February 14, 2018
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
Over the past two years, Sumatra Drayton has seen a noticeable increase in students choosing to attend Holloway High School.
When the students have assembled in the gym on day one, the bleachers have been full.
“I had never seen our gym full with students,” remarked Drayton, who is hoping to continue the recent trend of recognizing Holloway as a viable option for ambitious students to graduate early as well as those looking to catch up with their graduating class.
Holloway is a non-zoned school of choice.
Rutherford County Schools currently offers six choice programs that accept applications for students countywide. Those programs include Central Magnet School, Homer Pittard Campus School, McFadden School of Excellence, Thurman Francis Arts Academy, Oakland High’s International Baccalaureate program and Holloway.
Holloway hosts an annual open house in late July, but applications are accepted ahead of time. Details regarding the application process can be found here: https://hhs.rcschools.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=554615&type=d&pREC_ID=1057838
Prior to the 2016-17 school year, enrollment figures had been right at 100. The past two years, they’ve been pushing 200 at what Drayton once referred to as “the best kept secret.”
“I hope the secret is out,” she said.
Unlike the traditional model of offering students seven credit-hours per school year, one unique way in which Holloway distinguishes itself is by providing students an opportunity to earn up to eight credits per school year during the day and also offers night classes.
Rather than students enrolling in seven credits taken during a year’s time, Holloway students can enroll in four credit-hours per semester using what is known as a four-by-four block schedule.
Students looking to accelerate their high school and graduate early can earn the 23 credits needed in just three years.
The school’s ratio of teachers and administrators to students — now one to 15 with as few as 12 compared to 18 to 20 in recent years — allows for more one-on-one learning experiences.
And class periods are extended to 90 minutes.
That time also affords teachers and administrators to not only get to know their student body on a first-name basis, but they work to learn their middle names as well as their respective family members.
The culture at Holloway has been described as family-oriented.
“Because we’re so small, we get to know the student and the family,” Drayton said, “and the family gets to know us.
“Our size affords us those opportunities.”
It’s a relationship that succeeds and by its virtue students succeed.
“I want to have that connection with them,” Drayton said.
As much as Drayton wants to connect with each and every student — she personally interviews each student before they’re accepted — she also insists the students understand what is expected of them at Holloway.
If a student is missing from class, parents will not receive an automated message letting them know. They’ll receive an actual courtesy call from Drayton or a staff member.
Drayton said it’s difficult for students to hide and disappear in the crowd.
“If you can’t read, we will find you,” Drayton said. “If you’re struggling with math, we see you immediately and we address it. We’re the school that can give students an opportunity to catch up, if they need to catch up, or we have kids who decide they want to accelerate.”