Community Handbook

Community Handbook Contents

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Our Mission

Our Educational Philosophy

Parent Involvement

Lateness Policy

Core Values

Graduation Requirements


Regent Examinations

Classes and Curriculum

Required Courses

Core Courses

Advisory Program

Narrative Reports

Semester Conferences

Student Government

Extra-Curricular Activities


Greetings Vanguard Community: students,families, partners, and friends!
We are extremely excited to share with you the Vanguard High School Handbook. It describes our school and the many components that help to make it work. It is for you because you are an important member of the Vanguard family. The handbook provides information that will help you have a successful experience at Vanguard. In addition, it allows us to work together as a community and concentrate on the important task of educating our students well and preparing them for a successful future. Specifically, this handbook does the following:

  • Describes our school and many of the components that make it work.
  • Describes the academic and social systems that make our school work.
  • Describes expected school community actions and behaviors. These actions help
    promote a positive, safe, and healthy school environment.
  • Describes actions and behaviors that are undesirable and unacceptable at Vanguard.
  • Provides important community roles, definitions and rights.

We hope that our handbook will serve to promote a dialogue among parents, teachers, and students.
We believe that our school community is a living and breathing organism, and your input is vital in
ensuring our continual evolution, growth and success. Perhaps we, as a community, decide that components and ideas within our school need to change.The proposed additions, deletions and/or changes will be presented and discussed in Advisory.We are committed to listening to our constituency and shaping this living document to satisfy the needs of our community.Therefore, we will publish an updated version each fall for the new school year.

If you would like additional information to be included in the handbook, or if you have any suggestions or questions for a staff member, you may visit our school website:

-The Vanguard Staff

Vanguard High School began twelve years ago as part of the Annenberg Initiative for School Reform,
and the Networking Project.Our school’s commitment is to the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) and the New York State Performance Based Standards.CES is a national organization, dedicated to helping all students achieve their highest potential through nurturance, guidance, and providing the appropriate resources. Our commitment enables us to create a school that has high expectations; possesses shared accountability between staff, students, and families; is student centered; and uses performance-based instruction and assessment as the dominant method of teaching, learning, and evaluation.

Our Mission
Vanguard High School is a community of learners committed to cultivating the resources necessary to become literate, articulate, analytical, reflective, and empathetic citizens. Respect for self and others are the motivating forces towards achieving our goal of becoming socially productive, useful, successful, and responsible members of society.

Our Educational Philosophy

  • Every member of our community has different strengths. By promoting all of the strengths,
    we not only enhance self-confidence; we also learn to work collaboratively.
  • Our community requires a physically and emotionally safe environment. We will value ourselves more if we feel that others value us enough to protect us. We have to feel safe enough to disagree, to
    criticize constructively, to hear criticism, and to defend our views freely.
  • Our curriculum revolves around issues close to home and out in the world. We strive to develop
    questions that challenge and find resources that increase knowledge and understanding.
  • We see learning as integrated and rooted in real life experiences. Learning in our school is best
    when classes connect in an interdisciplinary way and incorporate the community.
  • Learning is ultimately a very personal responsibility. We take information and make it our own. Our students have the opportunity to uniquely demonstrate their achievements and growth. We measure what they have learned, not how they test.
  • We set high expectations and challenges that give our students and community as a whole a sense of accomplishment, personal pride and independence. We feel this will enable us to confront new and unpredictable challenges.
  • Finally, as a school we believe in democratic and equitable school policies and practices. We seek to create a school that is fair and inclusive for its whole community, which includes students, families, staff, and friends of the school.

Parent Involvement
As a school we seek to create a place that is a whole community, includes students, families,staff, and friends of the school. It is our goal to have a consistent and deep connection to our student’s families. Parent/guardian involvement is key to student and school success, academically, politically and culturally. Besides our four family conferences per year we also have a special parent/guardian night at the beginning of each year. We invite our parents and guardians to come and visit their child’s classrooms and meet the staff in an informal setting. We also encourage parent/guardian involvement through our PTA, talent shows, sporting events and other extra-curricular activities. Our doors arealways open to parents and guardians to become an active member of the Vanguardcommunity.

