Steele speaks to parents at high school
By Robin Scott
On Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m., a meeting for parents was held at Dalhart High School. The purpose for the meeting was to inform parents of high school students about necessary forms to get completed, the change to an eight period day and other changes, the dress and cell phone policies, and compliance with Title I.
Principal David Steele addressed the parents and students in attendance. He noted that he has been the principal at the high school for many years, and in the district long enough that there are former students who have gone off to college and are back with families of their own. Assistant Principal Denise Hutchison was also in attendance and assisted in answering questions at the conclusion of the meeting.
Steele stated that last year at this time the high school was just moving into the new building and everything was upside down. He commented, “This year it will be much smoother, and that’s what we are looking forward to. We have a great bunch of kids.” Steele’s fondness for the students in DISD was reflected when he spoke about his experience at a conference for principals held this summer in Phoenix. He noted, “To hear what some of those principals have to deal with where they are makes me extremely glad to live in Dalhart, Texas. Our biggest problem is getting kids to class on time, and that’s a nice problem to have.”
Steele went over the required forms that parents must have filled out for each student in attendance at DHS. He stated, “Sorry that it seems like we need you to sign your life away, but they are required.” Along with the required forms was a letter from DISD Superintendent David Foote.
A reminder to parents about student access to the Internet on campus was also given. Students using the Internet may not give their log on information to any other student, or attempt to bypass the system’s filters. Steele noted, “The firewalls are there for a reason. Please caution your children about the policies. They may not share their access information, bypass the system, or do anything that they are not allowed to do. If so, their access is denied for the year.”
Students are required to sign the Student Code of Conduct. All of the documents are on the Internet at www.dalhart.k12.tx.us.com, and Steele stated, “If parents need us to print those off, we can do that. We no longer print out the 50 page documents and have them sit around, we now save some trees, save some time, and it can be read online.”
One of the required forms states whether or not a student will stand during the “Pledge of Allegiance,” “Pledge to the Texas Flag,” and the minute of silence that occurs during second period. Another form informs parents and students of the random drug testing done on campus. Steele stated, “Any student involved in any extracurricular activity, or even to drive on campus, must submit to random drug testing. It is random by the student’s school I.D. number. We have had very little opposition to our policy on random drug testing. We have parents who even ask us to test their kids. I know I would want to know.”
Steele noted, “The big one that the students must sign is the cell phone and dress code policies.” The policy on the DHS campus is “Off and out of sight.” He commented, “If we see it, we take it. We are trying to decrease the amount of problems we have due to cell phones. We hang onto them until a parent comes in, and they must pay $15 to get the phone back.” The problem has been so great that last year the school confiscated almost $1,500 in cell phone fines. The money goes back into the school’s fund. Steele stated, “This year we are going to document it even better, and parents will have to sign a document to get the phone back as well.”
Steele noted that the biggest problem with cell phones is the ability to take videos and pictures. He reflected on an event last year and stated, “We had an activity take place last year in the gym. A scuffle took place, and I could see it on our closed circuit TV system. Kids were taking their cell phones out of their pockets to video tape the scuffle.” He advises, “Remember, don’t use the cell phones right after school and not in the educational wing because of tutorials and 9th period.” He asks students to wait until they are out of that wing or the school before turning their phones on.
Steele also wanted to clarify the dress code policy and noted that an article in the newspaper addressed a few changes in the policy. He stated, “It isn’t significant, but clarified. Holes in the pants have gotten out of control, so the policy has been changed to state that no holes or fraying above the knees is acceptable, and that’s with or without leggings.” He also commented on another problem, “Too much cleavage is shown by the ladies, and cracks when pants are too low. Cleavage and cracks. They are both a problem.”
Steele urged parents to help with the problems with violations of the dress code policy. He stated, “What we need from the parents is support from you when we have to deal with your child. We are losing too much time for kids out of the classroom due to dress code violations.” In an effort to curtail the dress code problem, Steele noted, “We have purchased some sweat pants and t-shirts for kids who are dressed inappropriately. They won’t need to call their parents. Parents get angry when they have to come up here and bring a change of clothes for their child, so we have figured out a way for that to end.” He reiterated, “We need kids in the classroom and not sitting in the office. At the end of the day, kids can bring those items back and pick up their own clothes.”
Many students and parents have complained about the “no fraying” policy. Steele stated, “We say no fraying because there is no place to draw the line between fraying and holes, and fraying becomes a hole. But we are willing to modify that to say no fraying or holes above the knee.” He further stated, “I understand, I have a daughter of my own. I buy pants without holes in them.” He also reminded parents that the DHS code is very similar to other area schools. He noted, “We live in the conservative panhandle of Texas, and we expect our kids to dress in an acceptable fashion.”
