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Port Chester High School Principal Looks To Future

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – As Port Chester High School implements new state mandates, applies for reaccreditation and finishes its application to begin an International Baccalaureate program, Principal Mitchell Combs says this school year is all about the future.

“We’re looking forward to it being a forward-looking school year as opposed to a ‘woe is me’ year,” Combs said of facing the challenges of new state mandates such as the Annual Professional Performance Review.

The mandate went into effect at the beginning of the school year to increase the accountability of administrators and teachers. Teachers will be graded on areas such as student growth throughout the year. More than 220 teacher observations must be completed at the high school this year, a challenge for the three administrators.

“There is a sense here that everybody is in the same boat so there is a commiseration, but the state has not provided as much direction as we would hope,” said Combs. “I have no problem with high expectations. … But the timetable to do everything they’re expecting is extremely ambitious.”

The school is up for reaccreditation from the Middle States Commission On Higher Education , a process conducted every eight years. “We have done well with better student performance and better student behavior,” said Combs, adding that the school is now setting new goals. “I ask myself, ‘If I were to look back on the past eight years, would I be happy to be where we are right now?’ I would be delighted.”

However far the school has come, one challenge is what Combs calls an “internalized Port Chester phobia,” an image problem he wants to change. “You don’t hear Rye bashing or Greenwich bashing. We have people here who don’t elevate this community or build it up,” said Combs. “Residents grow up feeling they don’t have the self-confidence that students elsewhere have. I’d love to make a difference in that respect.”

As part of the effort to change the image of Port Chester, the high school is preparing to offer the International Baccalaureate Program by next fall. In the spring, the school will be subject to an authorization visit. Port Chester High School is set to become only the fourth high school in Westchester County to be certified for the program.

The IB program is a globally minded program designed to develop “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” according to its mission statement. Here is an informational video on Port Chester High School's IB Diploma Program.

Check back with The Port Chester Daily Voice next week for a story on the International Baccalaureate Program at Port Chester High School.

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