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Looking Back to Go Forward

The number of tasks required of a school administrator before students and staff leave for the summer can be daunting. In my role as an assistant principal, I can be burdened during the months of April and May by state-mandated testing, staff evaluations, and personnel hiring while continuing to keep academics, school safety, and student behavior at the forefront of each day. But I would be neglecting my conscience if I just sat back and relaxed once the last school bus left. Reflection is a huge component of maintaining the success of the school and continuing to reach new heights.  Without taking the time to reflect, reevaluate, and discuss the things that went well this year as well as the things we need to change for next year, we would fall short of our vision, mission, and goals that we continually strive to meet.

By constantly focusing on the “A, B, C’s” of our school (Attendance, Behavior, and Course performance) we have, over the years, improved our student achievement and put our freshmen on the direct path to graduation. With our House System, the whatever-it-takes attitude of our staff, and the academic interventions we institute we have found a formula of success that works for our school and our community.  However, despite our successes, we have room to grow as we have not met the CCRPI goal that we have established for ourselves nor do 100% of our students earn all their core content before they transition to the tenth grade.  By pausing and reflecting on the previous school year, we can appraise ourselves and adjust interventions so that we can continue to pursue our goals.

In looking back over the school year, there are several areas of our school for which I beam with pride.  Some of them are listed below:

  • Attendance: Despite having the second highest high school attendance in our RESA region, we had never won our district’s monthly student attendance trophy for secondary schools.  That changed as we won the trophy for both April and May. We attribute this success to monthly attendance challenges within our House system, celebrating individual student attendance, and our teachers providing engaging, rigorous lessons that students do not want to miss. In addition to winning the student attendance trophy, we also won the staff attendance trophy multiple times this past year.  
  • Behavior & Discipline: Had you asked me after the first few weeks of school what my specific concerns for the upcoming year were, I probably would have pointed to concerning student behaviors that we observed pretty much from the first day of school.  But by clearly communicating our expectations for behavior with students and parents, by having students and parents sign individual behavior contracts as needed, having a staff that constantly monitors the hallways and restrooms, and having the support of our central office personnel to utilize our district’s alternative school, we were able to hold students accountable for their violations of the code of conduct and remove them from our student body.  
  • Course performance:  By meeting individually with at-risk students and contacting their parents, providing before and after school tutoring, requiring mandatory lunch study hall for students who were failing a core class, and by disciplining students who willfully refused to do their work, 100% of our students earned enough credits to become a sophomore and 98% of our students earned credit in the four core content areas.  This has increased from just 84% five years ago.

While it is important to identify areas of success and celebrate them, it is also important to reflect on the areas where you or your school can improve. Once you do, you need to devise a plan of action for improvement.  I have identified the following areas of improvement for myself and our school:

  • Staff: This section could be an entire blog by itself.  Dr. Franklin and I have the privilege of working with an incredibly dedicated staff.  Everyone in the building, including the teachers, paraprofessionals, custodial staff, front office personnel, and nutrition staff, perform their duties with pride and with an investment in our students. Moving forward, I need to be more intentional about ensuring the adults in our building are valued and their work is appreciated.  I know that this can be done with handwritten notes, more staff recognition such as a “brag board,” or even a simple compliment. I would love additional suggestions for making one’s staff feel treasured.
  • Student leaders: This year, the Peer Facilitation class was created which provided the student leaders with an avenue to hone in on their leadership skills, build unique relationships with a teacher-leader, and lead their peers in events and activities.  The 25 students who were selected for this course positively impacted our culture and left our school a better place. Next year, we want to continue to pour into these students by making this course available both semesters and by intentionally selecting leaders that more accurately represent our student body.
  • Students with Disabilities:  As we dissect the data from the last several years, our Students with Disabilities (SWDs) continues to be an area of focus.  While they are earning the credits needed to be promoted, we need to continue to find instructional strategies that work for them.  We plan to do this through professional learning, focusing on the most essential standards of a course, teachers holding and communicating high expectations to these students, and by providing additional interventions and remediation if the standard is not immediately mastered.
  • Instructional leader:  As I finish my third year as an administrator, this is the area in which I would most like to grow.  I wanted to become an administrator partly to support teachers, and that desire has not changed. Often my time and attention can be pulled in different directions, but I must keep being an instructional leader at the forefront.  I want to be more active in department meetings, taking a larger role in professional development during our faculty meetings, and continue to invest in our new teachers.

Overall this has been a great school year.  I am proud of our school and what we have been able to do for our students as they are now “wise fools”. However, it is only through reflection and a plan of action that we can continue to work towards becoming the top high school in our region and promoting Success for All Students.  

This blog was written by David Leenman. Mr. Leenman is in his 13th year of education. He has served in both middle and high schools. Before becoming an assistant principal, Mr. Leenman worked in special education and history and coached basketball, football, and soccer.

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