Enhanced computer systems at Payson High School have made students more trackable this year as the school’s new administration seeks to bolster security.
New Principal Kathe Ketchem and Assistant Principal Anna Van Zile have instituted new rules requiring identification cards and issuing hallway passes. Another change involved increasing communication through Edline, a Web-based system where teachers and parents can send one another messages. The administrators also expanded the use of a separate computer discipline tracking system to include it in issuing hallway passes.
Ketchem and Van Zile took over the high school this year after the school board eliminated former Principal Roy Sandoval’s position, and did not renew Assistant Principal Tim Fruth’s contract. The board also eliminated the position of Assistant Principal Jason Lobik.
This year, Ketchem heads both PHS and the alternative school, Payson Center For Success.
As a first step, Ketchem said she met with every teacher last spring to identify areas of concern and begin developing goals for the coming year.
Van Zile, a former English teacher at the high school, already had an idea of what changes she wanted. As an example, she’s working on developing a Parent Teacher Association at the high school.
Historically, the district has agonized over the high school campus’ gaping holes — with multiple buildings and no barrier to keep students in or predators out. Administrators had no way of retaining wandering students.
With the completion of the new fence, students must now flash identification cards to staffers who man the gates around lunch time. To leave, a student must have a vertical stripe on his card. Freshmen, required to lunch on campus, have horizontal bands on their cards.
Students initially resisted the new lunchtime routine, but Van Zile said they have grown accustomed to the new rule.
Additions to an electronic discipline system have also made it easier for teachers to access information.
The high school has always used an electronic discipline system in which teachers typed in a defiant student’s name and transgression so an administrator could dole out punishment such as detention.
However, the program’s information was limited. For example, teachers couldn’t track the referral’s outcome.
Also this year, a lost position resulted in the end of an in-school punishment program called Taking Responsibility Classroom, leaving teachers with more responsibility and fewer options for dealing with disruptive students.
“We had to become more creative with what we were doing,” said Van Zile. She contacted the program’s developer to see if he could add the ability to issue passes — such as hallway and bathroom passes — through the program.
Previously, teachers wrote notes into the handbooks students carry if they needed a pass somewhere. However, the plan had holes. What if a student forgot his handbook or a teacher didn’t write a note?
“You have students who will abuse the pass privilege,” said Van Zile. If a student left class first period, second period and then third period, sometimes the teacher wouldn’t know.
Now, teachers write electronic notes under the student’s name in the system and teachers during later periods can view how often a student has left the classroom.
“They are more reluctant to ask for a pass,” said Van Zile.
Ketchem added, “They’re in class where they are supposed to be.”
Ketchem credits the new electronic checker system with corralling the kids. “This campus,” she started before Van Zile finished the sentence with, “is almost a ghost town.”
Now, teachers can see the outcomes of any referrals they made, which they couldn’t do before. Teachers can also view a particular student’s infraction history.
In an added security benefit, the adults on campus always know where the kids are.
In other technology advances, the new high school administration has strived to increase communication with parents via Edline. Through the computer program, parents can track a student’s attendance and grades.