Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Enrollment down 200 at Damascus

Fewer students, teachers adds up to better learning environment, principal says

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Fewer students, fewer teachers and no more crowded hallways will be evident at Damascus High School this year, the principal says.

As of Aug. 20, enrollment was 1,467, nearly 200 fewer students than started the school year at Damascus in 2006.

‘‘We’re in the best shape we’ve been in,” Principal Robert Domergue said. ‘‘It means not every classroom will be used every period, no more floating teachers and more teachers have their own classrooms.”

The school’s portable classrooms were removed a year ago, and the opening of Clarksburg High School last year, which drew students that might have gone to Damascus, accounts for some of the roominess being felt this year.

Damascus is not losing any programs, Domergue added. The high school will still offer career completer courses in restaurant management, automotive technology and horticulture, as well as a new information technology academy. It will also continue a two-year-old program of offering three Montgomery College courses in the high school each semester.

An interior design program begun two years ago is no longer considered a career completer course. A scaled-down version of the course is being offered this semester, taught by Cheryl Wall, Domergue said.

More students every year are taking Advanced Placement and honors courses, Domergue said. Last year, 67 percent of Damascus students took honors or AP courses. The 440 students taking AP courses took 656 AP exams in which a score of at least three is required to receive college credit, and 73 percent of them scored three or higher.

‘‘Ninety percent of our kids go on to college eventually,” Domergue said.

All students were asked to read ‘‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens” during the summer. The book talks about how to plan. Classes will be discussing the book throughout the year, Domergue said.

The school received all new computers during the summer.

Damascus will undergo an evaluation for accreditation this fall by the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association. Parents, students and staff began a self-evaluation process last year and continued their work throughout the summer.

Action teams were formed in each area of evaluation to identify strengths and weaknesses and shore up areas where needed, Domergue said.

The school’s academic program was identified as a strength. Communication between parents and staff was identified as an area needing improvement, Domergue said.

‘‘I need to explain the goals and objectives to parents earlier and be more explicit,” he said.

Although Damascus has six fewer teachers due to the smaller number of students, some of the teachers are new this year.

Joycelyn Harden teaches English and Crissy Shevchenko, Janet Gallagher, Melody Fogle and Kym Ails teach math. Ails is also a special education teacher. New teacher Rebecca Davis teaches special education and science. George Fry is the new special education transition teacher. Laura Schley teaches art and photography. Ximena Lindroth teaches Spanish and Kristy Poker teaches Spanish half the day and is a guidance counselor for half the day.

Back to School Night is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 18.