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Creating connections keeps kids in class

When John Wollersheim took over earlier this year as principal at Rosemount High School he wanted to make a good thing even better.

So far, so good. In a letter sent to parents Dec. 1, Wollersheim said tardies, absences and referrals for bad behavior are all down through the first trimester.

In faculty meetings before the start of the school year RHS staff told Wollersheim they wanted to improve the feeling of community at the school and develop closer connections between students and staff. It's a goal that fit well with superintendent John Currie's school year-opening call to build relationships at district schools.

RHS continued its tradition of sending incoming ninth graders to an off-campus respect retreat early in the school year, but the school also held full-class meetings with sophomores, juniors and seniors to encourage them to take responsibility for what happens in their school.

"(We said), 'This is your school. You guys set the tone,'" Wollersheim said. "We've always felt we had a good climate but (we want) to make a good climate even better."

Teachers met students when they got off the bus on the first day of school, the first time RHS has done that. And Wollersheim makes regular announcements over the school's public address system, encouraging students to finish the week, month or trimester strong.

Wollersheim has encouraged teachers to be available to their students before and after school, and to spend more time in the halls so students can see them outside of class.

So far, the results are encouraging. Through the first trimester, which ended last week, tardies are down 26 percent from last year, absences are down 13 percent and referrals for inappropriate behavior are down 38 percent.

There's hardly enough evidence to say the school's efforts at community building are the only cause for the improvement, but Wollersheim likes what he sees. At an end-of-term meeting he encouraged faculty to increase their efforts.

"Those are pretty good numbers," Wollersheim said. "I've always thought this place has a really good atmosphere but I think this year is off to a good start. There have been parents and students and teachers who have commented that there is a good feeling to the school this year."