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Deans keeping eyes open so no children are 'invisible'

September 01, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

Greencastle-Antrim School District added to its dean structure this year and now has a dean at every grade from six through 12.

That should help ensure there are no "invisible children," said Angela Singer, a dean of students at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School.

Singer taught elementary school for six years in Greencastle and four years in Washington County.

As dean of seventh-graders, she oversees about 220 of the middle school's 670 students. She will maintain discipline, which includes upholding the dress code, monitoring attendance and working with the Character Counts! program.

But more than ensuring that students follow all the rules, the dean concept involves establishing relationships.

"Discipline here at the middle school is very much intact," Singer said. "The reason we needed a dean at each level is to build relationships with the students and their families, and to make sure there are no invisible children - the students who don't stand out for the right or the wrong reasons. My job is to be sure there are no invisible children who fall through the cracks."

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After identifying students "who need daily or weekly interaction with a caring adult," Singer will develop specific behavioral and academic plans tailored to the student. Depending on need, she might write a contract, then meet with the student each day to be sure the terms are being fulfilled.

Contracts could include writing homework assignments in the student's planner, then having the completed work signed by a parent and brought to school.

Singer will check that it's done, working closely with the team of teachers, she said.

Singer will remain with the class through eighth grade.

Singer holds a master's degree in education administration and decided to become a dean because she felt "this position would allow me to put that education to work and to impact a larger group of students. Even in the classroom, I was a teacher who looked out for the at-risk kids, the troubled kids. I knew that discipline would be one of the main responsibilities (of being a dean)."

Disciplinary measures include detention, and in-school and out-of-school suspension.

Another of her responsibilities, monitoring attendance, is very important, Singer said.

"I'll touch base with each student who is absent if no note comes in, then contact the parents if necessary."

This first week of classes, "the overall vibes in the school are very positive," Singer said.

On Monday, the faculty presented skits to emphasize the rules of the school, including the dress code.

The deans are available to help with anything students are dealing with, both "the goods and bads," Singer said. "And we'll recognize accomplishments. It's important to stay involved in the positive."

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