Showing posts with label Bossier High. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bossier High. Show all posts

Thursday, May 8, 2014

An Open Letter To Hal Braswell

Dear Mr. Braswell,

It was with great sadness and concern that I read your recent article in the Bossier Press Tribune entitled "The Future of Bossier High."  As I read, I could not help but wonder how long it has been since you toured our facility.  Can you tell me when, exactly, was the last time you came to visit us?

Were you at our recent Senior Awards Assembly where many of our graduating seniors were awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to schools all across the nation?

Were you at Jalen Oliver's signing ceremony when our champion wrestler signed with Bacone University?

Did you meet our principal, David Thrash, during your visit?  Surely if you took a tour of the campus as your article seems to indicate ("..."Bossier High School is sitting half empty.") you met Mr. Thrash.  You'd remember him.

In case you can't recall the details of your visit, let me refresh your memory.  After all, the thesis of your article is that Bossier High is doomed; the numbers likely aren't there to support the continued operation of the school.  That's what kids are to people like you and the demographers:  numbers.  I can understand that to a point -- the MFP funds schools based on numbers and student population.  But certainly an experienced reporter such as yourself knows that kids are more than numbers and you did your research which would include a site visit.

But let's tour the school together, virtually, shall we?

As you drive into our campus that building to your left is the gym.  Have you ever been to a basketball game there?  Maybe you couldn't find a place to sit because it is pretty crowded.  During the playoffs it's even more crowded.  Our boys have dominated high school basketball (in both 4A and again when we dropped to 3A);  they have made the playoffs every year since I've been a teacher there and I came to BHS in 2001.  Those kids are champions!

Did you see that playoff game this season where Devonte Hall played with the flu, fell to the floor at the end of the game, had to be helped off, but still hit a scoring record?  Talk about heart!  You may have heard that
Devonte signed with Northwestern a couple of weeks ago to play for them in college.

Our girls basketball team hit the playoffs at least eight years in a row.  Champions!

As you drive through our campus, Mr. Braswell, please notice how beautiful it is.  One of our teachers and her class planted the flowers around the light posts in our parking lot, and through the years have landscaped and planted various beds around the campus.  The roses along the front breezeway are beautiful this time of year.  Please notice how clean the campus is.  It's also clean at the end of the day because our kids don't want trash messing up their campus.

Our custodians are the hardest working folks in the parish.  When I get to school at 6:50 every day they are out there picking up trash so the campus is clean when the kids come.  You'll see that about our custodians when you enter the building, too, because those floors are buffed up and literally shine like glass.  There may be some peeling paint here and there but the campus is spotless.

When you come on campus be sure and stop by Mr. Thrash's office.  I'm sure he'd love to take you on a tour.  He can show you our ten computer labs (some of which are taking up space in those "empty" classrooms, right?);  we're very proud of our computer labs because so much standardized testing is done on computer now-a-days, and at Bossier High we like for our students to have access to the

best technology we can muster.  We have many teachers that have received rather large grants for technology and other materials.  If you look at our home page you will see that math teacher Marco Reyes won grants totaling over $3,600 and science teacher Amy Washington also has received a couple of very generous grants, just to name two.

Oh, and I guess you heard about that huge Department of Defense grant Bossier High just received from NMSI to help foster and support AP classes next year!  Great news, isn't it!  Our kids are very excited about the AP classes and I know personally that the English department classes filled up as soon as they were announced.  We will have AP in math, science, and American History also.

At any rate, be sure to enjoy your tour with Mr. Thrash; he's an excellent principal and I wish I had several days to tell you the many ways that he mentors and helps our students.  With all due respect, you can't even fathom what he deals with each day.  Yet he does it all with a grin and a hug for every single kid on campus. I've seen him pull a dollar out of his pocket for a kid who needs lunch and I've seen him drive a kid home from school when he missed the bus.

