year is telelearning. Student Services surveys pinpointed many of the problems with the workload last year, and the result is more timeframe-appropriate lesson plans. Telelearning is starting to become an effective replacement for often unproductive early release days.

In the past year, support for athletics has become even more prevalent than before. School-wide spirit days organized around the football games encouraged students to bring their spirit to the stands. During football season, students came out in large numbers to support the Colonials. The team had a successful season, leading to the playoffs. Communication was the key to implementing changes smoothly this year. It will no doubt be important next year as the renovation progresses and other efforts are made to improve the Jefferson experience. Seniors will eventually lose their lounge, and students buying lunch will need to go to an alternate location. More and more classrooms will disappear. If administration continues to make a concerted effort to keep everyone in the loop, we hope that life here will thrive as always.

(This article originally appeared in the December 21, 2012 print edition.)