When Principal Stephen Brandt first strolled into Roxborough High School in March of last year, he saw a need to change its climate by building a stronger school community. And after more than one year of tireless work, he touted the school’s progress Monday night at its Spring Showcase.
“The work of the students and staff signifies a mass change and improvement in the music and art programs,” said Principal Brandt.
Part of that change, he says is due to the success of a newly fostered spirit through the school’s art and music programs.
But they could face cuts, and so could school spirit, if Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed $1 billion in cuts for Pennsylvania’s public schools is passed.
That could hit RHS hard, where staff is nominal and the school morale is clearly more elevated than last year, but is still pulling itself out from the infamous “persistently dangerous,” level, which is a label some students say causes an even more negative school climate.
“The music program has done a lot for me, to believe in myself. If it were cut, I don’t know what I’d be into,” says 11th grader Kiyahna McCauley.
She was among nearly 20 other students in the school’s choir who performed “Over the Rainbow,” “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” “Seasons of Love,” and other tunes at the showcase. McCauley shined during her solo while singing “Cry,” and noted that her favorite part of singing is being able to express herself.
“Our classmates and I really enjoy the music program. It’s a lot of fun and we like doing it all together– but we love the solos,” she said.
The Showcase, which is in its fourth year, also featured an art show.
“After all the hard work and seeing the finished product and the satisfaction from the students, the finish is the best part,” said Jimmy Mance, an art teacher. “The pictures speak for themselves.”
Mance taught at RHS for two years and said that since Brandt came to RHS, students’ behavior and discipline has drastically improved.
“Stephen came in to a very difficult situation with the school and has really turned it around. He’s brought a lot of renewed energy and spirit back into the school,” said Scott Righter, a former student from the class of 1980 and a member of RHS’s Alumni Association. “I hope he gets the support from the city administration that he deserves.”
Corbett’s cuts could threaten future showcases if art and music programs are cut due to funding restraints, but Roxborough’s community plans to stand behind Brandt’s fight to continue turning the school into one that gives students hope for a successful future.
City council is scheduled to begin discussing the district’s budget on May 24 at City Hall.