Central High School principal Michael Reynolds is firm in his belief that strong schools make a strong community, and he’s putting his clout behind an effort to foster pride and unity in Fountain City. That effort is called #fountaincitystrong, an easily shareable hashtag and slogan that sums up the work going on at Central and its feeder schools.
On the administrative side, it’s principals collaborating across schools to make sure kids in elementary school today have what it takes to be successful once they hit high school.
Reynolds, who has led Central for three years, said collaboration among the “feeder pattern,” elementary schools that feed middle schools and then high schools, is not necessarily new. But, the new slogan helped put a name on that essence of community spirit that Fountain City residents know so well. Parents of Shannondale Elementary students who were facing rezoning to the new Gibbs Middle coined #fountaincitystrong.
Soon, T-shirts and decals appeared, and the slogan took on a broader meaning.
“I’ve always believed that the high school is the heartbeat of the community,” said Reynolds. “The stronger the school is, the stronger the community is going to be. Your community thrives and is as strong as your schools.”
So, what is it that makes Fountain City schools, including Inskip, Sterchi, Fountain City and Shannondale elementary schools, Gresham Middle and Central High, so special?
“I think it’s the deep roots,” said Reynolds. “A lot of our kids are second, third, fourth generation graduates of Central. I get excited when I see middle school families involved in high school programs. It’s a unique community. People think you have that everywhere, but you really don’t.”
And there’s a lot to be proud of at Central.
Just for starters, two 2017 Central grads entered college this fall as juniors through dual-credit and AP coursework. There are 17 AP classes offered at Central, and plenty of dual-credit opportunities.
Reynolds said Central’s ACT scores may not be the best on average, but 13 students pulled a 40 or better (on individual subjects) last year. Two students went straight into a military nuclear science program after graduating from Central. And the robust CTE program gives a firm foundation to students who want to enter a career right out of high school.
The school is breaking new ground with its coursework for English Language Learners, also known as ELL. Reynolds said some schools have one class per day for ELL students, and the rest of the day they’re thrown into regular coursework, a method that can set struggling kids up to fail.
At Central, grants have provided “sheltered learning” opportunities for ELL students, science and math classes tailored for ELL, with both a content objective and a language objective. ELL enrollment at Central is 120 this year.
“What we want is to give those kids a strong opportunity to learn and a better opportunity to graduate,” said Reynolds. “Yes, our ACT would be higher if we didn’t have 120 ELL kids, but we’re not turning those kids away. We never will. We take all kids in.”
Performing and visual arts continue to be strong at Central. Sports saw a golfing putt, chip and drive national champion from Central, plus a girls soccer team that went undefeated in regular season play, not to mention a football team that made it to the state championship game last year.
“Central’s kind of a well-kept secret,” said Reynolds. “People don’t know about the strong programs we have or the great kids we have. We want them to be community-minded citizens. We want them to grow up and continue to learn and to be a part of Fountain City and have those strong ties.”