Stability, Consistency, and Some New Excitement
When Agora Chief Academic Officer Dr. Anne Butler looks back at the last few years, she sees the success that initiatives like Agora Loves Lit and Middle States Accreditation have had, and she’s excited about the incredible growth that’s occurred. As the 2022-23 school year begins, a theme of stability and consistency has emerged, and students and staff will get to see these plans through.
“We’ve really held the pedal down for three to four years, pushing our staff to implement new programs and cyber ideas, and now Agora gets the chance to truly solidify learning,” said Dr. Butler. “Stability and consistency are key as Agora builds on a solid foundation, and we look forward to a year when we let a deeper learning of core ideas be realized.”
With a three-year comprehensive plan in place, the Agora academic team has a clear focus, and they’ve set goals for the entire school. While no major changes to programs, platforms and projects are planned, administrators always take a look at anything that can be improved, so families will notice a few changes this school year.
Based on parent and student feedback, Agora is updating the elementary school schedule. The tweak will include more breaks and a small change to the length of classes.
At the middle school level, where students enter as children and leave as young adults, Mr. Bernard Boccella will be joining Agora as a new assistant principal, since Assistant Principal Eric Buffington is moving to the high school. Additionally, elective options have grown, and Agora will be offering world language to middle school students.
At Agora’s high school, a special focus is being placed on future pathways. Since its introduction, the Act 158 legislation has changed the way students can demonstrate readiness for graduation. Agora is working to ensure that every ninth- and 10th-grade student will have a fully articulated graduation path by the end of this academic year. At Agora, students work with the same school counselor all the way through graduation. The counselor can develop a working relationship to address academic needs, plan for the student’s postsecondary success and attend to personal needs that impact the student’s school performance.
“Agora truly rallies around the student, and developing a pathway plan is crucial,” continued Dr. Butler. “School counselors will help map out course selection and evidence for Act 158 fulfillment to meet graduation requirements. They’ll also take an in-depth look at what happens after our students walk across the stage at Agora’s graduation. Being proactive is key since there are so many different pathways to graduation.”
BOOKS IN HAND
With the launch of a Mobile Library this year, Agora Loves Lit will be taken to a whole new level. Look for literacy-related events, guest readers, storybook walks and more. Getting physical books into the hands of students who may not have easy, ongoing access to them is very exciting, and Agora’s regional literacy outreach specialists are ready to help the program grow.
ENRICHING THE EDUCATORS
Professional development (PD) is a fundamental way for teachers to increase their knowledge of effective educational methods, so teachers will spend a half day every other Wednesday in PD. It was important to choose the same day and time in order to provide families with consistency in scheduling. Agora teachers will start their professional development for the new school year by attending a face-to-face learning day in August. Staff members are excited to see each other in person again, and Agora leadership already kicked off this process with a meeting in late July.
Agora is implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), an evidence-based, tiered framework for supporting students’ behavioral, academic, social, emotional and mental health. PBIS improves social-emotional competence, academic success and school climate, while also helping to improve teacher health and well-being. It is a way to create positive, predictable, equitable and safe learning environments where everyone thrives, focusing on the critical link between instruction and desired student behavioral outcomes, and integrating academic and behavioral initiatives.
AGORA DAYS OUT
Agora will be dedicating one day per quarter this school year to Agora Days Out (ADO) events, offering both in-person and virtual opportunities. The school day will be fully dedicated to the ADO, so students, families, teachers, and staff will have the opportunity to meet in person if they so choose. This will allow families and staff to meet, and students to connect with their classmates—all to learn while having fun beyond the classroom.
Additional events will also be offered at other dates and times throughout the school year. Some of the outings/locations this past school year included the Heinz Wildlife Refuge Center, Salt Springs State Park Lunch and Hike, Games at Blue Marsh Lake Park, Morris Arboretum, Pearson Park, Imagination Playground, April Mini Golf, A Storybook Walk in the Park at Cedar Beach Pavilion, Hike and Climb at Cook Forest State Park Fire Tower, Kennywood Amusement Park, Knoebels Amusement Resort, Lake Tobias Wildlife Park and Burholme Park.
In addition to these outings, Agora offered many virtual events this past year, including the Laboratory of the Mind Writing Workshop, Page to Stage: Exploring Theatre, Survivor: Lost at Sea, Favorite Book Share, Inside Game Design, Heart of a Hall of Famer with Donnie Shell, Young Artists’ Workshop, Virtual Tour of the White House, Winter Olympics Escape Room, Art in Our Neighborhood, Animal Behavior and Pet Parade.