By VINCE LITTLEMay 16, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 16, 2012) -- Faith Middle School will welcome a new principal this summer as it looks ahead to the 2012-13 school year.
Administrators and garrison leaders met with parents last week at a town hall meeting to ease concerns moving forward while highlighting all the school has to offer. The session took place May 8 in the Faith gymnasium.
Lois Rapp, superintendent of the Department of Defense Education Activity's Georgia/Alabama District, said Faith officials are seeking feedback as they create a direction for next school year, when Assistant Principal Dan Perkins replaces Angie Cotton atop the faculty. Cotton is moving on to a Department of Defense Dependents Schools position in Germany.
"We want to make sure we're on the right path with our young people ... (and) make sure our parents have a voice, too," Rapp said. "This is a phenomenal school. I've challenged teachers before, 'Go teach one week outside the gate and come back and talk to me about Faith Middle School.' Because it's just a great place to be."
School officials outlined Faith's vision for next year and touched on several issues, ranging from school safety and security to sports and the curriculum.
Perkins said he'd focus on four areas in the upcoming year: community outreach to get more parent involvement, school culture, improving instruction, and targeting students who are struggling and excelling. Among school culture initiatives, Faith plans to build on the Boys Town positive behavior model, which helps children develop social skills and enhances interaction between students and teachers.
"We feel very good about where (Cotton) has gotten the school. She's turning over a school that's on the upswing," he said. "It's in good shape, and people feel good about where we're headed."
During her tenure, Cotton added college-prep classes into Faith's curriculum and enhanced programs such as math, science, technology and international studies, officials said. Child, Youth & School Services now sponsors several college visits each year.
"We want you to know what we're doing," Rapp told parents. "This is a great school. There are great kids here, there are great teachers here and there are great happenings going on here. … But it really matters to us that our parents come in and have an honest conversation with us about what's going well and what's not going well. We strive to fix any problems."
Misconceptions about Faith exist across the installation, said George Steuber, the deputy garrison commander. Oftentimes, he said, people hear about one or two students who misbehave and cause disciplinary problems rather than the multitude of "exciting" programs that benefit the student majority as a whole.
"We need to make sure everything we're doing ensures that those children have the best possible future," he said. "That's the 'why' everybody is here today. … All of us together can make this a better place for our students."
A parent asked about boosting safety and security at Faith and whether cameras could be installed in hallways and on the building's perimeter, as well as the office, cafeteria and other common areas. Video surveillance systems are used by many public schools off post.
"I can't say we can get (them), but we'll certainly research the issue," Rapp said.
Starting next year, however, Faith and other Fort Benning schools may adopt a system that snaps a photo of every person who drops off or picks up a child, she said. A link to the administrative office would reveal custodial identities and who may check a student in or out. Right now, adults are required to show photo ID.
Faith's sports program is expanding and support will continue, Rapp said. The football, basketball, volleyball, soccer and track teams are wrapping up their first full year of play in the Muscogee County School District. Some parents raised concerns about a lack of facilities and equipment needed to practice and grow more competitive.
"Athletics does so much in so many areas," said Col. Jeffrey Fletcher, the garrison commander. "We're in the infant stages, and this past year, we learned some lessons. In tandem with the garrison, I think we can probably address some of those shortfalls in regard to training and facilities."
Rapp said DoDEA regulations for middle schools only sanction intramurals. But officials recognize the impact sports have on child development and decided to take the extra step, she said.
"I don't know of many installations that have done that," she said. "Our school clubs and sports -- they are a bible to the mental well being of these students. We can keep them off the streets (and) keep them occupied. It teaches values and teamwork and all kinds of things."
Faith has partnered with CYSS, which provides transportation, uniforms and equipment, the superintendent said. School officials recently authorized the purchase of a large football sled for blocking and tackling drills.
"We took a lot of defeats this year, but we're already working on that," she said. "Our kids are going to summer athletic programs so they can start working together as a team and really gelling and meshing, because they do move a lot. … We have a long way to go, but we're in the right trajectory."
For more information about Faith Middle School, its policies and procedures, or activities and curriculum, visit www.am.dodea.edu/benning/faith/index.htm.