What’s new for 2007 at SHDHS

By Casey Lessard

The biggest change at South Huron District High School this year is a five-period schedule for Grades 11 and 12. It means their schedules will rotate, with some students sitting in class while most of the school is having lunch. Some days, students will have lunch as their first or last period.
“In a couple of areas we have too many classes for the eight sections that we had before. For some of our tech classes (especially digital audio editing), we needed a shop for nine or 10 periods when in the old system we only had eight. So instead of cutting classes and having kids not get the courses they wanted, I decided to add a period to each day in each semester.”
Reaburn is doing his part to ease the burden and give students more course choices.
“Ever since I became a vice-principal (13 years), I’ve taught a class every year but one. I think it’s helpful for principal to do that. I got into this to become a teacher and when I got into administration that is the one thing I missed was the classroom contact with the kids. So I choose to teach. Often I do it to allow one more class to be run in the timetable. It does help keep me in touch with the kids.”
With an enrolment of 832, South Huron will have a few more bodies than last year, but overall, enrolment has remained relatively steady at about 800 students.
Five new teachers came on board this year: Evelyn Elder (social science), Heather Foran (career studies and students’ success), Matt Weston (technology), Jacqui Vercruyssen (communications technology) and Nick Seebach (science). Funding for the school’s only new course offering (Native studies) was announced in June.
The school is doing what it can to make sure students are always in touch with their long-term goals.
“There’s more emphasis on helping the student plan his or her career,” says guidance counsellor Barb Poole. “They now take a compulsory course in grade 10, which is a half credit in career studies. It also helps them select their courses for Grades 11 and 12 once they get some idea of what they want to do post-secondary, whether it’s go directly to work, go to university, do an apprenticeship or go to college.”
Eventually the school will have to designate a high skills major, similar to a major at university. Each school in the board will have one, and Reaburn is currently monitoring pilot projects across the board to find the right fit.
“You can focus on a particular area,” Reaburn says, “for example, construction technology, and kids will do a number of courses in construction technology and they may take a co-op placement that’s connected to construction technology as well. There’s a high skills major in manufacturing, one in agriculture, one for arts and culture. The kids will get a designation on their graduation diploma, a red seal, that indicates that they have a high-skills major.”
Until then, the staff is focused on teaching all students the importance of good life skills.
“Character education is something that has come to us in the last couple of years,” says vice-principal Petra Goetz. “Fairness, honesty, empathy, respect, integrity, courage, optimism, compassion, perseverance, and responsibility. We’re always talking with the kids about those things.”
Sometimes that doesn’t work, and students are welcomed into Goetz’s office.
“I’m very much of the philosophy that discipline also has a component of compassion to it, but also framing it for the student so that they can see that their action has had a ripple effect on other people.”
If a student is having trouble, Poole says they should approach an adult they trust.
“The biggest thing students should know is that they should be open to asking questions and asking for help. We want them to be aware that we are here to support them whatever their need. We can hook them up with tutors if they have academic concerns. We don’t necessarily have all of the answers here but we are able to refer them to other services in the area, in the county and in town.”
Goetz emphasizes the importance of attendance.
“Parents have to let their children know in a clear and understood message that they need to attend school regularly until age 18, until they graduate or at that point they can choose not to attend. That’s just the law.”
Reaburn has a simple list of suggestions for students to enjoy their time at South Huron.
“Work hard,” he says. “Get involved. Don’t let things pile up. Stay on top of things. Keep yourself organized. Use your time wisely. And make the best of the opportunities that you have.”