Belmont was a school run by the students. They skipped class and roamed the halls in the hundreds. Fights were a near daily occurrence. Police cars regularly parked outside. An emergency alarm sat next to the cash registers in the cafeteria to sound when students tried to steal the lunch money. Teachers feared for their safety and stayed in classrooms behind locked doors, desperately trying to teach while ignoring the distractions outside.
Three years ago, people referred to the Dayton, Ohio high school as “Hellmont.”
“It got to the point where I would get phone calls from friends saying my school was on the news again,” said Michael Slightam, a social studies teacher at Belmont. “It was an embarrassment for my personal life and my professionalism.”
Belmont was the place where the lowest-performing and most troubled students were dumped in the Dayton Public Schools district. In Dayton, parents can choose which schools to send their children to, though that will change in the 2011-2012 school year as Dayton moves towards a neighborhood school attendance model.
Belmont’s reputation meant that it wasn’t a school parents choose. Not surprisingly, the school was also a revolving door for teachers.
All of that changed when David White took over as principal in July 2009. Under his leadership, the school achieved dramatic reductions in discipline problems in just a single year.