They say what is old is new again and that holds true with Bartow High School’s principal, Emilean Clemons.
She is the new principal, but she isn’t really new. She had been the co-principal since August and was a vice principal for 10 years before that. But she has only been the principal at BHS since Jan. 6, when school resumed after the Christmas break, having replaced now-retired principal Ron Pritchard.
“I’m looking forward to the new opportunities and challenges as we continue to build upon the historically strong foundation of BHS’s achievement and success,” she said. “Moving forward, we’re going to work to implement processes that will enhance what is already in place.”
One of the latest changes Clemons has implemented is that every student and staff member must wear ID badges.
“This is to make sure our school is safe and secure for everyone. This lets us recognize immediately who is allowed to be on campus,” she said. “We above all want our school to be safe.”
Maybe less visible but equally important is an increased or strengthened disciplinary process.
“We started working on this in August and we’re already seeing improvement on our students’ attitudes and their behavior.”
One challenge Clemons is facing, she said, is dealing with one of the oldest campuses in the Polk school district.
“Having an older facility is challenging,” she said. She added she hopes to get the student restrooms and the auditorium upgraded on the District’s capital outlay budget in the spring.
“The District is in the process of preparing its capital outlay plan, which will go to the school board in the spring, and until it is approved, we won’t know what may happen.”
Clemons also said she’s seeing a “higher expectation” from her faculty and staff.
“They know there is an accountability both for staff and students. We also want to ensure that our students know what is expected of them,” she said. “We are already seeing that happening. They know we want them to succeed and are doing all we can to help them do just that.”
She has a staff of 135 teachers and about half that many employees in support positions to serve the overall total student population of approximately 2,000 students. She works hand-in-glove with International Baccalaureate principal Ed Vetter and Summerlin Academy Commandant Steve Cochran, which are schools-within-a-school at BHS.
The BHS she has inherited is a B-ranked school with an 82 percent graduation rate.
“We’d like that to be higher and that’s our goal,” she said. “We want our grad rate to reach 100 percent and to be an A school.
“I want to see all our students set and reach their goals,” she said. “We want to give them options and choices so they will be prepared for college or the work force when they leave here.
“I’m passionate about improving student learning and increasing the selections students have,” said Clemons. “We know that high school graduates have a greater opportunity for success and our goal is to ensure that, when our kids leave us, they are equipped to pursue their choices, whether it is college,a career or the workforce. We want them to be ready.”
One way she seeks to help achieve those goals is through the BHS academy system. There presently are 10 academies in place that span various career fields, from medical services to agriculture.
“It goes back to the school-in-a-school idea,” she said. “In a small group with a central focus, we can keep students engaged and excited about what they are doing — and that usually spells success.”
Clemons brings a wealth of experience to her new position. She was an elementary school teacher, a middle school teacher and spent a while as a stay-at-home mom to her two daughters, Kaycee and Karlee.
She and husband, Jerry, a self- employed contractor, live in Alturas.