Be sure to go by the library on your tour; you'll notice more computers out there, of course.  The library is really the hub of the school.  In most schools I guess you would consider the office to be the center of activity but at our school it's the library.  That's because our librarian wears multiple hats as both librarian and senior class sponsor.  We call her The Oracle.  She and her team run not only the library but also prom and graduation.  Did you know that at Bossier High we have a tradition at graduation:  our teachers write personal notes of congratulations to the seniors and the librarian slips the notes into their diploma packets for graduation.  I can't begin to tell you how many kids have been touched  by those notes of love and encouragement.

If you hit the campus at lunch time you'll find our cafeteria full of kids and the food lines long.  Our cafeteria workers know every kid by name -- they aren't just numbers to them.  We have picnic tables outdoors and they stay full, too.   You will see our student population is incredibly diverse.  We have neighborhood kids and Barksdale kids.  Our kids are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and pretty much any ethnic mix you'd like to name.  Did you see the article in your own newspaper about our Alumni scholarship recipients?  You couldn't have a wider diversity there.  But you know what the beautiful thing is?  There really are no cliques at our school.  If you ask any one of them to tell you their favorite thing about Bossier High School a very large percentage of them will tell you that we all get along.  We are a family.

You see Mr. Braswell, that's one of the things your numbers and your demographic reports will not show you.  Our kids get along with each other and they look out for each other.  They help each other.  And they stick together.  For some, it's about the only family they have. There may be band kids, athletes, the "smart" kids, the special education kids, the average doesn't matter.  They stick together and look out for each other.  I've never seen anything like it and I have worked elsewhere.

Continuing with your tour, Mr. Braswell, be sure and check out our ROTC building where our ROTC instructors hold their students to the highest standards.  They work with our kids with after school archery practice and many other activities.  They take an end of the year field trip, usually, which offers these kids opportunities they may never have otherwise.

Of course you'll want to stop by the football stadium: you can't miss it on your way out.  The record of domination in Bearkat football is legendary.  Not every year is a winning year, but our kids play with heart.  They give it everything they've got.  Be sure and check out the new $200,000 weight room while you're
over there.  It's first class!  And the field house:  you see that Bearkat ripping through the wall?  Our athletic director's wife painted that one summer.  Pretty cool, I think.

I'm starting to run rather long here, Mr. Braswell, so I'll wrap this up.  I haven't even begun to tell you all the great things that happen at 777 Bearkat Drive each day.  I didn't tell you about the Family and Consumer Science department where they've completed projects making blankets for infants, the homeless, and flags for soldiers; they've made dresses from newspapers and quilts from t-shirts.  I didn't tell you about our awesome band and choir.  I didn't mention our Young Authors district level winners and our State Academic Rally winners.

In closing, I will share with you one of the proudest moments (there are so many...) I had early this year.  During lunch one day I was working in my classroom when I heard the rhythmic cadence of the drum line as they marched (in 100 degree heat mind you - it was probably late August or September) to the lunch common area where they spontaneously began to play.  Soon other band members saw them and dashed to the band room for their instruments.  Before long we had a spontaneous pep rally on our hands and the rest
of the students circled around and cheered.  The flag line even joined in.  I hate that you missed that!  You'd have seen our English I teacher, Mrs. Gunn, (aka Beyonce) out there dancing with the leader of the flag line.

But you know what really touched me about that day (and that scene was repeated for several weeks to come).  As I looked out my second story window and listened to the music, I saw one child standing alone, off to the side.  This child is autistic and pretty much non-verbal.  At a lot of schools a kid like that might be shunned, avoided, or even bullied.  Not at Bossier High School.  As the band played their song this student paced and walked circles around the flagpole, very excited, head bobbing and fist pumping, loving the music and the beat.  Before long, other kids joined around this student, including this kid in their dancing.  He grinned and fell right in with them; he might not have been verbal but he knew what love was.  And it was a joy to see.  I mean, it warmed my heart in a
way I can't even describe.  At that moment I felt a love for my school that transcended everything else.