Lateness Policy
Students who arrive late to school miss valuable instructional time in their firstblock class. To ensure better first block attendance, the attendance committee has instituted the following procedures:

  • Use of automatic system to inform families of late arrivals
  • Personal call to home for excessive lateness
  • Advisors will be notified daily of late advisees and their arrival time. Lateness and absence status reports will be generated weekly by Guanda and the Attendance personnel and given to advisors on the subsequent Mondays.
  • Parent Conference after excessive lateness coordinated by advisor.

Core Values
Vanguard High School Core Values established by students:

    1. Being Respectful

  • Golden Rule (treat others how you want to be treated)
  • Treat people equally: We are ALL Vanguard
  • One Mic: Actively listen to each other to better understand what people think (opinions and viewpoints)
  • To humanity and diversity (age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, size, appearance, culture, ethnicity, family status, language/accent, skills)
  • Do NOT use personal electronics
  • Communicate openly (and look people in the eyes)
  • Maintain boundaries and personal space
  • Right to privacy
  • Give only constructive criticism
  • Take responsibility for own actions; accept when you are wrong
  • Be patient, but respect peoples’ time
  • Use manners
  • Don’t use voice to attack; No derogatory terms or racial slurs
  • Solve problems with others together
  • Represent Vanguard appropriately in and out of school
  • Respect one another’s property
  • 2. All Vanguardians Have Voice

  • Student voices are listened to and acted on (weigh in on policies)
  • Freedom of expression (but use voice appropriately and responsibly)
  • Respect everyone’s opinion
  • Share leadership (empower students)
  • Allow those to speak who have not yet spoken
  • Teachers and students listen to each other
  • Outlets for student voice: SLT, Vanguardian, Principal & Faculty
  • Parents/guardians/family members have a voice
  • 3. Supportive Community

  • Family environment: Stick together
  • Safety: no verbal/physical violence
  • Tone of trust (in ourselves and in one another)
  • Make an effort to understand others
  • Students should not be left behind (help out students who are behind/need help)
  • Students help teachers and teachers help students
  • Teachers serve as second parents
  • Be on time
  • Support from advisors
  • Principal is always available
  • 4. Being Committed to

  • Peace & tolerance
  • Democracy
  • Consensus (when possible) – everyone should be represented in decisions
  • Education, hard work, and intellect
  • One Another
  • Loyalty (sticking to your word)
  • Responsibility (being accountable for your actions)
  • Honesty (with yourself and others)
  • Routines that help us succeed
  • Balance between “work” and “play”
  • Our personal and collective goals
  • Habits of mind
  • Hearing all points of view before making a decision
  • Saving JREC
  • Following norms and fairness committee procedures
  • Use of automatic system to inform families of late arrivals
  • Personal call to home for excessive lateness
  • Advisors will be notified daily of late advisees and their arrival time. Lateness and absence status reports will be generated weekly by Guanda and the Attendance personnel and given to advisors on the subsequent Mondays.
  • Parent Conference after excessive lateness coordinated by advisor.

Graduation Requirements
Portfolios/Performance Assessment
At Vanguard, in order to graduate, students are required to present and defend their knowledge in five (5) major portfolio areas:

  • Autobiography
  • History Research
  • Literature Analysis
  • Math Applications
  • Science Experiment

A Graduation Committee composed of teachers from different subjects and grade levels, an outside examiner, and student peers evaluate the graduation portfolios. The committee members examine the entries and hear the oral defense of student work as the members determine if the student is ready to graduate. The oral presentations ask you to address the Habits of Mind.

Performance Assessment Components
Active Learning
Classrooms based on critical analysis, discussion and debate; inquiry learning; requirements for original research and experiment design; emphasis on analytical writing, revision and publication; opportunities in the creative arts, including playwriting, acting, photography, graphic design and sculpture.

Extensive Documentation
Previous school histories as well as on-going documentation: attendance, grades, tests, teacher narrative reports and student reports.