Steele reminded parents about the school’s policy that no student may carry medication on them or administer their own medication. He stated, “Remember our kids may not carry any medication on them at all, and any they need to take must be dispensed through the nurse’s office.” He noted that the one exception is an asthma puffer, but the paper work must still get completed for that as well. He also stated, “We have a drug dog on campus every month, and the dog hits on even an aspirin. When we come into a classroom, we run the dog through the classroom. Students leave the classroom, but must leave all of the jackets and backpacks in the room.”
This year the student body is nearly 475 students. Steele stated that he doesn’t yet know all of the students, so in order to eliminate what he terms, “escapees at lunch,” the juniors and seniors that want to leave the campus for lunch must have their photo ID on them in order to exit the building. The school will provide the ID’s. Also, upper classmen may check out a younger sibling, but will have to sign that student out before leaving the campus. The kids that sign out will have to exit through the front door and a parent will have to sign up in the front office before an older student may check out a younger sibling.
Each family is urged to fill out the free and reduced-price lunch form even if there is no eligibility because Steele stated, “It dictates our Title I funding, and the more students that fill it out and sign up, the more money we receive” He noted, “You may not think you qualify, but you might. The more Federal dollars we can get, the less we have to worry about our local dollars. Also, we want to provide our kids with everything they need.”
Students are also encouraged to join a club or organization, and a handout on the clubs, organizations and student activities that are available for students is provided online. Steele stated, “One of the most important areas that signal success in students is involvement in activities because they must keep their grades up to stay in that activity. Students that do not participate have a higher rate of failure. Involvement adds to the potential for success in the classroom.”
Parents were also provided a handout with the new bell schedule. Steele noted, “The most glaring difference is we are ringing our first bell at 7:55 a.m. and the first class will start at 8:00 o’clock a.m. We have changed to a standard eight period day with a 9th period option.” The purpose for the change is new requirements by the state of Texas. The state has added one math and one science to graduation requirements. Juniors, sophomores and freshman must have four credits of each in math, science, social studies and English, it is called a “four by four.” That means that students in a seven period day only have two credits for electives. By adding an 8th period, students won’t have to choose between athletics and band, but will earn 32 credits. That gives them six elective credits.
Steele noted that the added 9th period is for students who fail a class. He stated, “If they fail, they will be mandated to 9th period. 9th period is designed for credit recovery. Rather than spend 178 days back in that class, we are going to put them in 9th period on a computer-designed course to regain that credit. The computer designs a test to find out their weaknesses, then tests them. So instead of 178 days taking a class all over again, they may spend 30 days in 9th period and pass that class.” He stressed that if a student fails completely, they will have to retake the whole class. The 9th period is more for the student who came close to passing. Steele stated, “I’m going to tell the kids next week that school is over at 4:00 p.m. Students who get their work done and are passing get out after 8th period, but if not, they will stay until 4:00 p.m. And we need parents to support this. I don’t care about them needing to go to work after school, I care about them passing the class.”
Steele talked about the new flex calendar which reserves the last nine days of school for students who have not passed all of their classes, or have not passed the TAKS, or have attendance problems. Those students will remain in school for nine days after the rest of the students get dismissed for the summer. He noted, “That should be incentive for students to take care of business.”
Another change at DHS this school year is the requirement that all students take semester tests. Steele asked for the change approximately seven or eight years ago, but it wasn’t adopted until this year. His reason was, “Your children have got to learn how to take a comprehensive semester test, or we are hurting them in college. So it is my fault and my idea.”
Students may have nine absences and not be in violation of state policy. Getting out nine days earlier is not affected by a student who is in compliance with attendance. He stated that the semester tests will be taken before the nine flex days begin. The policy on what is an excused absence has not changed. Steele did remind parents, “Most of our funding is on ADA, Average Daily Attendance. If they aren’t here, we’re not getting paid, and it’s about $40 per day per student, that’s a lot of money, and if we don’t get it, we can’t buy supplies for students.” He noted that second period is the attendance period. He encouraged parents needing to schedule appointments for their children to wait until later in the day.
Steele stated, “I’m excited about the flex schedule. It will be a great big incentive for freshman and sophomores to pass the TAKS. In the past they have thought they don’t need to pass until they are a junior, but if they want out of school on those nine days, they do have to pass the TAKS.“
Another exciting change is the switched from Frank Phillips College to Amarillo College for the dual credit classes. The cost will be much lower for students taking dual credit and they may begin taking those courses in their junior year. DHS also has three science teachers and one social studies teacher that took the Advanced Placement training this summer.
Steele noted, “I enjoy having parents come in and visit with us, so come in and see us and ask questions, or visit about your child. If your kids are having issues in the classroom, please start with the classroom teacher and come see me last. Try to work it out with the teacher first.” He noted that the best way to visit with the teacher is to call the office and schedule time during the teacher’s conference period.