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Teacher Stories

Renee Decanio

Activities Director

Selma High School

This year under the leadership of activities director Renee DeCanio, Selma High School continues to implement a Link Crew program to support all ninth grade students entering high school. Through the support of the Board of Trustees and district administration, the SHS Link Crew looks to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of all ninth grade students by “linking” ninth grade students with 11th and 12th grade Link Leaders who were trained over two days before school started.

“Freshmen First Day” in August 2013 had over 400 ninth grade students attend a half day of school before all other grades started. Link Leaders worked with their 10 ninth grade Link Crew students on that day to assist and develop a sense of what it means to be part of the Bear Nation at Selma High. Other Link Crew events have included a lunch ice cream social for ninth grade students and their Link Leaders, along with a personal invitation to attend the back-to-school dance.

Ms. DeCanio continues to facilitate Link Crew to SHS in order to address issues that are common nationwide with ninth grade students. These include:

  • More students fail ninth grade than any other grade (National High School Center, 2007)
  • Promotion rates between ninth and 10th grade are significantly lower than rates between all other grades (Wheelock & Miao, 2005)
  • Most high school dropouts fail at least 25% of their ninth grade courses, while 8% of high school completers experienced the same difficulty (Letgers & Kerr, 2001)
  • Low attendance during the first 30 days of the ninth grade year is a stronger indicator that a student will drop out than any other eighth grade predictor, including test scores, other academic achievement, and age (Jerald, 2006)

What would happen if older students at school were given the resources, the skill and the permission to change this…AND the structure to do it? Providing a structure to connect upperclassmen to underclassmen that, includes effective training and the necessary support to make the relationship meaningful allows students to focus on school, rather than avoiding bullies and wondering how or if they’re going to fit in.

Ms. DeCanio knows the power of addressing these issues with current Selma High School students who were selected as Link Leaders after an application process and review. About 130 Link Leaders were selected out of 150 applications. Future events with Link Leaders and their ninth grade Link members will continue throughout the semester, including providing structured life lessons by Link Leaders to ninth grade students in the classroom. In addition, two additional Selma High teachers have been trained as Link Crew advisors. Mayra Quintanilla and Randy Stumpfhauser look to support Ms. DeCanio with implementation of the Link Crew program to move all students towards the Selma High School Mission of “Every Student Achieving High Expectations.”

Submitted by: Mark Babiarz, Selma High School Principal