High Expectations Equal Success at Hazard High School
HAZARD, Ky. (Sept. 27, 2005) -“Happy” is an appropriate nickname for Hazard High School Principal Donald Mobelini. He is in a job he likes, in a place he likes, working with people he likes. All of these factors have no doubt led to the incredible success his staff and students have enjoyed during his tenure as head administrator at the school.
Since 1999 the school’s CATS (Commonwealth Accountability Testing System) Achievement index has gone from a mediocre 67.1 to an astounding 91.0 as of 2004; this, in a small district without sizable sums of money but gigantic heart and spirit.
“We focus on our students and their education to put it simply,” said Mobelini. “I think we have done so well because our teachers have worked so hard. They are willing to do what they have to do to get good results. They deserve all the credit, I’m just here to help.”
The school has become such a shining example, it has come to the attention of policy makers in Frankfort, notably Governor Ernie Fletcher and Education Cabinet Secretary Virginia Fox.
On September 21, Governor Fletcher, along with Education Cabinet Deputy Secretary Mardi Montgomery personally paid a visit to meet with the staff, students and parents of the school and offer congratulations while seeing first hand the learning opportunities Mobelini’s hard working staff has created.
“The success of Hazard High School shows what can be accomplished through persistence and hard work thanks to a committed administration, dedicated staff and an exceptional student body,” said Governor Fletcher. “Hazard High School is an exemplary example for other schools to follow. I also commend Principal Happy Mobelini for his outstanding leadership.”
Mobelini’s philosophy for the student body is simple and direct. “I expect each of them to come to school and do their best,” he said. “I just ask them to try and I treat them all like they are my kids.”
The approached has paid off in many ways. Aside from their CATS success, the school’s ACT scores are 2 points above the state average, they have had no drop outs in two years, and only two students have "failed", or had to be retained in the same grade over the past four years. The average attendance rate is 98%.
“The school’s numbers truly tell the story of what kind of staff and students can be found at Hazard High School,” said Secretary Fox. “They have taken the opportunity to learn and made the best of it.”
The school has an exceptional and aggressive math program and a Senior English program that works extensively on portfolios half the year and applying for college scholarships the other half (last year, their 72 graduated seniors were offered $1.3 million in scholarships.)
The school even has an exceptional band program finishing consistently in the top five statewide in their division, with only 26 members.
“We push for our school trips too,” said Mobelini. “We take four trips each year because I want the kids to learn they don’t have to stay on the same street where they were born.”
The trips include New York City and Washington, D.C., Ashville, North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate, Chicago and Universal Studios (Orlando) and the Bahamas.
“I like to see the students’ eyes when they first see New York City,” said Mobelini. “We want our kids to have the opportunity to do anything they want to do.”
Hazard Independent Schools Superintendent Sandra Johnson mirrors Mobelini’s dedication to the students and sees their size and location as a plus.
“Our small, close knit community makes our schools what they are and contributes to our teachers being mentors to the students,” she said. “We have a tradition of excellence here that is expected from the community and in return the community provides great support for our schools.”
The small diverse school population (317 students, 18 to 20% minority) 15 full-time teachers and one all-the-time principal each contribute to the school’s pride and success. Both Mobelini and Johnson have a combined service of 41 years in the system and have done everything from coach to driving busses.
“We make it a pride thing,” said Mobelini. “The students want to do well. I try not to let anyone fall through the cracks. You have to really want to fail to do so in this school.”
Obviously, students at Hazard High School don’t want failure and through good old-fashioned hard work in a system filled with hard workers, they probably won’t; and in turn, they too will likely inherit the nickname “Happy.”
The Education Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16, and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit www.educationcabinet.ky.gov or www.workforce.ky.gov or call 502-564-6606.