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E.V. Cain reaches out to incoming students

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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E. V Cain Middle School is putting out the welcome mat for Skyridge students. It’s kind of a welcome mat in progress, but it’s out there and educators say they’re coming up with many ways to let all incoming students, including those from the discontinued sixth- through eighth-grades at Skyridge, know what awaits them next year. “It is an awesome place to be because we give our students so many opportunities to find something to be excited about, to exceed in,” said Carol Stryker, a Cain educator of 14 years who teaches physical education and leadership. “This is a time in your life when you need to find something that gets you excited.” The Auburn Union Elementary School District board of trustees voted in February to eliminate grades six- through eight at Skyridge School, discontinuing the district’s only K-8 program as a cost-cutting measure. Randy Ittner, E.V. Cain principal, said the board’s decision means some 100 students currently attending Skyridge could end up at Cain for the 2009-2010 school year. The nuts and bolts of educating more students — transportation, scheduling and staffing, for example — isn’t going to take a complete overhaul because Cain has an existing program in place. What’s going to take work is making sure new students and their parents feel at ease about coming to the school. The school’s open house, scheduled for May 14, is open to current students and families as well as those considering Cain for the 2009-2010 school year. Ittner said he’s also working with Skyridge’s Parent Teacher Club to plan tours for the Skyridge group, with the help of Cain’s leadership students. Suzanne Flint, E.V. Cain assistant principal, said she’d also take small groups of sixth-graders, and possibly seventh-graders as well, to visit fifth-grade classrooms to talk about their first year in middle school. “In fifth grade there’s this anxiety — I’m going to this big school, with these big kids. What’s going to happen to me?” Flint said. Parents and students, coming over from Skyridge or elsewhere, are also welcome to call Ittner at E.V. Cain any time to set up meetings and campus tours, Ittner said. “It’s really finding out about what our program has to offer. We have a pretty comprehensive program,” Ittner said, listing off examples such as the school’s Gifted and Talented Education program, drama and music, intramural and league sports, high-level math offerings and intervention for at-risk and under-performing students. Ittner acknowledges the school doesn’t have the best reputation, and that E.V. Cain isn’t for everybody. Focusing on providing the most for students while they’re at E.V. Cain is just as important as disciplining students when they act out and make mistakes, he said. “I think the more we collaborate with our feeder schools the more successful our students are going to be,” he said. “It’s Auburn. These are our kids. If we work with each other to create solutions for our kids (it’s) all the (more) positive.” Jennifer Rudloff told the Journal in February that she had no negative feelings toward E.V. Cain, but felt strongly that the smaller campus and single-teacher system of Skyridge’s K-8 program seem to be a good fit for her three children. “A lot of children need that extra time to grow and mature before they’re put out with the masses,” she said last month. “I love the idea of a K-8.” Rudloff has talked with Ittner since the Skyridge discussion began earlier in the year and had good things to say about the middle school principal. “I think he’s doing great work over there,” she said. “Unfortunately I think E.V. Cain has a horrible reputation, and he’s trying to turn that around. Hopefully he can.” While Rudloff has yet to decide where her children will go to school, she hasn’t ruled out E.V. Cain. “I’m just not sure it’s going to be the perfect situation for all three of my kids,” she said. Stryker said adolescence is a time when youth need to push their limits, and when you have hundreds of students going through puberty together on one campus, of course some will push the limits a little too far. “The majority of your kids are awesome, but you’ll have some that test the limits, make bad choices,” she said. “I think that’s going to happen in any setting.” Stryker hopes those concerned about E.V. Cain, and those with unsettled feelings about the school, will come tour the school to see the campus and its inner workings first-hand. “They just need to find out for themselves,” she said. “I don’t see a lot of things going wrong here.” Stryker and her leadership students are examining the school’s Where Everybody Belongs, or WEB, program, which to this point has been designed as a way to acquaint incoming sixth-graders with the school by way of orientation and an eighth-grade buddy system. For next year, Stryker said leadership is expanding WEB to work for new seventh- and eighth-graders in addition to the incoming sixth-graders. “It helps students get to know their eighth-grade peers, it helps them interact with the upper grade groups,” eighth-grader Brandon Barry said of the WEB program. “You’re getting used to the idea that you have to readjust to campus, and readjust to different teachers.” Stryker wants to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to E.V. Cain’s new batch of students, and her leadership students are ready and willing to welcome their new classmates. Sixth-grader Grace Breckenridge said she can relate to those who might be nervous about attending the middle school, but that there’s nothing to fear. “I was a little freaked out because I’ve heard a lot of good things about E.V. Cain, but also some bad words,” she said. Seventh-grader Sara Weiler shared a similar thought. “When I first came here I was a little bit scared because it was a bigger school,” she said. “By the first week I felt like I had been going here for years.” Weiler thinks E.V. Cain educators do a good job of giving students a sense of ownership and school pride. “I like how we have all the spirit days to really encourage the sixth-graders to have fun and be a part of the school,” she said. Seventh-grader Tyler Bill likes attending a traditional middle school, and described E.V. Cain’s atmosphere as “fun.” “Sure there’s some bad kids, but there’s a lot of good kids, too,” he said. Eighth-grader Kyle Hedden said incoming students have many reasons to look forward to attending E.V. Cain. If nothing else, think of the social possibilities, he said. “There’s so many more kids you can meet, and I want that opportunity for the new students, to meet more kids and make more friends,” he said. Learn more about E.V. Cain Middle School by calling (530) 823-6106 or by visiting http://www.auburn.k12.ca.us/ev-cain/.