For many Roxborough schools, the 2012-13 begins a new path. One middle school replaces a closed elementary school—with its former students redistributed throughout the area. A charter school temporarily moves into closed Catholic schools while awaiting its new school. And Catholic school students find themselves in new surroundings as parochial schools leave Manayunk.
When took over in 2010, the Ridge Avenue public school was anything but stable. The administrator office's nameplate continually changed and annually the school made the persistently dangerous schools list.
As the 2012-13 school year begins, Roxborough remains off the list for a second consecutive year, and Brandt, a school alum, maintains his position with the high school, adding onto the school's offerings.
This fall, Roxborough debuts several new additions for students, including:
- Block scheduling
- An additional credit opportunity
- One more foreign language
- A new athletic division and athletic director
- The debut of homecoming dance/games
Brandt and his team decided that block scheduling, with A and B days, were better to "prioritize academics and allow kids time to get into a specific skill topic without disruption from shorter bell periods."
The more flexible schedule allows students to enroll in eight credits, up from seven in 2011-12, and six in 2010-11. Brandt said this eases the burden of taking AP classes and encourages more electives.
"There's just more programs they can do. If I want to take an AP class, CTE, JROTC—there's only X amount of opportunities to exploit the the different areas of academic interest. This makes it easier," Brandt said.
The 2012-13 school year also debuts German as an elective, in addition to Spanish and Italian.
Roxborough High School will also adopt the Common Core Standards, which Brandt says will "align our practices to research and theory that is proven." The school continues to implement Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, standards for ninth and 10th grade students as a way to increase college-based learning. In addition to the Reach for College readiness program for incoming freshman.
One of Brandt's biggest accomplishments was drastically lowering the rate of violent incidents. The principal credits an across-the-board collaboration to reduce serious incidents 79 percent in two years. According to district records, the number of assaults dropped from 54 to 18 in 2009-10 to 2010-11. A 14 percent reduction again occurred last year.
"We're continuing the change in climate started two years go. We're holding students accountable and raised the bar in what we expect from them... The staff embraces it, and they are so talented and committed to this vision," he said.
Despite the improvement, Brandt works within a much larger system than just Roxborough. The School District of Philadelphia previously announced it could potentially close 64 schools over the next several years. How does Brandt manage a building with external threats?
"In all honesty, I can only worry about what I can control. Outside this building, I can't control it. Our job is to be ready for our kids on Sept. 7," Brandt said. "I want Roxborough High School to be a top notch experience, and I want (students') time here to rival that of suburban schools."
Brandt has worked to increase enrollment of students within Roxborough and Manayunk and continues relationships with local elementary schools and new-to-Roxborough AMY Northwest Middle School.
"We are increasing our dialogue to partner and collaborate with the elementary schools. It's about more than Roxborough High School. There's a whole K-12 continuum and the experience on all levels is important," he said.
To that end, Roxborough will create a homecoming dance and football/soccer games to instill a better sense of school pride.
"It's a nice time to be part of Roxborough High School. More community families are using the school, and I hope to see this all continue over the following years," he said.
Visit the school's website for more information.