Attorney General’s Office visits Georgetown schools

Thirty minutes a day in the Georgetown school system is getting attention from the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
The mid-day “advisory period” is a chance for teachers to work with small groups of students and get to know them better.
District leaders say this approach allows the teachers and students to build a closer relationship and opens the students up to accepting advice and counsel from another caring adult outside the home.
LeeAnne Cornyn and Jason Gloyd from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office toured the Georgetown school district on March 17.  Cornyn is the Director of Children’s Initiatives and Gloyd is the Regional Director for Southwest Ohio.
They were joined by Deanna Vietze of the Brown County Board of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Junior/Senior High School Principal Jerry Underwood, Business teacher Chad McKibben and other staff members briefed the goup on the advisory period concept and then took them on a tour of the campus.
The group also met directly with two students that benefitted from the program.
The advisory period is part of the 40 Developmental Assets program.
The program lists 40 positive qualities that help children become productive adults and discusses how to help children who don’t have as many of the assets in their lives as others.
The program includes peer mentoring from other students in the district.  Since it began two years ago, out of school suspensions have dropped 75 percent in the district. The academic failure rate has dropped from 18 percent to four percent, and the graduation rate has risen from 86 percent to 98 percent.
Jill Del Greco, Public Information Officer from the Ohio Attorney Generals’ Office, discussed the reaction that Cornyn and Gloyd had to the program.
“Our staff was able to see, first hand, how the advisory period helped facilitate improved relationships between teachers/staff and students. Several students came up to their advisory teacher in the hall to share life issues. Then, once class began, all students were engaged, providing opinions on real life issues like sexting, and critically thinking about the consequences of their actions.”
Del Greco continued,  “One young man remarked that the lesson on digital citizenship made him really think about everything he shared over his phone because the consequences of one mistake could change his life forever. These kinds of conversations are critical to ensuring that young people are prepared for life after high school and are good citizens before they reach adulthood.”
Del Greco also said that her office sess potential for similar programs to be successful statewide.
“School schedules are packed, so while an advisory period may not work for every school, the basis of Georgetown’s program could be replicated across the state. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has promoted integrating social emotional learning into the school day as part of its Joint Study Committee on Drug Prevention Education report. Incorporating social emotional learning into the school day can lead to reduced likelihood of substance abuse and other risk behaviors.”
One student was introduced to the group who was failing five classes two years ago and is now on the A/B honor roll.
“I’d probably on probation, not having my grades up.  I’d be hanging around the bad kids and getting in trouble every day like I used to,” said the ninth grader when asked where he thought he would be without the program.
“I’d probably fall down because I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to or anything.”
McKibben said that the advisory period has also had an impact on him as a teacher.
“It gives me a different perspective on the student.  It gives me a chance to have some empathy.  Because of the advisory period, we get a little more insight into what a student’s life is like outside of the school walls.  We make a deeper connection with the students and we are able to serve them better.”
He added that once the trust begins to build, the benefits start to go both ways.
“These students get to see a more personal side of the teachers as well.  We get to know the kids better, so we are able to teach them in a better way and they get to relate to us in a better way which builds rapport in the classrooms.  So when we get them in an academic setting, they work harder for us because we’ve made a better connection.”
McKibben said that the students quickly end up helping each other as well.
“In that setting, sometimes the students have great advice to offer the other students.  Many of them are going through the same issues.  We see a lot of peer to peer teaching going on.”
Underwood said that the greatest asset of the program is the support that it has from all staff members.
“Ultimately, we are here to help kids and that can be in many different capacities.  Every single kid in our district is getting help.  They have someone who is talking to them every day,” Underwood said.
“We as educators have to keep up with the kids coming through and the problems they face.  We can’t expect kids to go back and be educated the way they always have.”
Underwood also said that the different advisory classes are in a friendly competition with each other over attendance and grades and that trophies, special meals and recognition on social media are given to the winning classrooms each month.