You see, Mr. Braswell, again, these are things that a demographer's report will never show you.  Bossier High might be small in enrollment compared to some other schools.  But research shows that for a school with demographics like ours a smaller population is ideal for these students.   As I mentioned in my blog post last weekend which addressed your article, some of our kids struggle against circumstances that would buckle the strongest adult.  But they keep showing up every day, ready to learn, ready for help, ready to improve.  Don't ever tell them that Bossier Parish is going to abandon them too because I can tell you, the teachers and administrators at Bossier High School are there for the long haul.  We are in it to win it and we are never, ever going to give up on these kids.

Come visit our school, Mr. Braswell.    Come met our students.


Pat Becker
English II, IV, and Creative Writing
Sophomore Class Co-Sponsor

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Big News for Bossier High

As alluded to earlier this week, here is the press release regarding a huge DoD grant for two Bossier Parish schools:

Bossier Schools to Expand AP Program at Military Connected Schools 
Bossier Schools has become the first district in Louisiana to be chosen by the National Math and Science Initiative to receive a $919,618 grant to expand the Advanced Placement (AP) program at two military connected schools; Bossier High and Parkway. 
The grant, made possible by the Department of Defense Educational Activity Fund, will serve as the catalyst for NMSI’s College Readiness Program, which includes open enrollment in rigorous AP math, science and English classes for all eligible students at Bossier and Parkway, whether military dependents or not. 
By giving students the opportunity to take college-level courses and master the material by equipping them with needed resources, they gain not only college credit but are also more likely to succeed in college. The NMSI College Readiness Program has proven to be transformative, both in closing achievement gaps and fostering increased interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines. 
In addition, the NMSI program provides training and support not only for educators at Bossier and Parkway High, but also their feeder schools to create a pipeline that prepares students for the rigor of AP course work. Another facet to the grant is financial incentives are awarded to teachers, students, administrators and schools for measurable achievement. 
“We are honored and very excited that the National Math & Science Initiative has selected Bossier and Parkway High Schools to participate in this unique opportunity,” said Bossier Schools Superintendent D.C. Machen. “This collaboration will not only provide the venue for each of these schools to dramatically increase the number of students pursuing Advance Placement Courses and achieve the highest rankings on their accompanying AP Exams, but will provide enhanced training, resources, and initiatives to improve the quality of instruction for a large pool of educators within our system. We appreciate the on-going partnership the Bossier Parish School system has maintained throughout the years with Barksdale Air Force Base and their assistance in helping us to receive this grant.” 
Gregg Fleisher, NMSI Chief Academic Officer, added “NMSI’s College Readiness Program has been proven to increase students’ chances of a college degree in STEM related fields, and we couldn’t be more pleased to support Barksdale Air Force Base and the Bossier and Parkway communities.” 
You can read more about NMSI grants here.

Very exciting news!

Close the doors?   Not even close!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The REAL Future of Bossier High School

Bossier Press Tribune reporter Hal Braswell needs an education.  I don’t mean a formal education – he received his formal education in Illinois and in Mississippi.  Mr. Braswell, who lives in Minden and has worked for the Bossier Press Tribune since 2007, needs to come to Bossier High School and see what we do every day. 

Mr. Braswell published an article in the Bossier Press that has ignited a firestorm on Facebook this weekend.  His article, “The Future of Bossier High,” reports on an upcoming demographic report about projected enrollment numbers for Bossier High School.

I’d link to the article, but as of this writing, the Bossier Tribune’s site is still down – it crashed sometime yesterday. Karma?

