Japanese teacher and debate coach Nicholas Pond usually opens each home visit with the same statement: "I'm here to check up on you, to see if your homework is done."
Murray High School students who see Pond standing on their front porch might be a little nervous with that one, if they don't recognize his opening line as a joke.But while Pond isn't on Homework Patrol, he is concerned about the students' academic progress. Pond and 14 other Murray High teachers, counselors and administrators, including Principal Richard Tranter and Murray School District Superintendent Ronald Stephens, are making a spring visit to all of the school's 435 10th-grade students and their parents.
They personally deliver the school's newly published "Student Planning Guide," which outlines requirements for high school graduation and post-secondary education opportunities, and talk about how students can plan and better manage their years in high school.
Tranter said some students can be part way through their high school careers before they realize what's required for graduation or admission to college and vocational programs. Parents would usually like to be involved in helping their children plan their future, but they don't now have the necessary information. That's what led to establishment of the home visit program.
"We want better communication between home and school. A lot of teenagers aren't the best sources of information for their parents," the principal said.
"The main point is that the students have to plan for something, whether it is college or a vocational program. Our whole purpose is for the students to look at what they have to do and plan now."
The project, in its first year, has been a large undertaking. Tranter has a Murray map, with a flag pinpointing the location of each 10th grader's home, in the high school office. Each educator making a visit is given a batch of names in the same neighborhood. Visits are made in the evenings and on weekends, and parents received a letter informing them of the impending visit.
Tranter said Murray and Logan are the only high schools in Utah that he knows conduct home visits.
"The reason this works in Logan or Murray is because of the community and because there is only one high school in the school district. Can you imagine doing this in Granite? Can you image having to map out Alta High School?" Tranter asked.
The community has become involved in the project. When school officials didn't have the money to finance the 35-page planning guide, Murray Board of Education member Laura Baker solicited private donations. Among the contributors were Daw Construction and the Murray Women's Council .
Tranter said the program, which has been received enthusiastically by parents, will be moved to the fall, and the district's junior high schools may be involved in the future.
Pond added, "In the 90 homes I've visited, maybe two were ho-hum or griped about the school system. The parents were surprised that we took the time and said it showed we cared. Some said they've had four or five children go through the high school and they'd never had this kind of information before."