GUEST COLUMN: Reflecting on a great four years at Whittell High | TahoeDailyTribune.com

GUEST COLUMN: Reflecting on a great four years at Whittell High

Sue Shannon
Special to the Tribune

Thank you to the staff, students, parents and community of George Whittell High School. My four years as principal were absolutely fabulous, and I cannot imagine a more wonderful assignment as the last full-time position in my educational career. In addition to terrific students, the professionalism of the staff and tremendous support from parents and the community combined to create a unique, high-caliber, small community-based school.

In our 50th year anniversary of education at GWHS, I’m proud to announce some rewarding stats. The college-going rate of GWHS is an astonishing 95 percent. Of the 2010 graduates, almost all will attend a two or four-year college or institute. And, those same graduates (a class of 40) received more than $860,000 in scholarships. GWHS students excel in academics, athletics, music, drama, leadership and community service. The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association recently named GWHS as the Division 2 NIAA School of Excellence for 2009/’10. Only one school per division is chosen and this award was based on academics, athletics and citizenship signifying GWHS’s superiority.

The high college-bound rate at GWHS combines with extensive extracurricular opportunities for all-around student success. Everyone at GWHS has the opportunity to participate and our motto is you can do it all if you want to.

We’ve worked diligently to create a school culture that values respect and fair treatment of all. In our second year of consolidation to a seventh through 12th grade school, our students have assumed great leadership and responsibility in keeping our school successful. We take pride in the responsibility our students assume in the overall functioning of the school as well as the goal to constantly improve the opportunities we offer.

GWHS students provide extensive support to the Lake Tahoe community through a variety of community service. Our students also assume responsibility for helping people throughout the world. Following the emergency in Haiti, GWHS students raised $3,180 plus donated 50 pairs of used jeans to send to the relief efforts.

Our smaller class sizes allow for the utmost personal relationships between teachers and students. We have both a customized and personalized approach and this contributes to our ranking as a “High-Achieving School” in Nevada. More than 70 percent of the students at GWHS exceed the required number of math and/or science credits.

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Positive changes have definitely occurred these past four years making GWHS an even greater school. We became a Nevada Empowerment School which allowed us to request waivers from policies to better address the needs of a small school. Some of the waivers included: creating an independent study program, increasing the number of dual credit courses our students could receive, returning to a traditional math sequence curriculum, and moving to a four-day school week calendar.

And, with financial and time assistance from private donors (thank you Ray Sidney and Big George Ventures), parents, community organizations and DCSD, we’ve completed numerous physical improvements. These include two new science rooms, field lights, a performing arts area, and a second gym. The assistance came from individuals as well as groups, such as Boosters and Rotary. The overall support provided by parents and community was incredible. I’ve worked in education for 39 years and can tell you that the parent and community support at GWHS is unsurpassed.

As a result of all of our efforts, GWHS is becoming a “school of choice” for families that do not live in the GWHS attendance area. Ten “non-resident” students attended GWHS on variances for the 2009/’10 school year. Plus, we’ve already signed an additional six variances for the 2010/’11 school year. We owe a lot of our success to our ability to offer a customized approach to education and the ability of our teachers and staff to be involved with every student’s education.

I’m very pleased to welcome our next school principal, Crespin Esquivel, who is sure to carry the GWHS torch and contribute as a new leader in our community. He was part of the administrative group that created dramatic positive changes at Hug High School and has been the administrator of one of the Small Learning Communities at Hug for 5 years.

I will miss GWHS and all of the amazing students and adults that make it so extraordinary. I look forward to hearing all about the fantastic work that I know will continue. I assure you I’ll remain an avid supporter to the students and people of GWHS long after my role as principal.

– Sue Shannon is the former principal of Whittell High School.