GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - With more than 1,700 students roaming the halls, Grand Junction High School is one of the largest schools in the Valley.
But to keep all these students in line, they’ve had to hire a new dean, something they haven’t had in years.
So why is GJHS hiring while the District is cutting?
A growing school will inevitably have growing pains. And Grand Junction High School Principal Jon Bilbo says his school is no exception. "Fights to harassment to drug and alcohol abuse,: he says.
Last year the school’s three assistant principals handled most of the discipline issues, but some slipped through the cracks. "We were really able to focus on the juniors and seniors last year at the expense of not being able to provide as much coverage to sophomore and freshman as we wanted to,” Bilbo says.
But at a time when the School District cut spending across the board they also approved $50,000 for a new position at Grand Junction High School.
The new Dean of Discipline, Chris Berry, is starting his second semester. "I love it. Very excited to be here, very rewarding,” he says.
Berry deals only with freshmen. "Trying to get out get into those classrooms that 9th Graders are in see what's going on,” he says.
With the new performance-based graduation policy, Bilbo says hiring Berry was absolutely necessary. "There's more of an emphasis on insuring students are staying on track to graduate from the first year of school,” he says.
Bilbo says discipline, attendance and grades were all factors in requesting the new position. "But we've added a higher bar of excellence because we have one person dealing with a group of students versus three administrators,” he says.
Since he started, Berry says tardies dropped six percent, Dean’s List ‘F’s went down and grade point averages went up.
Berry says, "Review attendance with them review tardies meet with them when they do get an attendance slip where they have to serve a detention make sure that I'm very visible and that they see me a lot."
He says he takes a hands-on approach when dealing with his new students. "Try to make it as real world as I can,” he says beause graduating high school is one of the most important accomplishments in a young person’s life.
Bilbo says if they lose staff to budget cuts in the future they will still get by, but the quality of education will suffer.