Chapman School: One of ‘best kept secrets’

In his fourth year as principal of Chapman School, Conrad Woodhead wasn’t talking about the school’s address when he called it “one of the best kept secrets.” From its Anchor Point location beside the Sterling Highway, it would be hard to miss the K-8 school.

Woodhead was referring to the school’s high performance, one measure of which is the ASPI, the Alaska School Performance Index. Results for the 2013-2014 school year released earlier this month rate Chapman a five-star school with the 18th highest score of 501 schools rated across the state.

“I always knew we were one of the best kept secrets because people don’t know how well we do things,” said Woodhead. “The folks that are in our building every day see how we operate. I don’t think it was a surprise to them. They know that we’re high-performing and that we do very well.”

With 104 students, not counting the grant-funded pre-kindergarten program, the school has 12 certified teachers and seven support staff in addition to Woodhead, who has the combined responsibilities of principal and teacher.

Woodhead credits the school’s high performance first to “the population we serve, the ones that are here every day, so our relationships with kids, with parents, with the community helps support our high level of achievement.”  Secondly, he credits the staff’s collaboration and intervention.

“I’ve got the best staff in the state. … We can look as a team at our students, create a plan to help meet that individual kid’s needs and then, because of our size, implement that plan quickly,” said Woodhead. “Because of that collaborative approach, we’re seeing huge benefits. … That process has benefited almost all of our students and because we use it so well, it’s not intimidating to parents or kids, it’s just what we do.”

Since Woodhead has arrived at the school, iPods have been introduced and this year iPads have been added for kindergartners with support from Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, and legislative grants. 

“That’s everyday, commonplace technology we use in our building. Teachers use it, kids use it and at some point they take that technology home with them to help extend the school day,” said Woodhead.

In a school that includes students from kindergarten through eighth grade, Chapman has a two-teacher middle school program that, in addition to its regular curriculum, offers an opportunity for community service and will be adding a shop class soon.

Kimberly Johnson has taught at Chapman for more than 10 years. She currently teaches second grade, teaches math to third- and fourth-grade students and is Chapman’s soccer coach. 

“The thing I like the most is that (Chapman) is small enough that you get the sense of community with staff and kids,” said Johnson. “The things we consider big discipline here are minor in most places. We can watch the kids closer. Every kid. Doesn’t matter if he or she is in your class. Everybody knows you. If you need anything, you can go to anyone.”

Johnson also is a Chapman parent. Her older son, Tyler, attended Chapman, graduated with honors from Homer High School, is currently in National Guard basic training in Georgia and has been accepted for officer training at the Valley Forge Military Academy and College where he plans to pursue a bachelor of arts degree in criminology. Johnson’s younger son, Calvin, graduated from Chapman last year and is currently attending Homer High School where he plays football and “this far into the year has straight A’s,” said Johnson.

In the nine years Jonathan Sharp has been teaching, this is his third year at Chapman. He teaches fifth- through eighth-grade math and science and heads up the middle school shop program.

“One thing I noticed immediately is that the (Chapman) kids, especially in middle school, … are very polite, respectful, hard-working,” said Sharp. “And I like to think we’re more focused on individual learning, with every kid expected to know what they need to do every day.”

Sharp said that focus begins in Chapman kindergarten, continues through the grades and is reinforced by having kindergarten through eighth grade under one roof. 

In his final year at Chapman, eighth-grader Luciano Fasulo wrestles, plays soccer and participates in track and field. He plays trumpet in the school band and his grades this year are A’s. What he likes best about the school is its small size, his teachers and the mix of students’ ages.

“You get to help the younger kids around,” said Fasulo.

Not only did Heidi Adams and her husband Jacob attend Chapman, their two children — Zayne and Jaxon — are now students at the school. Adams volunteers at the school and heads up the school’s parent group. 

“I used to want to move out of Anchor Point. I hated it here. But I had a complete change of heart after Zayne started school,” said Adams. “You realize the importance of a small town and what a great place Chapman is. … They take personal interest in your kids here.”

That multi-generational connection reflects “a sense of pride and loyalty,” said Woodhead. “We’re all on the same team and want the same thing.”

To the students within Chapman’s boundaries — from Stariski on the north to the south side of the Old Sterling and including North Fork — Woodhead believes Chapman is the best school option. To families within those boundaries who have chosen to enroll their students elsewhere, Woodhead said, “Give us a chance. We’re doing good things.”

Chapman School

Principal: Conrad Woodhead

Where: Anchor Point

Students: 104 in grades K-8,
also offers PreK

Of 501 Alaska Schools rated by the Alaska School Performance Index, Chapman received a five-star ASPI score of 97.32.

• 75 schools in the state received a five-star rating;

• Chapman’s score is the 18th highest in the state;

• Chapman is one of 11 five-star schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District;

• Chapman’s score is the third highest score of 43 in Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (Aurora Borealis Charter School in Kenai received 98.75 and Moose Pass School in Moose Pass received 97.45).