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Heritage High School to Build upon success, be "positive fuel" for student body

posted Oct 3, 2016, 6:56 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 6:56 AM ]

After a number of academic successes in recent years, Heritage High School has set its sights on loftier goals. "We'll continue to provide students with rigorous, relevant curriculum," said Principal Jake Jones. He succeeds Earl McMahan, who retired effective June 30. "We'll build upon a culture that prepares students for the highest level of learning," Jones said. "Our Data Response Team is already diving into it. I want to know what are areas of strength, what are areas of concern. A previous area of strength was U.S. history, but we weren't tested last year. We had good results in English and math. We've also made tremendous progress in science."


Heritage High was named a 2012-13 Reward School by the Tennessee Department of Education. The department's designation placed it within the state's top 5 percent of schools for its annual-value-added growth. Heritage High led the county's four high schools in four out of seven End of Course exams — algebra I, biology I, English I and U.S. history — the previous year in terms of its academic growth. It was ranked fifth in U.S. history, statewide. In that same year, Heritage High had a 92.84 percent graduation rate, which is the highest in its history. Heritage High's social studies department improved upon its U.S. history scores that school year. It received the state's third highest value-added score on its 2013-14 U.S. history assessments.


TNReady, ACT

Educators are preparing this school year for the state's new, improved TCAP test for English language arts and math: TNReady. The tests, which will be administered in grades 3-11, are designed to assess true student understanding, not basic memorization and test-taking skills. Students need to be able to write across the curriculum and cite evidence in their writings, Jones said. Teachers will focus on writing in their own professional development. In addition to the state tests, he said that educators are "strategically evaluating options to help students with the ACT." They have discussed mentoring and tutoring opportunities, possibly two to three times per month.
Nearly 80 percent of eligible students are taking the ACT, Jones said. The remainder have waivers, because they plan to enter the military or work force.

Empower staff, students

Jones' goal is to create a positive working experience that allows staff members to utilize their strengths. "Each day is an opportunity for us to grow and challenge students and staff members." He plans to build relationships with staff, challenge them to reach new heights and coach them along the way. "Relationships are important as we begin this journey together. I'll be listening, observing and watching. I'll be visible. I'll listen to their concerns, ideas and suggestions. I'll support their needs. In short, I'll be a servant leader." Jones has challenged staff to be "positive fuel" for students and "radiate with positive energy." He also encouraged them to be "be consistent and visible," in addition to being "communicators" and "great listeners."


The administrator has empowered teachers in their classrooms, so they can "empower students, in turn, to make decisions that will enable them to grow socially, emotionally and academically." He sees it as a step toward meeting one of his favorite maxims: "Be better today than we were yesterday." As Heritage High makes strides toward this goal, Jones said it will communicate these successes to the community. Staff has discussed posting information at athletic events and sharing information on PlanetHS and social media.


Educators are also committed to positively impacting the community, Jones said. They further hope to increase the number of service learning projects in the future.
As Heritage High moves toward this goal, he said that it is gathering community input. "We want businesses and parents to give us feedback. We want to hear what everybody has to say and listen to their concerns. We'll make changes if it will benefit our students."

By Matthew Stewart-The Daily Times