October 14, 2009
When the state shut down Johnston High School in the summer of 2008, nobody thought about throwing a pep rally.
But Tuesday, more than one year after the campus re-opened as Eastside Memorial High School, students piled into the gym and listened to the school band as if nothing had happened almost a year before.
Eastside Memorial celebrated the official launch of two New Tech schools, Green Tech and Global Tech, as part of the New Tech Network, an organization that works to implement innovative instructional methods in high schools across the United States.
It is the first high school in the country to contain two New Tech schools on the same campus.
State Sen. Kirk Watson, who pushed for funding for the school’s funding in the state Legislature, addressed the student body at the ceremony.
“I can’t point to anything else in the past 12 years that I’ve been in public service where the community has come together to accomplish something this substantial,” Watson said. “For me to tell you things didn’t look good last year would have been a major understatement.”
After receiving poor academic ratings on state testing for four consecutive years, the school closed for two months in 2008. It re-opened for the 2008-09 school year and operated like other high schools in the district, but at the start of this year students enrolled in one of the two new programs.
Every student in the Global Tech school will be issued a laptop when they enroll to promote technology-based learning for the 21st century. The teaching will be focused on international issues and competition in the global market, and students make a pledge to leave the domestic United States at least once after they graduate.
Students studying in the Green Tech campus will focus on a curriculum centered around current environmental issues. They will take classes heavy in science, math and technology and take career classes with an emphasis on engineering.
“We’ve partnered with more then 40 businesses, so students can really see what it’s like to work in these ‘green’ collar jobs,” said Green Tech principal Connor Grady.
Senior Beatrice Rojas was placed in the Green Tech program when the school reopened in August.
“I’m liking it so far,” Rojas said. “I’m taking an AP physics course and learning a lot of different things I don’t think I would have otherwise.”
History teacher Stephanie Lamarca said the changes to the curriculum will benefit the students.
“I taught here last year, and it’s just a complete 180,” Lamarca said. “There’s a much larger emphasis on making students more culturally literate and aware.”
Watson said the new programs will not guarantee student success.
“Now, we have to focus on graduating every Eastside student that is ready to graduate and go to college or technical school,” Watson said.