Eastern High School Aims For Turnaround

"This is pretty much the last year that we have to turn this place around." -Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul.

The new school year means big changes for the Lansing School District, especially at Eastern High School. With a new academic approach and a longer day, it's a plan to bring the school back in the state's good graces, but some students aren't convinced it's the answer.

"They're trying to force kids to be here longer so I don't think it's going to help anything," one senior said.

Parents and staff are hopeful the fix will lift Eastern up off the state's priority list, meaning it ranks in the bottom 5 percent of schools statewide.

''Now more than ever they really understand this is pretty much the last year that we have to turn this place around," said Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul.

The last ditch effort includes changes that places students in classes based on their performance. Caamal Canul says it will give students extra attention if needed, and challenge those who are farther ahead.

It also means fewer options, with limited electives so students can focus on the basics, math and reading.

"Anyone who works here at Eastern had to sign a compact that they agree to this plan to participate to be a part of this new change for Eastern," Caamal Canul said.

For the past four years the school has been on the state's watch list, Caamal Canul says the school has been under-performing for the past 12 years. But she's confident the new plan will help get the high school back on track.

"Its taken a couple of years for the teachers and staff in Eastern to come to a sort of reality check on what the situation is and to implement a bold new plan," Caamal Canul added.

Legislation stalled in the state Senate would expand the Education Achievement Authority if passed, putting Eastern at risk for a state takeover. That's part of the reason the district is trying to be proactive, to prevent such a move.

"Educational changes are very slow and this could take a number of years before the impact is fully realized," said Lansing School Board President Peter Spadafore. "But we have one year to really right the ship and we're going to do everything we can to try to do that."

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