The article says:
“A demographer’s report being finalized for the Bossier Parish School Board will project student enrollment from 2014 to 2014 and could provide a glimpse into the future.”
Mr. Braswell goes on to report what we all know:  Bossier City is growing outward, north, south, and east.  New schools have been approved and built in those areas; Legacy and Parkway are both shiny, new schools that help accommodate those populations.  Mr. Braswell also reports that Bossier Parish’s two largest high schools, Airline and Parkway, are both scheduled for big money enhancements that the voters approved in 2012:
“Airline High School, already the largest in Bossier Parish, is scheduled for a $22.65 million enhancement that will bump its capacity to 2,000 students. Parkway High School, only a few years removed from locating to an entirely new campus in south Bossier, is slated for a 12-classroom addition in Phase Two of the $210 million bond issue approved by voters in April 2012.”
This is all true and I have no objection with what Mr. Braswell reported up to this point.  It is in the next paragraph of his article that things start to get fuzzy: 
“At a time that millions of dollars are earmarked for expansion and other improvements at Airline High School and Parkway High School, figures provided by the school district show Bossier High School is sitting half empty.”
Mr. Braswell reports that the school has the capacity for 1,361 students.  Now, let’s pause there for a moment.  The school might have been built with that many classrooms in 1938 (the date the current campus was designed), but today some of those classrooms have been turned into computer labs to accommodate modern day
technology requirements and instruction.  We have at least four wired computer labs in the two main buildings as well as several mobile laptop labs, and the library has two computer labs.  There is also a mini-lab in the counselor's office area.  In all, we have about ten computer labs on campus.

Note also that last summer Bossier High received a major electrical upgrade from bond money approved by voters.  The school also has a $150,000 auditorium upgrade coming.  The auditorium at Bossier High is used for many parish functions including the annual parish musical, Lions Club functions, Bossier Council on Aging functions, and parish wide food service training annually to name a few.

Mr. Braswell’s statement that “Bossier High School is sitting half empty” is very misleading.  Tell that Geometry teacher with thirty-three kids in her classroom that her class is “half-empty” and see what happens.  There are no empty classrooms in Bossier High School, and I invite Mr. Braswell to come see what goes on in those classrooms.  I also invite any alumni, especially those on Facebook who are suggesting we lock the doors in 2017 and have a huge alumni party, (imagine!) to come see what we do at Bossier High School every single day.  Come embrace and support our hard work rather than give up on us.

I wonder if Mr. Braswell was at the Senior Awards Assembly last week.  Bossier High School students received thousands of dollars in scholarships to schools all over the country.  We also recognized students who are planning to go into the military after graduation.  The Bossier High School Alumni Association, in fact, gave several very generous scholarships at that assembly.  Our students are achieving great things which should be supported and celebrated.

We just completed Senior Project last week; our seniors (both semesters) have done incredible work with their projects and achieved things they never thought they could.  And I don’t mean just the physical project that each student did; many of these kids did these projects under incredible hardships that I can’t even begin to share. 

Part of Mr. Braswell’s thesis is that Bossier High School’s population is an inner-city, declining, poverty ridden population.  That is demographically true but it doesn’t take into account the personal aspect of our population.  These kids aren’t numbers.  They’re people.  They’re students, and they’re kids with heart, drive and pride.

Some suggest that we just blend these kids into Parkway (already with a population of about 1,200) and Airline (population about 1,700).  One of the comments I saw this weekend in the discussion about closing Bossier High School is that it’s a numbers and demographics issue, not an emotional one.  Well of course it’s an emotional issue.  I’m here to tell you that as a teacher at Bossier High School since 2001, I have personally seen kids who have had that “grass is greener” mentality; they’ll transfer to one of the bigger schools and then come right back.  They get swallowed up at those big schools.  It should also be noted that when the kids at Barksdale were given permission to leave Bossier High and attend another school in the parish if they wanted, almost all of them chose to remain at Bossier.  We continue to have a large population of Barksdale kids.

Many of our neighborhood students come from homes where they receive very little academic support.  In that respect, if we have “under capacity” classrooms, what that means is that in an English class of 25 students, many of whom need one on one assistance, it is possible to mentor and help those kids.  

Our school has a population that is 72% free/reduced lunch.  (Airline is 38% and Parkway 32%).  Who picks up that slack for these kids and functions as a family or mentor?  The teachers and administrators at Bossier High do; we love and mentor our students on a scale that other schools can’t fathom.  I have known faculty members that will pick kids up and take them to church if they want to go.  When a student is stressing out and crying because she doesn’t have $1.00 to buy page protectors for her senior project portfolio who do you think reached into her pocket and helped her?  When a student is sleeping through class because he’s had to work at night to keep the electricity on at the house (because both parents have left), who helps that student?  I could go on and on.

