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Principal says success is only option

September 12, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

Each weekday morning, Hank Bohlander heads west on Interstate 70 from Frederick County toward his new job as principal of Williamsport High School.

It's a change of direction in many ways for the veteran educator who retired as associate superintendent in Frederick County, capping off 36 years there.

Why the change? And in what some might consider a downward direction.

Bohlander doesn't see it that way.

The Penn State graduate said he really missed the direct contact with students and teachers which he feels can lead to direct influence on both.

"We've created a model here at WHS - success is the only option," Bohlander said. "And we're backing that up with programs."

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After Penn State, Bohlander earned his master's at George Washington University and then his doctorate at Nova-Southeastern University in Florida.

Four times Bohlander was a principal, staying four years in each post - just long enough to set goals, put them into action and see results.

"My whole philosophy is to create programs that connect people," he said. Each time, Bohlander reorganized the structure of his school around teams of teachers.

The four main teams at WHS are teachers of English, math, social studies and science. These teams will be focusing on the high school assessment requirements, Bohlander said.

"I rewrote the faculty handbook so that each teacher can focus on four questions," Bohlander said.

(1) What do I want students to learn?

(2) How will I know when each student has mastered the essential learning?

(3) How will I respond to a student's difficulty with learning?

(4) How will I deepen the learning for students who have already mastered essential learning and skills?

That fourth question may be the toughest of all since it involves increasing the rigor for all students. "I believe every student can take advance placements," Bohlander said.

Bohlander also wants to set up volunteer tutoring before and after school and on Saturdays. "We need to show students we care for them before we can teach them," he said.

Attacking the dropout problem, which traditionally peaks in the ninth grade, is so important that Bohlander and his staff have written a grant to add two evening modules to the four daily modules that already exist during normal school hours.

This would accommodate students who say they are dropping out because school interferes with their efforts to get a job, Bohlander said.

"Our goal is zero dropouts and zero suspensions," Bohlander said. Last year, there were 30 dropouts at WHS which has a student population of approximately 1,000.

Bohlander had just taken the reins at WHS when his new school became the hub of the Antietam Workcamp activities involving hundreds of young people from all over the country sent to Washington County to do service for the community.

At the closing ceremonies, Bohlander praised the young people for their actions. "I've never had a week like this week in my 44 years of education," he said. "So many kids giving to others."

Now Bohlander said he wants to give all he can to his kids at Williamsport High School.

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