For the 89 students entering the new Northwest Academy of Health Sciences, formerly Old Court Middle School, the 2016-2017 school year is bound to bring exciting opportunities and changes.
But, for Dr. Katina Webster, the academy’s principal, it’ll also bring something else. A former student of Old Court Middle, Webster greets the new year with fond memories from her past and ambitious hopes for the future. In the Q&A below, Webster shares her enthusiasm for the upcoming year as well as discusses the work that’s been taking place to prepare.
What is the Northwest Academy of Health Sciences?
Webster: “Northwest Academy of Health Sciences is a magnet school committed to providing unique learning experiences in all subjects that are rigorous, project-based, and hands-on with an emphasis on math, the sciences, health care, and biomedical technology. Our curriculum ensures that our students are prepared to enter Randallstown High School’s Health Sciences Magnet directly or any other prestigious high school with an intense academic program. Over the course of the 2016-2017 school year, students will be exposed to a variety of opportunities that will further advance their college- and career-readiness.
“We are not just a school with a magnet program or a school within a school. We are one school community with one common mindset, which is to exceed all expectations.”
What was the process for transitioning from Old Court Middle School to the academy?
Webster: “Old Court Middle School, under the leadership of former Principal Kyria Joseph and stakeholders, began the planning phase of transitioning to the academy in the spring of 2015 in order to offer students access to the magnet program in the fall of 2016. In partnership with Randallstown High School, a program was developed that would introduce sixth graders to training in the health sciences field throughout their middle and high school years.”
How did you become principal of the academy?
Webster: “I was selected through a multi-step interview process that kept the needs and wishes of students, teachers, and the community at the forefront. I was approved and appointed by the Board on June 14. I officially began my new duties on July 1.
“I began my teaching career as a special educator in a non-public school and remained a special educator after entering Baltimore County Public Schools. My career spans 17 years and a variety of experiences across Maryland as a classroom teacher, team leader, department chairperson, resource teacher, specialist, adjunct professor, and assistant principal. I believe my strong background working with diverse learners, my enthusiasm, and commitment to high-quality instruction and professional development are all qualities that will benefit Northwest Academy.
“I am also a product of the community, having attended the former Old Court Middle and graduated from Randallstown Senior High School. My love for the community is genuine, and the fact that I get to be part of this transformation is a tremendous honor.”
What will students learn in the academy?
Webster: “Our first class of sixth graders are taking gifted and talented coursework in English language arts, math, world cultures, and science. Students will also have physical education, health, art, music, Spanish I, and computer science for health professions. Students will work with our partners, including Northwest Hospital, to develop their skills and interests in health care and/or biomedical technology careers.”
How will students benefit from the academy’s partnership with Northwest Hospital?
Webster: “Students will benefit greatly. At the middle school level, Northwest Hospital will be instrumental in providing materials and participating in a variety of activities that will expose students to the health sciences and celebrate their accomplishments throughout the year.
“Students also will benefit from the partnership between Northwest Hospital and Randallstown High School. Our students will be able to experience a more hands-on application of what they are beginning to learn through shadow days and other events our students will be asked to participate in as part of the K-12 continuum of experiences and preparation.”
What has been done to prepare the academy for the new school year?
Webster: “Physical renovations are currently in the final planning and approval phase. We anticipate Board approval of the renovations sometime during the 2016-2017 school year. Current plans have been reported to include relocating the Northwest Office of Assessment and the English for Speakers of Other Languages office to alternate locations by 2017-2018 to provide four more classrooms to accommodate our second class of 90 magnet students.
“Curriculum has been drafted and is in the process of being vetted during the curriculum process with the help of Towson University professors. Programming has been planned for the entire school to ensure every student benefits from our shift to a health sciences magnet school.”
What will be done during the rest of the summer to prepare the academy for the new school year?
Webster: “The rest of summer 2016 will be used to prepare the school and staff for the new growth mindset that will be promoted at Northwest Academy. Classrooms are being arranged and furnished to accommodate customized small-group instruction. Science classrooms are being cleaned and prepared for our Summer Magnet Bridge Program. Students admitted to the magnet program were invited to attend for two weeks, starting July 18. They will participate in activities related to science, math, language arts, study skills, and technology. Planning to infuse related topics across all curriculum areas is ongoing.”
What would you like others to know about the academy?
Webster: “That there are no limits to what we can accomplish as a school community, which is reflected in our motto: ‘We are lions! Reaching beyond excellence to extraordinary with heart, courage, and commitment!’”
What are your hopes for the academy and the new school year?
Webster: “Our hope is that the community and our students will embrace the new Northwest Academy of Health Sciences. We have the opportunity to showcase the incredible talent and abilities of our students and teachers in ways that are different and exciting.”
To help families learn more about the academy before the new school year starts, Webster invites parents to attend one of four Meet-and-Greet events. Planned for Monday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 19, the events will take place at the academy from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and from 6 to 7:30 p.m. both days.
For more information about the Northwest Academy of Health Sciences, visit http://northwestms.bcps.org or call 410-887-0742.