While other principals are sweating changes brought on by demolition and construction, Michael May has a bit more of a carefree year.
Steele High is the only Amherst school that isn’t impacted in any way by the two-year plan of building the new PK-3 Powers Elementary on South Lake Street.
But that doesn’t mean 2017-2018 is lacking in excitement for May and company.
The high school has gotten new carpet in the main and guidance offices this summer. Broken windows are being fixed. Two courtyards — one near the cafetorium on Washington Avenue and the other accessible only from inside — have been spruced up. The east and south parking lots have been paved. And the main gym has both a new public address system and a resurfaced floor.
When students return to classes on Wednesday, Aug. 23, they’ll have four new high-level electives.
Computer science will focus on coding and other advanced skills. Biomimicry will teach the science of looking to nature for strategies to solve human challenges — and Steele is the only high school in Ohio to pilot the newly-developing curriculum. Two U.S. history classes have been added to the College Credit Plus program.
In the past four years, Steele has added 19 courses to the roster, all without needing any additional teachers. “That’s the ultimate display of fiscal responsibility,” May said.
Students — and their parents — are banking a huge savings through College Credit Plus program, which provides credits through Lorain County Community College.
When it launched in 2014-2015, Amherst teens earned 1,671 credits. This past year, they earned 4,162 credits, which is the most in the Southwestern Conference.
According to LCCC, the early credits saved Amherst kids $659,011 in college costs last year.
May is entering his fifth year leading the high school and is excited to welcome students back to the building.
“I believe that consistency comes from the positive changes that have been made by the entire staff as a building that benefit kids,” he said. “Every year, we’ve done many things were that have benefited students. All of those changes are going to help them when they leave here, and put them ahead while they’re here.”
He said a more positive school culture and spirit have become the norm.
So has access to technology. For example, Google Chromebooks will be used by every student in the English and math departments this year. That’s important because many colleges, universities, and employers are issuing laptops to students and workers and expecting them to have the skills needed to make use of the tech every day, said May.
As the first day of school approaches, May has a message for parents: Be open to the many lines of communication with Steele staff.
He communicates to the public through Twitter, Instagram, Remind, the district website, and all-calls. If there’s every an issue that needs addressed, parents should feel welcome to reach out to the best teacher or staff member to handle it.
“Email our teachers. Find out who you need to speak to,” May said. “Communicate with the faculty and staff, because I really believe that our teachers take care of the kids. I’ve seen them do amazing things, be so flexible to work with everyone who needs help.”
He also has a message for students. Whether you have a problem that’s academic, social, athletic, or personal, there will always be someone at Steele High School willing to help.
“You just have to ask,” he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.