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Simquita Leveretter, an eighth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Ryukyu Middle School in Okinawa, prepares her classroom Wednesday for the first day of school on Aug. 25.

Simquita Leveretter, an eighth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Ryukyu Middle School in Okinawa, prepares her classroom Wednesday for the first day of school on Aug. 25. (Natasha Lee / S&S)

Simquita Leveretter, an eighth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Ryukyu Middle School in Okinawa, prepares her classroom Wednesday for the first day of school on Aug. 25.

Simquita Leveretter, an eighth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Ryukyu Middle School in Okinawa, prepares her classroom Wednesday for the first day of school on Aug. 25. (Natasha Lee / S&S)

C.J. Dadivas, 18, second from left; Tina White, 16, second from right, a junior at Kadena High School, and Emma Dadivas, 17, right, a senior at Kadena High School, sort through posters Wednesday to decorate the Information Center at Ryukyu Middle School.

C.J. Dadivas, 18, second from left; Tina White, 16, second from right, a junior at Kadena High School, and Emma Dadivas, 17, right, a senior at Kadena High School, sort through posters Wednesday to decorate the Information Center at Ryukyu Middle School. (Natasha Lee / S&S)

Construction workers install lockers at Ryukyu Middle School.

Construction workers install lockers at Ryukyu Middle School. (Natasha Lee / S&S)

Eighth-grade math teacher Troy Oliver arranges posters in his classroom Wednesday while preparing for the start of a new year at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Oliver begins his 10th year teaching at Yokota Middle School.

Eighth-grade math teacher Troy Oliver arranges posters in his classroom Wednesday while preparing for the start of a new year at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Oliver begins his 10th year teaching at Yokota Middle School. (Vince Little / S&S)

Osan American School teacher Tyler Dixon gets his classroom ready for the new school year Wednesday with a poster highlighting Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet." Dixon teaches English, speech and journalism at Osan.

Osan American School teacher Tyler Dixon gets his classroom ready for the new school year Wednesday with a poster highlighting Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet." Dixon teaches English, speech and journalism at Osan. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

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The new school year means a fresh academic start for the nearly 24,000 students expected to file through the hallways at base schools across the Pacific.

While few major changes are in store, tracking student achievement continues to be a top priority, said Nancy Bresell, director of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific and Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools-Guam.

That goal is one of four outlined in the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Community Strategic Plan, implemented two years ago.

Parents will be able to track their kids’ academic progress through the Internet program "Grade Speed." The Web site portal allows parents to access their children’s weekly grades, assignments, tardy reports and attendance, she said.

The program was introduced last year for sixth- through 12th-graders on a voluntary basis, but now will be Pacific-wide for fourth through 12th grades, Bresell said, adding that report cards can be accessed via e-mail for students in those grades.

"If you’re in the Navy, and you’re on a ship, and you have access to the Internet, you can see how your child is doing in school," Bresell said.

Students can also access assignments and projects missed because of sick days or doctor’s appointments, she said.

Educators will once again push proficiency in math, science, reading and language arts, school officials said.

The Korea school district will continue an elementary school math initiative for second- through fifth-graders in which math-support specialists coach teachers on ways to improve instruction.

The specialists observe individual classrooms and critique teachers to ensure students are receiving efficient learning tools, said Peter Grenier, assistant superintendent.

"It will make it easier for students to understand and make sure teachers are providing the best means of learning to students," he said. "Some like visual demonstrations, others learn auditorily."

A similar initiative is in place in the Japan district, where last year’s standardized testing math scores fell slightly from 2007, said Japan superintendent Bruce Derr.

"We want to put interventions in place to improve their scores," Derr said.

Math specialists will be assigned to Arnn Elementary School, Lanham Elementary School, Sollars Elementary School and The Sullivans School on the mainland, he said.

Specialists are in eight Pacific schools this year, said DODDS-Pacific spokesman Chip Steitz.

Specialists also will work with students who aren’t meeting grade-level math standards, Steitz said.

A Pacific-wide literacy project is also in place to train teachers on strategies for improving reading levels among elementary school students, Bresell said.

Literacy support specialists, assigned to all Pacific elementary schools, work with students to tackle their reading and writing issues.

"It’s a three-tier project to get to the strongest readers, to those with difficulties, and get them to a reading level above what they’re currently at," Derr said.

Foreign language proficiency will continue to be emphasized this year with a Mandarin Chinese program to be offered at Yokosuka’s middle school and Nile C. Kinnick High School in mainland Japan. There are two full-time Mandarin teachers at Seoul middle and high schools, officials said. Two full-time teachers have been hired to teach the classes on Okinawa. One has been assigned to Kadena Middle School, Ryukyu Middle School and Kadena High School. The other will teach classes at Lester Middle School and Kubasaki High School.

Classes will also be provided at Andersen Middle School, McCool Middle School and Guam High School.

