Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 | 2 a.m.
This is another in a yearlong series of stories tracking Clark County School District's efforts to turn around five failing schools.
Talk with Chaparral High School students and many will tell you that they loved the school’s former principal, Kevin McPartlin. He was friendly and charismatic. So many students were upset when they learned in March that McPartlin would be transferred to another school as part of a staffing overhaul that saw half of Chaparral’s faculty and support moved else within the Clark County School District.
The changes were a stipulation of a multimillion-dollar federal education grant given to the school, but it was also a reflection of school Superintendent Dwight Jones’ push to reverse the academic fortunes of the 38-year-old school, which had some of the lowest graduation rates and standardized test scores within the district. Fast forward to mid-November, and a large percentage of the student population has come to embrace the new staff — including Principal Dave Wilson, a series of new rules that bans late arrivals under the threat of suspension, and a heightened emphasis on academic performance.
Here are the reflections of student leaders on the evolution of their school since the start of the school year.
Jeffrey Dominguez,17, senior
Student body historian
“I’m really thankful that the administration is trying to provide a better education for us. It feels nice to see this school progressing. Hopefully, one day it will be an ideal school, a place where everybody comes to school prepared, not late, a school that provides a sound educational foundation for students. We have better books (this year), better computers. The bathrooms have more security but not the type that makes us feel like prisoners.”
Robert Martinez, 16, junior
Junior class treasurer
“It’s a whole different school. Mr. Wilson really stepped up. He’s not playing games. Grades are up. Athletics are improving. Kids want to learn. During the proficiency tests, students talked about how they were prepared. People who don’t go here still claim it’s not a good school. I passed up a magnet school because I wanted to come here. Chap’s my home. I’m here 12 hours a day for all activities.”
Yatzity Guerra, 17, senior
Second vice president
“I think it’s going really well. There were a few things I didn’t like at first. Some of my favorite teachers left, and that was hard for us, but the new staff is really good. The rules enforcement is good. Everybody (outside of Chaparral) thinks it’s a bad school. They don’t focus on the good. Our test scores have gone up. This is a good school.”
Dawnesha Brinkley, 16, junior
Student body secretary
“There are some things I don’t agree with totally. The tardies — you have to have your parent call after the second tardy. I like that all the teachers are on the same page. If I’m not understanding what’s taught by one teacher, I can go to another for help. I also like how Mr. Wilson is really involved, always asking us what he can do to improve this school, the staff, himself.”
Rachel Tsunis, 16, junior
Student body historian
“I think the school’s doing a lot better. Everyone’s in class. The grades are going up. They’re giving us a lot of homework. Sometimes I feel like we’re on lockdown. I feel like some things aren’t necessary. I chose to come here. I was zoned for Coronado. I know a lot of people here. People outside the school don’t understand the family atmosphere. There are no cliques, no bullies. It’s a good place to be, and I’m proud to be a student here. ”
Tichina Savoy, 16, junior
Student body sergeant at arms
“Overall, I think Chap has gotten a lot better. Everyone’s in class. There are no conflicts with kids. I’ve got a lot of friends who ask, ‘Why do you go to Chaparral? Why would you want to go there?’ Chap has the perception of being ghetto. I’ll admit it was tough at first, but I’m a person who adapts quickly. I spend a lot of time here. This school is important to me.”
James Ocampo, 17, senior
Senior class treasurer
“The changes are affecting the sents. They aren’t as tardy as much. The late lunch (after the day’s classes) is for the good. There are a lot fewer fights. I would like to thank the hall monitors and school police for that. It feels like a lot of schools you see in the movies. (If) you just come to school and actually study, you’ll get a good education. It was happening before, but now it’s even happening more.”
Mireya Brisano, 18, senior
Student body vice president
“There’s more school spirit than there was last year. There was some school spirit last year but not as much. Mr. Wilson is full of energy, and that’s made a big difference. Mr. McPartlin would really interact with students. I see Mr. McPartlin and Mr. Wilson as similar. The one thing I’d try to do is get the whole student body involved in stuff. When I tell people where I go to school, they say, ‘I feel really bad for you.’ I tell them they shouldn’t. I’m glad I go here. .”
Patrick Savoy, 15, freshman
Freshman class president
“Most people said this school was ghetto, but there haven’t been any arguments. There’s been just one fight. It’s really turned around. It just makes it a better environment. To be honest, I wouldn’t change anything about it. It feels safe, a good place to learn and be a student. ”
Alana Martinez, 16, junior
Student body treasurer
“The atmosphere and energy has changed. Kids just want to be here. Kids take things more seriously. They knew were doing it last year, but now that (mindset) is bigger, spreads throughout the campus. It’s (emphasized) more and has become a part of the school. Honestly, when I think about it there’s nothing I would change. I’m just comfortable here. I’m proud to be at Chap.”