What I’m telling you is that there are great things that go on at Bossier High School; it is so much more than demographic numbers and projections.  You might say that education is a business and best use of taxpayer dollars must be adhered to, and that may be true.  But our mission statement at Bossier High School says it best: 
“The mission of Bossier High School, in partnership with parents and community, is to foster the development of an environment that will facilitate learning for all students, promote self-esteem and respect for others, and launch learners on a quest for high standards, all of which will lead them to be self-sufficient adults.”

It’s that part about “self-sufficient adults” that you taxpayers that want to close the doors need to pay attention to. 

One last note as we wait for the demographer’s report.  Rusheon Middle School, the main feeder for Bossier High, has its largest eighth grade class in recent years, leaving in May.  The majority of those kids will come to Bossier High School which will certainly boost enrollment there.  The numbers at Rusheon are big in the seventh grade as well which should also predict a large ninth grade population for Bossier in the next year.  In addition, there will be a big news conference this week where great news for Bossier High will be announced.  Watch for it. 

Mr. Braswell seems to have written our obituary at Bossier High and paid the undertaker, but it’s not over at 777 Bearkat Drive.  Not even close.  The best is yet to come!  Come embrace and celebrate what we are doing rather than giving up on us.  Locking the doors in 2017?  Are you KIDDING?!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The SIGIS Summer Begins

It's officially summer for me!  School closed yesterday at long last.  It's been a very long year, what with the implementation of Common Core, and a new teacher evaluation system which created a lot of stress for everyone.  My mom fell back in August and fractured her neck and I missed a week of school; she passed away in March and I missed four more days.  All in all, it was a stressful year.

Bring on summer!

I am ready.

I go back to work August 4 (Open House) and it will come all too soon.

We spent the day yesterday in class taking our Caesar final.  There is always a lot to do to close school, and the kids all checked out after their last final which left the afternoon pretty much open for us to get our paper work done and final grades recorded.  Before they left my last class of the day left messages for me on my whiteboard which just warmed my heart:

We had a really good semester in that class.

They were eager to learn, they all got along together, and they did every single thing I asked of them.  They really got into Julius Caesar!

I hated to erase the board, really.

Love those kids.  Really.

So now it's time for some rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.  Bring it on!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's a Generational Thing

This is what my Honors English II kids were playing in my 2nd block right before the bell rang to go home today:

And this is what I was hearing:

Must be a generational thing.

I'm going to miss those kids!

Bring on summer!

That's a Wrap

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bearkat Pride Forever

It's graduation season and my school held their ceremony at 1:00 this afternoon.  I love this picture (left)  from The Shreveport Times gallery: it captures their glee!

I always feel like such a dope when I cry at graduation; it's actually happy time but I always cry a little!

Bossier Parish has got graduation down to a science at the Century Link Center.  They start at 9:30 with Airline and run through the alphabet, running each high school through there on a very tight schedule.  By the end of the day, Bossier Parish is filled with brand new graduates.  It's an assembly line.

We lined them up, checked their robes, helped boys with ties, collected cell phones, spit out gum, got the late arrivals dressed and in place, and at 1:00 on the dot we were rolling.   The faculty in attendance took seats on the side of the floor and the processional began.

I was fine until I saw one of my former students just bawling as she walked in.  All her hard work through the years flashed through my mind;  the struggles she's overcome, her personal story, the bonds she's made, and the love and support she received from this faculty, all hit me.  And she was just one of 109.  Their emotions are all over the place on graduation day, and I guess mine were, too.

It's a grand occasion and I've never been more proud of my school and my co-workers than I was today.  Our kids presented themselves beautifully, our student speakers gave wonderful speeches, our faculty and administration did a fine job in handing out just over 100 diplomas to new graduates.

I loved these two - holding hands as they walked in.

Bearkat pride, forever.

Proud of you, Bossier High graduates!  Congratulations!

Photo credit: Val Horvath, Shreveport Times

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rick Rowe Visits Bossier High

My school, lookin' good! So proud of our great kids!