Belpre BOE approves ‘Portrait of a Graduate’

Belpre Elementary School sixth-graders Natalia Bee, center left, and Tyler Plummer, center right, listen and take notes on arguments presented by classmates Haiden Tabler, left, and Kennedy Stevens, right, during a classroom lesson demonstration Monday evening for the Belpre Board of Education. (Photo by Michael Erb)

BELPRE — The Belpre Board of Education Monday voted to adopt the “Portrait of a Graduate,” the first step in rethinking education in Belpre City Schools.

The unanimous vote followed months of committee meetings, surveys and public presentations.

Superintendent Jeff Greenley said the next step will be to create a timeline of “portrait to practice” which will outline how the district will emphasize the qualities desired in a Belpre City Schools graduate.

The two-page document approved Monday outlines those qualities as “Critical Thinkers with Integrity,” “Empathetic Communicators,” “Leaders and Collaborators,” “Creative,” “Hopeful,” and “Goal-Oriented.”

Greenley said “empathetic” was added to the communications quality at the request of students who said more needed to be taught on how to disagree and argue without hostility.

Belpre City Schools Superintendent Jeff Greenley talks about the qualities desired in a Belpre graduate during Monday’s Belpre Board of Education meeting. The board unanimously approved adoption of the “Portrait of a Graduate,” the first step in an academic overhaul in Belpre City Schools. (Photo by Michael Erb)

“Empathy and relations is a saw that needs sharpened,” Greenley said.

Earlier in the meeting, the board received an English Language Arts lesson demonstration. Teacher Stacy Moore and four Belpre Elementary School sixth-graders — Natalia Bee, Tyler Plummer, Haiden Tabler and Kennedy Stevens — walked the board through a debate and discussion lesson, showing how students research, argue and listen.

The demonstration topic was whether students should be allowed access to vending machines during the school day. Each group had two minutes to present their arguments either in favor or against.

The arguments were delivered without interruption, and receiving teams were expected to summarize the presented argument before responding. In the classroom lesson, students would then meet in groups to potentially reach a compromise.

“So many (of the students) said they loved the feeling of being able to talk without someone interrupting them because they are so used to someone interrupting,” Moore said, “but they hated sitting there waiting to rebut.”

Greenley said the lesson illustrated the areas of communication and critical thinking the school system is addressing through the Portrait of a Graduate project.

“That was beautifully illustrated,” he said.

The meeting Monday briefly stalled during a vote on a high school trip to Puerto Rico at the end of March. Few details on the trip were available, and board member Fred Meredith made a motion to table approval until after chaperones could be named and vetted. Meredith’s motion died for lack of a second and after officials briefly considered an executive session to discuss Meredith’s concerns.

Board President Leonard Wiggins said the board needed to be presented with information on such topics ahead of a vote.

“Finding out on social media is not the way to do it,” he said. “Please inform the board ahead of time.”

Wiggins ultimately voted to approve the trip. The vote passed 4-1 with Meredith the lone vote against.