‘Fly As One’

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Photo by Hannah Garrett

Unity, culture, “Fly As One.” These three ideas create the direction SHS is headed towards. Two years ago, Brian Knight became principal of SHS. Since then Knight changed different aspects throughout our school. One major change promoted last year was changing our mission statement to “Southport High School serves our diverse community by developing independent thinkers who excel in an ever-changing world.”

With the new mission statement, the staff developed a new set of core values that were then taken to Knight’s student leadership group, who he meets with monthly, and defined what those behaviors would look like. By doing this, it helped make the expectations clearer on what was expected out of the school.

“It’s a process to hopefully kind of improve the character side of our school as opposed to just worrying about the academic side,” Knight said.

All staff members received a Culture Playbook at the beginning of this school year that provides teachers with a clearer understanding of beliefs, behaviors and outcomes that SHS is trying to achieve through the mission statement and core values.

In the playbook, it lists and explains that the core values are integrity, perseverance, service, sense of community, social conscience and responsibility for growth. Knight hopes that by giving teachers a better understanding it will give the students a more positive experience in the classroom.

“If I have 107 teachers not quite sure about what we’re trying to accomplish, then I have 107 people going in 107 different directions,” Knight said. “That creates frustration for students.”

Knight isn’t the only one inspired to make changes this year. Math teacher Ethan Coffman approached Knight with new ideas for freshman orientation. Knight then told him that some ideas were already being considered. Both Knight and Coffman wanted students to have a more positive experience with their first time in the building.

“I think everybody wanted a change,” Coffman said. “I just think we all kind of got to a point where it was a team effort and said we really need to revamp this and we really need to look at what’s best for kids.”

This year, freshman orientation was reconstructed to help this experience happen. To help with this, Coffman and Student Council sponsor Joseph Leonard sought out student leaders to form a group known as Cardinal Compass. This group, which is composed of juniors and seniors, led the freshman orientation by hyping up the school, introducing themselves and assisting the counselors with handing out schedules. Once drop off time ended, everyone participated in a whole group activity and were then broken up into smaller groups consisting of 3 student leaders and 25 freshmen.

In these small groups, students did different team-building activities such as completing a breakout box and doing an icebreaker before taking a tour of the school. Students were then provided with dinner in the cafeteria before they met up with their parents and had the opportunity to discover clubs and sports who were advertising themselves in the main hallway that night.

“In watching it for two years, (it was) kind of a really boring way to bring freshman into the building,” Knight said. “So we wanted to create an experience.”

Another change implemented this year were knew iPass classes. These classes are now separated by grade level and last name with certain activities separated into their own class. Although student iPass classes will be geared towards different goals, they will all learn about the school’s core values.

Each grade level was separated so that the upperclassmen can get information on how to be successful after high school and the underclassmen can get information on how to be successful in high school, according to Knight.

“If we say these are our values and this is what we believe in then we’ve got to find times that we can teach what those really mean,” Knight said.

The last change Knight hopes to implement is to boost student attendance at school events. He plans to do this by using social media and getting the word out sooner. Knight believes that the students who are cheering on their peers, whether it’s at a choir concert or a football game, are just as important as those who are performing.

Coffman, along with Knight, wants students to enjoy their time here at SHS. They both hope that students will be able to create a positive experience.

“We hope to create that atmosphere around the school of ‘I’m doing better because even though I have to be here at 7:10 in the morning… I enjoy coming to school (and) I enjoy being part of Southport,’” Knight said.

The Booster Club also hopes to get more students involved by promoting different events taking place around the school such as games or concerts. They hope that if more students know what is going on then they will be more likely to attend.

They plan to help spread the word by using social media and videos that they make. Their goal for this year is for everyone to feel included and to “Fly As One.”

“As a school, we should come together (and) conquer as one…,” senior and Booster Club member Payton Frye said. “I feel like we’re most powerful when we’re together.”

Along with these changes, there are different student opinions regarding the changes that have brought up discussion. One student, junior class Vice President Meghan Mendel finds some of these differences, like the new freshman orientation, appealing. She believes that it will give freshman more experience with the school and a better understanding of where things are located compared to in years past.

Mendel also believes that iPass is more organized this year and that it gives several benefits to students. She thinks that it’s beneficial because it gets students more involved and allows them to meet new people.

“(Students are) kind of more involved with their own class…,” Mendel said. “You kind of already know most of the people in your class, but then you get (the chance) to know other people.”

However, not all students agree with the changes that have been made. Senior Jordan Cox believes that splitting iPass up by grade level defeats the purpose of the culture change that is taking place in the school.

Cox believes that if iPass continued to stay the way it has been in the past, randomly assigned, new friendships would continue to blossom compared to this year. This year she believes that students are more likely to be in iPass with other students they already know, so there wouldn’t be as much of a chance for upperclassmen and underclassmen to create friendships.

“I don’t necessarily think that the class iPasses are horrible because you’re more likely to be with your friends,” Cox said. “But you can make more friends, most likely, if you are in an all together iPass.”

Overall, SHS wants to set students up for success, according to Coffman. Studies show that students who get Ds and Fs their freshman and sophomore year will continue to do so in their junior and senior year.

Coffman is hoping that if they can intervene and help students when they first come into high school, it will have an effect on higher graduation rates, better academic success and will allow students to be better people when they walk out the doors for the last time.

“You got one chance to live right,” Coffman said. “You got one life. So, we want to make this experience great and we want to grow kids. Grow kids as people, as humans, first and academics a close second.”