School bells and dusty chalkboards are almost relics in today's school setting. Yet, however technology impacts education, the human element is still a vital resource in fostering a learning culture.
As school administrators look for ways to promote success for more learners, the focus is on what will work in their school environment. Principal Peter Sullivan of Lisle High School is confident a new position in his school will be a vital resource.
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When Lisle High School opens its doors Monday, Aug. 22, for the new school year, among the changes its approximately 575 students will find is an interventionist specialist known as the "problem solving coach."
"We looked at other high schools and took that knowledge in considering the specific needs of our high school in developing this position at our school," Sullivan said.
To fill the new faculty job, Sullivan did not have to look farther than his own teachers.
"We needed someone with a wide range of talents and skills and were excited to have found that in the person of Jen Pomatto," Sullivan said.
Since 1998, Pomatto has taught math at the high school. With her strengths in comprehending data analysis, she has the ability to lead the faculty to mine data for better understanding in what has been successful and what can be done to increase success for low-achieving students.
The new position also will facilitate problem solving discussions and identify ways to promote greater success for all students. Although most teachers have and use coaching and mentoring skills in their classrooms, Pomatto will help the staff increase their understanding of students who don't find success and then provide some intervention to get them back on track.
In the past, Pomatto coordinated the high school's student mentoring programs in which a staff member is paired with a student who's experiencing some challenges to their success. She demonstrated through that program the ability to build quality relationships with faculty and students and will continue in that effort.
"We will examine what we do for all our students as well as groups of students for whom we can do some specific things to promote their ability to succeed within our school," Sullivan said.
The problem solving coach will coordinate a new interventional study hall program, wherein students having academic problems are given focused attention to get them back to a level of success within the classroom environment.
Pomatto will capitalize on her organizational and team-building skills to coordinate programs with both teachers and students. She will continue in her role as the school's varsity softball head coach, which saw the team place at the state level earlier this year.
"Jen has had a tremendous success as a coach, and will draw upon those same skills in this new role," Sullivan said.
The goal is to create a culture in which all students can grow and learn as the needs of each individual student are met.
"One of the terms you hear a lot in educational circles is RTI, or Response to Intervention," Sullivan said. "In layman terms, it basically is a mandate to identify students who are not finding success and develop interventions that can promote their ability to find success within our schools."
Pomatto will be an important resource in the school's efforts. Her leadership team will focus on RTI to analyze student achievement, then identify patterns and define clear steps teachers may take.
Looking at the total curriculum, changes already implemented, starting with the new school term, include merging a freshman reading program and English 9 class that will allow more time to make sure each student has those skills in reading and English that are important to their success.
The school also eliminated an entry level applied math class and will offer an AP language class to seniors. The goal is to identify the needs of students and not allow anyone to fall through the cracks.
With a firm belief that an ounce of prevention is well worth the effort, enthusiastic educators continually review and make changes to ensure their students' academic and personal success.
"Our district has excelled in the social, emotional and academic areas," Sullivan said. "We make sure there is at least one additional adult in the building invested in the success of each student. As a small school, we are proud of our ability to develop and build relationships with our students."
With a team approach, Pomatto will facilitate essential changes and implementation. Her first year in the position will include identifying steps to reach within the next few years.
"This position demonstrates a commitment on the part of the district to finding ways to promote success," Sullivan said. "We are proud of what we've accomplished and look forward collectively to meet the needs of all of our students here at Lisle High School."
Fostering successful students who feel valued in a positive school environment sounds like a wise investment for an entire community.
• Joan Broz writes about Lisle.