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August 14, 2003
Section: Local News

$2.6M grant may help McKinley form 5 small schools
Repository education writer

CANTON � McKinley High School will essentially become five small high schools within the larger school next year if the district wins a $2.6 million grant from Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation.
Canton City Schools has applied for the grant under the $31.5 million Ohio High School Transformation Initiative, which aims to �change the face of education, teaching and learning in our high schools,� said Deborah Howard, KnowledgeWorks senior program officer.

Principal Charles Keenan said McKinley�s mission is to boost its graduation rate to 100 percent by 2008.

Creating smaller schools will ensure that �we know the needs of the students, build relationships ... and personalize what each student needs educationally,� he said.

Howard said research indicates that students are more successful in smaller, more personalized learning environments.

McKinley plans to launch the small schools in August 2004.

�We�re going to do it no matter what,� said Keenan. �We�re so passionate about it.�

The plan calls for five smaller schools, each to house about 400 students. Each would have its own principal and a separate teaching and counseling staff. Each would have a separate budget, and would control its own governance, staffing, scheduling and data analysis.

Keenan said all students would have mentors, and would have the same group of teachers for four years.

Initially, students and staff would be randomly assigned to the schools. Later, they would have a choice, Keenan said.

He said the small schools � which collectively would still be known as McKinley High School � would not be built around themes, at least not at first. But he stressed that the proposal is still being developed.

�We�re going to need a ton of input from the community and parents and students to decide how we�re going to make this meet the needs of everybody,� he said.

Howard said KnowledgeWorks will announce grant winners next week.

Winning districts and their communities must provide $100 per student in matching funds or in-kind services.

The proposal � though largely formulated by McKinley staff � hasn�t yet won endorsement from the Canton Professional Educators Association.

�There are some staff members who have approached me with some concerns,� said President Sam Dorto. �It may be (just) some elementary things that need to be answered, but I just haven�t had an opportunity to do that.�

Still, �We truly realize things have to change in urban education,� he said, adding the teachers union has itself proposed reforms before.

Alex Balloon, a 2003 McKinley graduate and member of a student design team that offered input into the proposal, believes schools created around themes would be more successful for students.

Balloon also finds the 100 percent graduation rate impractical.

�That�s a great goal to have � aim high � but I don�t think it�s really a realistic approach,� he said.

Keenan acknowledges that many may agree with Balloon.

�I�m sure that a lot of people feel that way because they haven�t seen it happen yet,� he said. �(But) the staff members believe it can happen. ... I truly believe it can happen and we can do it.�

You can reach Repository education writer Susan R. Schell at (330) 580-8339 or e-mail:

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