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Winter Street moves ahead with restructuring

June 25, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Half of Winter Street Elementary School's staff from the last school year will return this fall, new Principal Matthew Semler said.

Although it made gains in the past school year, Winter Street is moving ahead with restructuring.

According to Semler, the school had filled all but one position as of Wednesday. Seventeen of 34 people who held instructional positions last year, including eight classroom teachers, will return, he said.

Winter Street Elementary and Western Heights Middle School will follow the models set by Bester and Eastern elementary schools when they open their doors for classes this fall.

While Western Heights recorded mixed results on the 2006 Maryland School Assessments, Winter Street largely improved.

Staff members each will earn $5,000 per year extra to compensate them for extra hours devoted to professional development.

"While Winter Street is making improvements as all of our schools are making improvements, it is still one of our lowest achieving schools in the county," said JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, executive director of early childhood and elementary education.

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Fresh off a one-year stint as assistant principal at Bester, Semler, 30, will take over at Winter Street in his first year as principal. Three teachers also will be new to their jobs, he said.

Like Bester, Winter Street is a high-poverty school in Hagerstown's downtown. More than 80 percent of students were eligible for free and reduced-priced meals last year, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.

The school serves students in grades pre-kindergarten through four. Students in grades three and four take the state math and reading tests in the spring.

According to the state results, Winter Street will begin its first year of restructuring ahead of Bester. About 80 percent of third- and fourth-graders performed to state standards on the math test, and three-quarters of third-graders read at the level expected of their grade.

Since the test's administration in 2005, about 4 percent more students in fourth-grade achieved advanced levels on their reading tests, but the school's overall proficiency levels - about two of three students read on grade level - did not improve from one year to the next.

All of the scores are higher than Bester's marks were in the spring before it entered restructuring, but none of Winter Street's marks are on par with Washington County Public Schools' current averages.

Although Winter Street has shown improvement, Washington County Board of Education President W. Edward Forrest said Bester and Eastern provide compelling evidence of the benefits of restructuring.

"Even though it hasn't always been the popular decision to make, in the end, when you see students succeeding, that's what it's all about," Forrest said Tuesday.

A graduate of St. Maria Goretti High School, Semler said he is looking forward to bringing what he has learned while in other positions, including his experiences at Bester, to take on new challenges at Winter Street.

Semler said he was pleased by the results Winter Street's staff achieved during the past school year.

"Going into the situation, there are some positive things going on, and it obviously shows growth, and I want to build on those positive things ... and obviously, do some new things, as well," Semler said.

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