With the final Region 4 Board of Education meeting held last month, we thought it was an appropriate time to update our community on a number of the initiatives and programs we will be launching in the months ahead that will make important contributions to the continued success of our district.
Most recently, Valley Regional High School (VRHS) was recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a school of excellence. VRHS received a Silver Award and ranked 21 out of 288 public high schools in Connecticut. This prestigious recognition is the third national award VRHS has earned during the 2016-’17 school year. As you may recall, earlier this year, both Newsweek and K-12 Niche named VRHS as one of the top high schools in Connecticut and the United States.
We continue to be very proud of our Region 4 Schools. These recognitions are testament to the commitment and support of our schools from our boards of education, families, and communities to provide all students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 with innovative and comprehensive programs of excellence.NEASC
VRHS successfully completed reaccreditation from the New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC). The NEASC report concluded that Valley Regional High School excels in the areas of school culture, community support, curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Most important, the team described Valley Regional as a safe, positive, respectful environment that has high expectations for all students.Schedule Modification
Starting in fall 2017, VRHS will shift to a hybrid schedule. Constituents from the VRHS community conducted a thorough study and review process during the 2016-’17 school year. The schedule modification provides all students with additional opportunities and pathways to success. The new schedule also creates opportunities for teachers to collaborate to improve instruction, professional practice, and creatively problem-solve as a team.International Baccalaureate
After two years of exploration with VRHS administration, faculty, students, and the Region 4 Board of Education, we have recently applied to International Baccalaureate (IB) to increase academic courses for our students to earn college credit before high school graduation. These courses will complement and expand our current college offerings through Advanced Placement, University of Connecticut, and Middlesex Community College. It is our responsibility as a comprehensive public high school to provide all our students with academic opportunities to best prepare them for college and/or careers. IB high school courses are recognized by universities worldwide for excellence in college preparedness. Specifically, IB courses focus on essential 21st-century learning in the following areas: independent and collaborative critical thinking, global mindedness, and creative and innovative problem solving. Today, global problem-solving is essential in any career pathway. The IB Program will provide our students with opportunities to communicate with students in similar curricula across the globe to solve international problems and promote common understanding. It is also our responsibility to prepare students to be knowledgeable, involved citizens in a rapidly changing world. We are hopeful that we will be able to offer IB courses in the Fall of 2019 to 11th and 12th grade students. We look forward to updating you about IIB courses at VRHS as we move forward.International Learning Opportunities with China
An important element of our district mission is to prepare our students to think and actively contribute as global citizens. For many years, our school community has provided multicultural opportunities to our students to learn about and experience other cultures and languages. This has included visits within our French and Spanish programs to France, Canada, Spain, and Costa Rica. In recent years, VRHS students have requested additional international experiences to expand current offerings and relationships. Our students have specifically requested that VRHS administration and faculty consider non-European experiences to provide a more global perspective. Increasingly, students have indicated that they will pursue international studies as their major in college.
Over the last two years, our school community responded to student requests to include China, and developed a relationship with a well respected company in New England that specializes in connecting Chinese and American high school students. Spiral International and Region 4 Schools entered into a short term contract to pilot a two week summer program for 30 students and two teachers from China along with VRHS students. This camp experience is free to our students who are interested in serving as international student ambassadors.
The high school students from China will arrive on Sunday, July 16 and depart on Saturday, July 29h and our summer camp will run Monday, July 17 until Friday, July 28. This is an incredible opportunity for VRHS students to further explore their interests in international experiences at no cost to our Region 4 families.
In addition to this summer experience, we are excited to welcome up to four high school students from China during the 2017-’18 school year at VRHS. The application process for these students is underway and we hope to share more information about this program in the weeks ahead.Manufacturing
We have also been notified about a unique opportunity to partner with the State of Connecticut and build upon our very successful manufacturing program. This program will include a heavy concentration in the trade experiences, especially those involving the manufacturing sector of our economy. The program builds upon our already-successful partnership with Whelen Engineering Company which provides our students with hands-on experience and instruction that takes place at Whelen during the school day. It is our hope that his program will provide active employment for many of our students as well as real-world career exploration in manufacturing.
The State of Connecticut Department of Labor is looking forward to partnering with VRHS because the struggle for local companies to find skilled employees in a more technologically advanced work environment is increasing. The Department of Labor has been working closely with companies to address this employee shortage. The partnership will offer manufacturing companies financial incentives to work with VRHS, teaching students a variety of skills and experiences unique to their industry.
They are most interested in partnering with us as a comprehensive public high school and wish to work with us to improve skills in science, technology, engineering, art and design, and mathematics (STEAM).
After completion of the new manufacturing concentration pathway, students will be prepared for post-high school employment in manufacturing. Participating students will receive a 100 hour certificate from the Department of Labor in addition to their high school diploma; the certificate can also be used for credit at community colleges. It will also assist students, allowing them credit towards required pre-apprenticeship hours for those trade industries.
This is another way we are committed to serving all students by providing comprehensive programming at VRHS. It is our hope that local industries employ our graduates, and they make our three communities their long term home.
In a time of declining enrollment, we are proud to offer these experiences for the students of Chester, Deep River, and Essex, who attend Valley Regional High School. Our first and foremost consideration is to provide our students with multiple learning opportunities that might shape their futures. We also hope that our programs encourage families to move to our communities. We are creatively developing relationships and programs that have a positive impact on economics within our towns and schools.