District partners with city for student readiness, discusses GPA changes

by Martin McConnell

Oct. 18 board of education meeting

The Independence Board of Education partnered with the city of Independence to offer a program that helps students make connections with the wider world.

Norm Potter, owner of Structured Creativity Consulting, and Jessica Hyser, economic development director for the city of Independence, gave a presentation outlining ideas for high school student readiness for both college life, and life beyond school altogether. The plan included students shadowing businesses in the area.

“A lot of our kids, especially some of the disadvantaged kids, don’t have that opportunity, because their parents aren’t in ‘the circle,’” Potter said. “So if we can give kids those opportunities to network, it really does help bring them into the fold. And that’s something that you just can’t replace.”

Hyser noted that she and Potter have already started connecting with businesses in the area, in an attempt to get them acquainted with the school district. Specifically, she mentioned connecting with the CSA testing facility on Pleasant Valley Road about student shadowing and internships.

“The companies that we have talked to are really interested in bringing the student community in, and touching base with them,” Hyser said. “Because they know that the future of their workforce … is dependent on people being interested in the career field, and making that investment [of] time.”

This partnership ties in with the Federal Government Title I & II-A Funding Awards the district accepted for the 2022-2023 school year, courtesy of the Ohio Department of Education.

The Title I and Title II-A programs aim at “improving the academic achievement of the disadvantaged” and “supporting effective instruction.” The board will use the funding for early childhood literacy and to equip the district’s teachers, principals and other faculty with tools to better advise students.  

GPA changes

The board also discussed recent changes to the grade point average system, and what it could mean for select school events. Rather than a standard 0.0-4.0 grade point ranking system, Independence High School has opted to switch to the Latin grading system when it comes to sorting students within their graduating class.

Beginning with the graduating class of 2023, IHS will no longer have a standard valedictorian and salutatorian. Instead, students will be honored with “summa cum laude” and “magna cum laude” awards, judging by their grade point average.

Part of the reason these changes were made was the board’s worry that the old GPA system had become archaic. Specifically, that the old system discouraged students from taking in-house classes in favor of outside curriculum opportunities like College Credit Plus.

“The grade point average really just isn’t a very good reflection of achievement, relative to the top students,” IHS Principal Jamie Hogue said. “Most schools are taking it out for that exact reason: you don’t want to incentivize leaving the school to take classes.”

The board discussed how these new changes could impact school events, such as Independence High School’s “Top Ten Dinner.” Under the old system, the board was able to simply choose the top ten students. With the new system, choosing those students becomes much harder. The board chose to table the discussion for a meeting later this year.

Stadium renovations

The athletic department recently received two grants for stadium renovations. Assistant Superintendent Tom Dreiling made note of the changes at both the football stadium and baseball field.

According to Dreiling, Independence High School’s football stadium is replacing the stadium breaker with a universal switch to make the stadium’s electronics safer and easier to use. The light poles at the stadium have also been rewired, with the entire project coming to about $2 million. The IHS baseball field will be getting two new dugouts and a redesigned fence. The project has not started yet, but the field will be ready for use by spring training.