Danville High School worked hard to craft its strategic vision over the summer and the past several months, and it’s composed of four main points of focus. The school’s mantra, which is “Cultivate Potential. Empower Students. Inspire Excellence” reflects these four areas.
“We felt like through this, if we dedicated our resources to these four areas, we would really, really benefit, and it would make Danville the best school that it possibly could be,” said Principal Chad Luhman.
Full implementation of the vision is expected to take two five years, but many aspects of the vision have already been implemented or are in progress.
Coming in as a relatively new administration, DHS administrators wanted to bring the school together. Department heads, veteran teachers and new teachers alike played a role in crafting the vision.
The DHS administration and staff were also inspired by work at other schools in the district — for example, the quality of Mary G. Hogsett Primary School’s rubrics; Edna L. Toliver Intermediate School’s cross-curricular collaboration, which helps students see educational topics as interconnected rather than separate; and John W. Bate Middle School’s multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), which helps staff meet students where they are instructionally.
The DHS strategic vision has four areas for growth and focus: student advocacy, executive functioning, coaching and feedback, and adaptive culture. Read a brief overview of each area below.
Strides already made for student advocacy this year are the revitalization of student council, the summer program Admiral Leadership Academy, and Intersession, which just happened after winter break and focused on building real-world skills and allowed students to have a voice in what they learned, even leading some instruction themselves.
One huge area of focus is dual enrollment opportunities. DHS already has dual enrollment opportunities through the University of Kentucky and Bluegrass Career and Technical College, with hopes to expand programs the school can offer.
Another thing the school is hoping to expand is student-led instruction and getting student input in what they would like to learn.
Executive functioning is related to students’ decision-making, thinking and brain growth.
Under DHS’s strategic vision, some goals are to restart the Danville Diploma, which outlines what competencies come with a diploma from Danville Schools.
Another large focus is on social-emotional learning. Assistant Principal Tomma Huguely, for example, has played a role establishing a mentorship program for students who need more individualized instruction.
Additionally, looking at trends of student behavior and addressing unwanted behavior, there will be more of a focus on restorative practices, which emphasizes self-accountability and practicing empathy.
The school and guidance office also prioritizes having students’ passions drive their curriculum. For example, DHS has an aerospace program with four students in it, and two students are solo flyers. One of them flew from Danville to Richmond.
One way to gauge students’ passions is through Xello, a program focused on college and career readiness. Students have individual learning plans, can take career quizzes, and log experiences such as capstones, community service and leadership experiences. The program also helps them build a resume based on their information, which they can use when entering college or the workforce.
“We’re really working to make sure that our students are leaving us with artifacts that are going to be beneficial for them in the job market or their college experiences,” said Instructional Specialist Shelby Cameron.
Coaching and feedback
Within the coaching and feedback piece, there is a large focus on mastery-based grading. The school is making a movement to mastery-based grading next year, the goal of which is to promote deeper learning, which focuses on authentic and real-world experiences.
Luhman said one facet of the coaching and feedback piece is through teachers learning from each other and collaborating on projects for their classes and a focus on writing better rubrics.
The school’s literacy plan also falls under coaching and feedback, he said. The literacy plan is simple — students will read something that relates to topics in each class, discuss as a class and then will complete writing assignments.
“That’s the reason we’re going to become better writers at Danville High School, and that’s our focus,” he said.
Huguely said an emphasis when thinking about the culture of the school and the students is to celebrate students and staff whenever possible.
“We are really trying to influence the way we treat each other, the way we feel about each other, and we’re trying to change culture, so a lot of that is around celebrating things we’ve done well,” he said. “And it doesn’t mean ignoring things we need to grow in, but we are absolutely trying to celebrate our kids and teachers.”
Cross-curricular collaboration is also a piece of the adaptive culture focus. Through language arts and science teachers pairing up during instruction, for example, students can see how different subjects intersect, promoting real-world connections.
Cameron said teachers do professional learning communities (PLCs) regularly so they can collaborate to create better instruction. They even have some of these meetings at local community organizations, like CentreWorks.
One thing DHS will need to be ready for is a growing English Learner (EL) population in the school district. Luhman said the school wants to make sure it’s adapting. A couple of ways it’s doing that is through a partnership with the Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative and with Centre College to make sure systems are in place to meet students’ needs.
For example, DHS and the district are partnering with college students at Centre who are studying Spanish. They’re doing translations, helping with rubrics and tests, and providing other help.
“This partnership is really beneficial for all parties and feels like a really good use of resources, and in a small district like this and community like this, we have to lean on each other,” Cameron said.
Cameron emphasized that DHS and the district are open to partnering with community organizations however and as often as possible if they want to help students.
Another focus is on freshman readiness metrics. When students transition from eighth grade to DHS, DHS wants to know their readiness in order to help them along and make sure they are ready for dual enrollment opportunities later in high school, which have grade-point average (GPA) requirements in order to take them.
Luhman said the school has a huge emphasis on transition-readiness, not only on ACT scores, dual enrollment and Advanced Placement (AP) classes, but also encouraging students to earn certificates, recognitions like the Seal of Arts Excellence, and putting them through CTE pathways.
“Our transition-readiness indicator this year shot up by about 30 points through the work with the CTE pathways and being intentional with our students’ careers — it’s showing in the way our students are prepared,” Cameron said.
The school always has a growth mindset when it comes to adaptive culture and more generally, Huguely said.
“It’s a growth mindset within this arena,” he said. “If we’re not doing it well, we want to know how we’re not doing it well, why we’re not doing it well, and how we can do it better, and let’s go do it. Whatever it takes for our students to be better.”
- Danville Independent Schools
- deeper learning
- dual enrollment
- strategic vision