Save TMCC High

Kathleen O’Brien is an English teacher at Truckee Meadows Community College High School

Only one Washoe County high school can boast that every student graduates with college credits and that 70 percent of its students qualify for the Millennium Scholarship. This is Truckee Meadows Community College High School. We are one of the school district’s most successful programs, but we’re about to be axed because of state budget shortfalls.

I’ve taught at TMCC High for three years. If the school board eliminates the school, it will be because board members don’t recognize its contribution.

TMCC High School improves students’ chances at college by integrating them into a college atmosphere while they complete high school. Students take high school and college classes concurrently. Ours is an accredited school, not an add-on program. Our staff has spent the last five years learning how best to serve students, determining who will likely succeed in our academically rigorous surroundings and building an identity.

Our high school classes are project-based, geared toward state and county standards and the Department of Labor’s SCANS skills—the reading, writing, arithmetic and business skills that universities and employers demand. Our kids set their own schedules, like college students do, so while they have more choices, they also have greater responsibility. Since we’re small, we’re able to treat every student as an individual, which is reflected by the atmosphere of mutual respect in our classrooms.

I’ve wondered whether the nature of our student body makes TMCC High easy to overlook. Most of our students don’t come from targeted high-risk groups or from AP programs. By and large, they’re the “middle” kids that education has historically neglected. Most of our students weren’t flagged for stellar academic performance when they arrived. The minimum grade point average for acceptance at our school is 2.0—a C-minus average. For whatever reason, most of our kids didn’t feel welcome or comfortable or fulfilled in their traditional high schools. Some were at the end of their ropes. Rather than drop out or silently endure, they chose to go to college. It’s safe to say many of our graduates would have settled for a GED, or maybe even dropped out, if our school didn’t exist. Instead, they have diplomas, college credits and scholarships.

True, our school lacks some things. We don’t have extracurricular activities like sports, music or clubs. We don’t have the bullying in the hallways that you see in many other schools.

We also don’t have expenditures for transportation, custodians, athletics or school police. The district will save little if we’re cut, because staff members will earn their current salaries elsewhere. The only costs actually eliminated by cutting our school would be relatively minimal supplies and the expense of our students’ college credits. I don’t teach math, but the numbers are pretty simple: the school board will save less money cutting our school than it would by decreasing programs that are far less successful.

A while back, one of my seniors summed up what we’re proud of when she said, “At my other schools, they wanted to make me learn; here, you guys make me want to learn.”

That’s worth keeping.