KONZ | The first 20 -- what I'm learning by visiting 100 JCPS sc - WDRB 41 Louisville News

KONZ | The first 20 -- what I'm learning by visiting 100 JCPS schools in 100 days

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WDRB reporter Toni Konz, on assignment at Louisville Male High School on Jan. 6, 2015 WDRB reporter Toni Konz, on assignment at Louisville Male High School on Jan. 6, 2015
Wilder Elementary School was the first elementary school in Kentucky to offer Chinese language instruction (Photo by Toni Konz) Wilder Elementary School was the first elementary school in Kentucky to offer Chinese language instruction (Photo by Toni Konz)
Photo from Wilt Elementary School visit on Jan. 14, 2015 (Photo by Toni Konz) Photo from Wilt Elementary School visit on Jan. 14, 2015 (Photo by Toni Konz)
Field Elementary School on Jan. 8, 2015 (Photo by Toni Konz) Field Elementary School on Jan. 8, 2015 (Photo by Toni Konz)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – As a reporter who covers Jefferson County Public Schools full time, I am charged with writing about the big stuff, like how the district funds its $1 billion budget and how hard it is for some students to get into highly desirable schools.

But it's also my job to get to the stories that might otherwise go unnoticed – and despite how connected we are with social media – sometimes you just need to show up.

On Dec. 1, I made a commitment to visit 100 Schools in 100 Days – a chance to sit in classrooms, visit with students and school staff and see what is going on inside JCPS.

Some days, I visit more than one school. Other days I don't visit any. But by the last day of school on May 28, my goal is to have visited 100 different schools.

To be quite honest, I had no idea where this 100 Schools, 100 Days thing would go when I first started. Would I just tweet about it? Take lots of photos and post them to Instagram? Write a column?

The answer is: all of the above. I'm tweeting photos of each visit (www.twitter.com/tkonz) and I am posting them on Instagram (www.instagram.com/tonikonz). You can use the hashtag #100Schools100Days to follow along.

I'm also going to write five columns about my visits that provide a short synopsis of each school I visited and at least one thing I learned while I was there (other things I learned may be used for a future story). If I (or one of my colleagues at WDRB) wrote a story about that school after my visit, there is also a link to that story.

Here we go, the First 20:

1)      Westport Middle School (8100 Westport Road) – Dec. 1 to visit the classrooms of two teachers (Paige Houston and Sharon Klump) who had recently obtained National Board Certification – the highest possible certification in the teaching profession. In all, 52 JCPS teachers obtained certification this year.

2)      Ballard High School (6000 Brownsboro Road) – Dec. 8. While there, I wrote about the school's effort to have its entire student body participate in the “Hour of Code.”

3)      Jeffersontown High School (9600 Old Six Mile Lane) – Dec. 11. I have not yet written any stories from this visit (other than one about an incident involving a school bus on its way back after a basketball game).

4)      Louisville Male High School (4409 Preston Highway) – Jan. 6. I wrote about how Jim Jury was named the school's new principal.

5)      Field Elementary School (120 Sacred Heart Lane) – Jan. 8. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Superintendent Donna Hargens surprised third grade teacher Sarah Reed with flowers and a proclamation, after she was recently named Kentucky's Teacher of the Year.

6)      duPont Manual High School (120 W. Lee Street) – Jan 9. Visited several classrooms. I later wrote about how five teachers were going to become “Students for a Day.”

7)      Bowen Elementary School (1601 Roosevelt Ave) – Jan 13. Visited several classrooms. We later wrote about how new sidewalks along a 3-mile stretch of LaGrange Road in Lyndon, as well as bicycle lanes, will benefit the school and its surrounding community.

8)      Wilt Elementary School (6700 Price Lane) – Jan. 14. Have not written a story yet, but WDRB meteorologist Jeremy Kappell and I visited the school's fourth graders during an assembly. I talked about being a reporter, while Jeremy talked to the kids about the difference between weather and climate.

9)      Southern High School (8620 Preston Highway) – Jan. 14. Visited the school to learn more about AT&T's Texting and Driving "It Can Wait" program.

10)   Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School (1351 Payne Street) – Jan. 15. I wrote about how the school's principal, Allyson Vitato, was surprised with $25,000 for her excellence in education.

11)   Wilder Elementary School (1913 Herr Lane) – Jan. 16. Have not written a story yet, but learned that the school was the first elementary school in Kentucky to offer Chinese language instruction. More than 10 years later, Kitty Nadeau is still teaching the popular program.

12)   Minors Lane Elementary School (8510 Minors Lane) – Jan. 21. Was here to talk to officials about the difficulty of getting all children ready for kindergarten, particularly when some not arrive not knowing how to hold a pencil or have never seen a book before.

13)   Tully Elementary School (3300 College Drive) – Jan. 22. Was here to learn about how teachers are using a new online learning program to stay engaged with students, even when they are out for a snow day – or an extended break.

14)   Noe Middle School (121 W. Lee Street) – Jan. 23. Wanted to check in with new principal Jennifer Cave, and while there, I visited the school's visual arts magnet and saw many very talented kids.

15)   Stuart Middle School (4601 Valley Station Road) – Jan. 26. While here, I was able to see how the district's new “transition centers” are working. JCPS spent $4.9 million on the centers, which are meant to help students coming back from an alternative school or extended absence.

16)   Valley High School (10200 Dixie Highway) – Jan. 26. The Jefferson County Board of Education held its first off-site meeting in more than a decade here. Took an hour-long tour and learned more about its popular medical magnet program.

17)   Goldsmith Elementary School (3520 Goldsmith Lane) – Jan. 27. Visited here the day after Jeremy Renner was named the school's new principal. Toured several classrooms, including one where fifth graders had become historical figures from the past and were teaching second-graders.

18)   Cochran Elementary School (500 W. Gaulbert Avenue) – Jan. 27. Visited here for the 100th Day of school, which I learned is a really big deal for kindergartners!

19)   Atherton High School (3000 Dundee Road) – Jan. 30. While visiting here, I learned about many different classes and programs. And I stumbled upon this story, which might be one my favorite stories I have ever written: Atherton senior has 'incredible' moment on the basketball court.

20)   Meyzeek Middle School (828 S. Jackson Street) – Feb. 3. While here for a visit, it was announced a student team from the school was one of eight national winners of the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. Their winning app concept called, Log ‘N Lean, provides information and assistance for the requirements of the Kentucky driver education program. The school now gets a $20,000 grant and students will now work to develop the concept into a working app.

While it's important to cover the big issues in JCPS, I think it is an equally important to focus on some of the smaller things that are taking place in our schools each and every day.

I have 80 more schools to visit before May 28. Where should I go next?

Reporter Antoinette Konz has been an education reporter for 13 years and has been covering Jefferson County Public Schools since 2007. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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