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Principal: Failure ‘not an option’

Jemison High School Principal Allen Thompson has initiated a “zero tolerance policy” for the school in hope of improving academic performance.

The policy requires students who receive a grade of “zero” on an assignment to attend an after-school detention the following Monday from 3 to 4:30 p.m. until each assignment is completed.

The program will allow students to receive up to half credit (50 percent) of each assignment that they make up for.

“From reviewing past failure patterns, incomplete assignments where students received zeros is a major factor,” Thompson wrote in a letter to parents. “A score of 50 on an assignment is better than a zero that is very hard to overcome.”

The policy is the latest in a string of efforts to improve the school’s graduation rate. Other efforts have included the recruitment of a graduation coach to work with students on a one-on-one basis, through the help of a grant.

In a school assembly Monday, Thompson introduced the policy with the theme, “Failure Is Not an Option.” Posters have been placed around campus encouraging faculty and students to embrace the motto.

Thus far, Thompson says students and parents have responded positively to the idea.

“This is not punishment or discipline for the students,” he said. “This is an opportunity for the students to make up their assignments.”

Zero tolerance will be implemented immediately with the intention of preventing every student from accepting a zero grade for his or her assignments. The academic detention will be mandatory for any student with an incomplete assignment.

Thompson said he had witnessed a similar program in the Shelby County School system, which he indicated was successful.

“My daughter has been in this program at Calera High the past two years,” he said.

Another area of improvement Thompson is stressing is attendance. Per a policy set by the Board of Education, students with unexcused absences cannot make up any work for the day(s) they are absent.

Thompson said he understands the need for occasional absences but asks for a written excuse for all absences listed in the Student/Parent Information Guide.

“The failure rate at Jemison High School is twofold: attendance and incomplete assignments,” he said. “If we attend school everyday and complete our assignments, failure will not be an option. The students will achieve great success.”