2017-09-21 / Front Page

Vance to Reshape How Rogers is Perceived

For New Rogers High Principal, Perception and Consistency Key
By Brooke Constance White

Jared Vance, Rogers new principal, catches up with students Brielle Mosher, Marley Gifford and Michael Phelps. (Photo by Jen Carter) Jared Vance, Rogers new principal, catches up with students Brielle Mosher, Marley Gifford and Michael Phelps. (Photo by Jen Carter) It’s only a couple of weeks into the school year, and Jared Vance, the new principal at Rogers High School, is already working hard to reshape the perception of the institution. And from his 17-plus years in education, the best way to do that, he believes, is to highlight the successes and the opportunities students are given.

Vance, 41, a North Kingstown resident, came to Newport after two years as principal of the Kickemuit Middle School in the Bristol Warren regional school district. He also spent four years as assistant principal at Curtis Corner Middle School in South Kingstown, and eight years as a special education teacher at Barrington High School.

“We need to shift the message about what Rogers is,” he said. “We need to change the narrative to make people aware of what really happens in our four walls and … break down the barriers, and start offering a more positive message.”

To that end, Vance is utilizing social media and public-relations practices to make sure those positive messages are getting to the public. Although he said he hasn’t been in the district long enough to speak to any past negative perceptions of Rogers, it’s all about showcasing the positive while working to solve the problems that need extra attention.

The building might be old and Rogers, like any school, isn’t perfect, but Vance said options abound for students at the high school, and the students themselves are inspiring. Between the P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) program, career pathways, and dual high school/college enrollment, he said extraordinary opportunities exist for every student who walks in the door.

“We’ve got kids earning 17 college credits and are able to walk into college as sophomores with more than a year of [general education classes] out of the way, which puts them that much further ahead,” said Vance. “We have a school full of brilliant, mature, compassionate students and I think everyone in this community needs to witness it for themselves so that the positive message can spread.”

The school is also growing. At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, enrollment was at about 590, and there are at least 50 or so new freshman this year. And while growth can be a challenge, Vance said he wants to leverage it to help change the perception of the school and show the community how well Rogers prepares students for life after graduation.

One hot-button issue in the district has been an increase in behavioral problems this past year, such that teachers were begging the school committee to intervene and take steps to insure that students’ social and emotional needs were being met. New this year, both Thompson Middle School and Rogers are implementing restorative justice and conscious discipline programs through which students can learn to properly handle situations. The new model offers a more holistic and reflective approach to discipline wherein students work to self-regulate emotions and inappropriate actions.

Vance, who worked early in his career at an alternative school for students with serious behavioral problems, said he “clicks” with those kinds of students, the ones who need the most care, attention and support.

“I love the fringe students who will give you a hard time,” he said. “It’s all about building respect and authentic relationships and letting them know you’ll be there no matter what. If you do that, your students will climb a mountain for you.”

Since Rogers recently partnered with Young Voices, a Providencebased nonprofit working in urban settings to build students into powerful advocates and active community members, implementing a more holistic approach to discipline, Vance said he hopes to start a student judicial system. Based on his experience, having a student tell a peer that their behavior made them feel uncomfortable has a more significant impact than when a teacher says the same thing.

“It’s all about a shift in mindset,” he said of the newly launched restorative justice program. “One of the arguments against it is that it lets kids off the hook, but really I think they’re even more accountable for their behavior because now they have to think about what they did and figure out how the situation should be handled differently next time.”

Consistency from teachers, Vance says, also contributes to improved student behavior. In his experience at previous schools, cell phone use during school hours, for example, is an area where students are confused by teacher inconsistency. One teacher may allow students to listen to music in one ear bud while another might ban cell phone use from their classroom altogether.

“The kids get [multiple] different messages which causes confusion and can cause rifts between professionals,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone has the same set of standards so that we’re consistent across the board.”

Vance said he also wants to implement an open-door policy with students and parents so that everyone feels comfortable coming to him with any concerns or questions.

“I work proactively and want to address things as soon as possible,” he said. “I also want to get our parents and families in here so they can see what it’s really like and see how amazing these kids are.”

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