MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

May 18, 2010

Changes in school culture pay off for students, teachers

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Nearly 80 teachers, administrators and other Muskogee High School employees have helped change the school’s culture by getting involved with students, an MHS administrator said.

Assistant MHS Principal Dewayne Pemberton presented a school-made film about Muskogee Public Schools’ student advocacy program at the Muskogee Board of Education’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

Pemberton, who becomes MHS principal this summer, said the film sums up the bond that teachers and other employees developed with students through the program. The advocacy program matches a student with an MHS staff member who serves as a student mentor through the year. Participating staff members meet with their student groups once a week and have special programs once a month.

“The culture of our school has changed,” Pemberton said in the film. “Grades have gone up, discipline programs went down.”

The film showed MHS student Melanie Walker calling the program her “home away from home.”

MHS student Kanessa Anderson said in the film that the advocacy program is “the way I meet new people.”

MHS special education teacher Monica Stewart, who prepared the film, said she wanted to show the community “that we’re doing what we can to develop relationships with the students.”

She said her group has about 20 students, both in special education and regular education.

“Students in high school can get cliquish,” she said. “But here, students get to know one another, help each other out. They come to appreciate their differences.”

Pemberton said he hopes to get more teachers and employees involved in the coming school year.”

At a glance

In other action at its regular meeting, the Muskogee Board of Education:

• Voted that schools with 90 percent or more students qualifying for free and reduced lunches may offer free lunches to all students.

• Agreed to seek permission from the State Department of Education to allow them to raise the student/teacher ratio from 10-to-1 to 11-to-1 at the Early Childhood Center for the 2011 school year.

• Recognized 11 Muskogee High School students for passing the DELL Certification.

• Recognized Cherokee Elementary teacher Angel Hubbard and Muskogee High School teacher Melissa O’Dell as Muskogee Education Association employees of the month.

• Recognized Ben Franklin Science Academy paraprofessional Athalene Johnson and Grant Foreman Elementary custodian Nicholas Simon as support employees of the month.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.