White Hall School District Superintendent Larry Smith said Thursday that he and his employees are committed to providing students with every opportunity for academic success.
Smith told members of the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club that some students need to be shown that they have what it takes to succeed.
“Three years ago we began offering the ACT standardized test to every high school junior at district cost,” Smith said. “There are some who argue that having everyone take the ACT brings our average score down, and that is true, but I think every kid needs to take the test. Some kids who take that test don’t think they were college material but once they get their scores back and see that they did well a light bulb goes on for them.”
Smith said the first set of ACT results from three years ago came back with an average of 19.5, which was down from the previous WHSD average of 21.
“This year we went back up to a 20,” Smith said. “We offer advanced placement prep courses in mathematics and the sciences to help shore up weak areas for students before they take the ACT.”
Smith said the school district participates in the Career Action Plan program that starts in the sixth grade and continues through the 12th grade.
“We start out with asking what do they want to do, where do they want to go and how will they get there,” Smith said. “As they progress through the grades the CAP program becomes more focused and gives them ideas on how to fund their higher education choices.”
Smith said the district uses the career coach program through Southeast Arkansas College.
“They really aren’t coaches; they are counselors, and they assist our school counselors by handling issues related to testing and to college applications,” Smith said. “They serve as a liaison between colleges and universities and the students and their parents. It is important for students planning to go to college to know which courses to take and in which order and the counselors help them with that.”
Smith said White Hall students also have the option of earning concurrent college credit while they are still in high school.
“My daughter, who is a senior at White Hall High School this year, already has 15 college credits with six of them in history from the University of Arkansas at Monticello and three in history and six in English from SEARK,” Smith said. “She plans on taking six more this year and will have 21 college credits before she even sets foot in a college classroom. We have some students who have graduated with enough credits to basically have their freshman year taken care of. For students going on to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville that is a $20,000 expense so having those college credits ahead of time can be a real financial savings for parents.”
Smith said district teachers have high expectations for their students.
“Our teachers spend countless hours sponsoring programs for kids including cheerleading and dance,” Smith said. “Our coaches spend many hours working with students nights and weekends in addition to school days.”
Smith said the White Hall School District received 166 applications for out-of-district students to attend White Hall schools through school choice.
“There were 66 applications from students living in the Dollarway School District but they opted out of school choice this year so none of those students were able to attend school in White Hall,” Smith said. “There will probably be 40 or 50 who will end up attending school in the WHSD through school choice.”