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Federal education officials pleased with efforts under way at Colonial Beach High School

 Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, smiles as Colonial Beach school officials discuss improvements they've made at the town's high school. Federal officials visited yesterday to learn more about the school's turnaround effort.
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Date published: 4/16/2011


She saw in Power's presentation that Colonial Beach's high school had garnered support from its School Board, superintendent, Town Council, business partners and the people dropping by the local convenience store.

"It's always really impressive when you see a community working together at all levels," she said.

But she said instructional success is fundamental.

"What it comes down to, it's really about teaching and learning, bottom line," she said. "And it's about the resources and structures put in place."

Power provided an overview of her division's efforts yesterday morning during a meeting also attended by Smith, some of the education consultants involved, and two School Board members.

Power, who started her tenure in August 2009, said she discovered that teachers had no planning periods and that staff had no outside resources or networking to draw on.

She mentioned rescheduling the student day, incorporating time for specialized help, and re-evaluating student needs every two weeks.

She also said she implemented planning time for teachers and employed instructional coaches.

But Power shared that one of the challenges in smaller rural divisions like hers is the "emotional component" and people's attachment to the past.

"They say: 'It was good enough for me. Why change it?'" she said. "They truly want to keep things as they know and love it."

That's what prompted her approach of reaching out to the community, to try to get buy-in to the changes she was trying to implement.

But she said that one key ingredient was already present.

"The thing that saved this school district was the teachers are so involved with the kids," she said.

Teachers needed a hand improving instructional techniques, and they're getting that now.

Melendez indicated she was pleased with what she saw and heard yesterday.

"It's a pleasure to see this and take it back to the department," she said.

--Staff writer Frank Delano contributed to this report.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Email: pgould@freelancestar.com

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