A budget shortfall announced earlier this year by DODEA will not cause a reduction in support services, field trips or extracurricular activities, Bresell said.

Bresell said she’s optimistic about this school year and eager to meet the new staff and students across the Pacific.

"I think that parents should be confident in the fact that our schools are going to provide their children with a quality education," Bresell said.

Highlights and changes for the 2008-09 school year¶ The projected student enrollment this year is 23,800 in mainland Japan, Okinawa, Guam and South Korea.

¶ The Korea District was expected to get 500 new students, thanks to an increase in command sponsorships.

¶ There will be 300 new teachers Pacific-wide.

¶ The Department of Defense Education Activity has established an advanced-placement task force made up of AP teachers and administrators from each district to ensure schools are meeting standards and have rigorous syllabi. The task force will also make recommendations for improvement.

¶ Participation in high school extracurricular activities increased last year, which was one of the goals under the Community Strategic Plan’s student achievement emphasis. The highest percentage of participation was at Kadena High School, where participation was 75 percent, said Nancy Bresell, director of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific and Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools-Guam.

¶ Two new tools were introduced to administrators this year: the "three-minute walk-through," which allows administrators to observe teacher and student interaction inside the classroom for three minutes daily; and "Failure is not an option," a resource guide that provides educators with six principles that guide student achievement in high-performing schools.

¶ In the Guam District, superintendent Gayle Vaughn-Wiles said she’s aiming to increase parent involvement in the middle and high schools.

Typically, parents are active in elementary schools, but their involvement tapers off as their children advance, she said.

"It’s always a challenge to get them back, not only at the games, but at the PTA meetings, and most importantly at the school improvement leadership meetings, so they can have a voice in what’s happening in the schools," Vaughn-Wiles said.

¶ In the Korea District, administrators and educators kicked off the summer with a pilot transition program aimed at helping new students and their parents adjust to South Korea and their new school system. Two summer transitional specialists were hired.

"Now when school kicks in on Aug. 25, they will be ready and the new people will have a little bit of an edge in terms of orientation," said Peter Grenier, assistant superintendent.

¶ Construction projects spanned all districts. The Guam District spent $211,000 to replace cafeteria equipment, install a fuel port and maintain equipment. In the Japan District, $7.6 million went to painting; repairing ceilings, floors and roofs; replacing air-conditioning units; and for playground equipment. The Korea District funded $3.1 million on tennis and basketball courts, indoor piping, playground equipment, restroom renovations, new air-conditioning units, new eight-classroom building outside Seoul High School, and the expansion of the middle and elementary school cafeteria. And the Okinawa District spent $4.5 million on repairing air conditioning units, painting interior and exterior walls, and repairing electrical control panels.

— Natasha Lee. Source: Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific

New Pacific school administrators for 2008-09

Guam District

District superintendent Gayle Vaughn-WilesGuam High School assistant principal Jason SheedyAndersen Elementary School principal Helen BaileyGuam High School principal Linda ConnellyMcCool Elementary/Middle School assistant principal Ray Scantlan

Japan District

District assistant superintendent Paula MillerCummings Elementary School principal Scott SterryJack N. Darby Elementary School principal Carol JaramilloEdgren High School principal Jeff ArringtonEdgren High School assistant principal Georgia WattersIkego Elementary School principal Scott FinlayKing High School assistant principal Andrea MialKinnick High School principal Lorenzo BrownLanham Elementary School principal David RussellJoan K. Mendel Elementary School principal Hattie PhippsSollars Elementary School assistant principal Djuna UnderwoodSullivans Elementary School principal Walter WilhoitSullivans Elementary School assistant principal Willette Horne-BarnesYokosuka Middle School principal Geoffrey FongYokosuka Middle School assistant principal Sonja RodriguezYokota Middle School principal Mary LeinardYokota Middle School assistant principal Michelle MooreYokota High School assistant principal Henry Barr

Korea District

Humphreys Elementary School/Middle School principal Joyce DiggsJoy Elementary School principal Marguerite GreenOsan Middle School principal Marie Cullen*Osan High School principal Timothy EricksonOsan High School assistant principal Truly SchrammSeoul Elementary School principal Melissa KlopferSeoul Elementary School assistant principal Samia MountsSeoul Elementary School assistant principal Kris KwiatekSeoul Middle School assistant principal Kathleen Stander

Okinawa District

District superintendent Martha BrownAmelia Earhart Intermediate School assistant principal Bill MierzejewskiKadena High School principal Tony HarrisKadena Middle School principal Mike McClainKubasaki High School assistant principal MartiRyukyu Middle School principal Paul CurrierRyukyu Middle School assistant principal Rodney PetersonStearley Heights Elementary School principal John Mueller

Source: Department of Defense Education Activity*School opens 2009-10 school year


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