Performance Tasks Required For Graduation:

(Aligned with the NYS Learning Standards)

  • Analytical literary essay
  • Oral defense of research findings
  • Research paper
  • Formal discussion with external evaluators
  • Original science experiment
  • Competency in a foreign language
  • Proficiency in one of the arts
  • Application of higher level mathematics

Multiple Ways To Express And Exhibit LearningOpportunities to write poetry and plays, present work through debate and presentation, exhibit collections of work for external evaluators, and express ideas through the arts.

Multiple Services To Help Students

  • Detailed responses on student’s written work
  • Student teacher and parent teacher conferences
  • In-school and after-school labs
  • Homework labs
  • Tutoring
  • Opportunities to develop literacy and math skills
  • Advisories
  • Exhibitions
    Creating exhibitions is a process by which students display their understanding of a particular topic or unit through visual, oral and written work. Class projects, videos, artwork, writing, debates, oral presentations, experiments, and so on are all part of this exhibition format.Our exhibitions support our goal of assessing students based on, what we feel, are authentic performance-oriented actions. Exhibitions assignments are often presented publicly to classmates and other Vanguard staff.Sometimes they are even shared with othern members of our Vanguard community.

    Regent Examinations
    New York State mandates that Vanguard high school students pass two of the New York State Regents Examinations, also known simply as the Regents. The following exams are required to be passed for graduation by all Vanguard students:

    • English Language Arts Regent Exam
    • Mathematics A regents Exam.

    Classes and Curriculum
    The teaching and learning that takes place in our classes are guided by two primary sets of habits principals.Our educators are charged with the mission of utilizing these principals to teach, while our students are charged with the task of engraining them in their learning practice. The principals are:

    The Habits of Mind

    Viewpoint: What is perspective?

    Evidence: How do we know what we know?

    Supposition: What other alternatives should be considered?

    Connections: How is this idea or topic related to other ideas or topics?

    Relevance: Why is this idea or topic important?

    The Habits of Work

    Punctuality: We must arrive on time.

    Organization: We must have what we need, know where it is, and know what we have to do.

    Focus: We must try to participate, listen actively, and ask questions.

    Cooperation: We must help ourselves and others to learn.

    Revision: We must see our work as a process whereby we review, correct, share with peers, and finalize.

    Required Courses
    Our school is committed to an integrated Humanities approach in the teaching of History and English.
    Habits of Mind and Habits of Work are developed throughout our course curricula, enabling our students to become critical thinkers.

    Vanguard’s Math program is designed to help support our students to meet and exceed the City, State, and National standards, and pass the Math A Regents as well as develop lifelong Math literacy skills.

    The Science team is dedicated to an inquiry-based approach that allows students to ask questions, design experiments, collect data, and draw conclusions. Upon entering Vanguard each student begins his or her work towards the completion of the Science Portfolio Graduation Requirement.

    Literature and Literacy
    All 9th grade students will participate in Reading/Writing workshop classes.These workshop classes are designed to help students become proficient readers. All readers at all levels should continue to strengthen their skills in order to become literate adults. We will use independent reading, habits of good readers, group work and projects to support your life long literacy skills.

    Core Courses
    In addition to the major areas of study, we require you to take a variety of courses outside of your major academic needs Our classes are ever changing and each semester you will be able to choose new courses to study that are of interest to you.

    Arts (3 required)
    Courses include: Studio Art, Ceramics, Drama, Creative Writing, Playwriting, Digital Photo Literature Dealing in the Mind of the Criminal, Critical Issues in Contemporary Hip Hop

    Foreign Language (2 required)
    Courses include: Spanish

    Physical Education/Health (4 required)
    Courses include: Project Adventure, Health, Weight Training, Dance, Capoeria, Yoga

    Advisory Program
    Vanguard is a school that prides itself on personal freedom, safety, and security. Further, we are also committed to personalized attention to our students and group attention to our community as a whole. At the heart of these ideas is our advisory system, which allows our staff and students to develop close ties, and also reinforces ideas of personal and communal accountability.

    Advisory classes:

  • meet once a day for 40 minutes
  • support academic achievement as well as personal growth
  • support schoolwork
  • support family concerns
  • support portfolio work
  • Role of the Advisor:

    • parent liaison
    • advocate for student/advisee
    • teacher
    • disciplinarian

    Role of the Advisee:

    • Participates in all advisory activities.
    • Completes Autobiography portfolio
    • Helps and supports other members of the advisory
    • Helps create a safe environment for everyone both physical and emotional.

    Narrative Reports
    Unlike other high schools Vanguard does not distribute traditional report cards but rather narrative reports. A narrative report is a description of a student’s progress or achievement. Students receive a progress report for each of their classes twice a semester. They receive a final report at the end of each semester; the final grades are recorded on their transcripts. At this time progress and semester conferences are held.

    Semester Conferences
    Twice a semester we schedule parent/student conferences. Advisors facilitate conferences with the parent/guardian and the student in order to assess progress and determine the student’s specific needs and strategies for accomplishment.
    These conferences serve as a chance for family and teachers to keep in touch with each other, encourage the student, and see whether there are any changes necessary to support the student’s academic success.

    Student Government
    The Student Government at Vanguard High School is known as The Student Leadership Team.The SLT is modeled after the democratic structure of the Teacher Leadership Team, the representative decision-making body at Vanguard. The SLT has been designed to provide real political power for students at Vanguard High School.

    The members of the SLT will adhere to the Vanguard Student Leadership Team Constitution.The SLT is dedicated to maintaining and developing the vision and mission of Vanguard High School.Each member of the SLT is an active participant in making the teaching and learning community at Vanguard stronger and richer.

    Like the TLT, the SLT is a representative body. Every Advisory elects an SLT Representative who speaks on behalf of his or her fellow advisees. The students in each advisory nominate candidates from among their peers. The students in every advisory then elect their SLT representative; the candidate that receives the second most votes will be designated as the proxy (alternate) who takes the place of the representative in case of absence.

    What are the responsibilities and benefits of becoming a SLT Representative?

    • The SLT meets every Monday during advisory time and every Thursday after school. Staff members facilitate the team. The SLT Representatives use this time to identify school needs and implement action plans to improve the Vanguard community.
    • Each SLT Representative is trained to facilitate Friday advisory lessons for his or her own advisory. Friday advisory lessons allow every advisee to contribute to the direction and completion of SLT activities.
    • Each SLT Representative is trained to facilitate SLT meetings. The position of facilitator rotates.
    • Every year, one SLT Representative is elected President by the entire student body. This individual attends the Teacher Leadership Team meetings as the liaison between student and teacher leaders.
    • Every year, one SLT Representative is elected Secretary by the entire student body.This individual is responsible for collecting and compiling all minutes of the SLT meetings. He or she also helps ensure that the position of recorder rotates every meeting.
    • Members of the SLT will receive academic credit for their efforts. The staff facilitators grade the
      members. Each SLT Representative is assessed according to successful completion of detailed projects or action plans. The ideas generated by the SLT must lead to action.

    Any student who is in good academic standing is eligible for membership in the SLT.

    Extra-Curricular Activities
    As a member of the JREC complex we are involved in many varsity and junior varsity sports. In the past years both male and female students have had the opportunity to play on such teams as:

  • Girl’s varsity basketball
  • Boy’s varsity basketball
  • Boy’s JV basketball
  • Girl’s varsity volleyball
  • Boy’s varsity volleyball
  • Girl’s varsity soccer
  • Boy’s varsity soccer
  • Clubs and Activities
    We also offer an array of clubs for students to participate in after school. Some of the clubs and activities we have offered in the past and hope to offer again are:

    • Art
    • Senior activities
    • Yearbook
    • Student Government
    • Fairness Committee

    Internship is available as part of your junior or senior year experience. The internship program gives you the opportunity to gain real-world experience in a variety of fields. An internship fair is the culminating event of the internship placement. Students present their placement learning through a variety of modalities.

    Collaborations, or what we call partnerships, are a crucial element of the Vanguard community. The following describes our key collaborations and partnerships:

    • John Jay/College Now
    • Institute for Urban Education at Lang College/New School University
    • Fashion Institute of Technology
    • Whitney Museum
    • American Folk Art Museum
    • Big-Brother/Big Sister
    • Educational Video Center
    • Global Action Project Documentary Film Programming
    • Lenox Hill Neighborhood Center
    • American Actuarial Society