A thought for next week: “Everything looks like failure in the middle.” — Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Happy Friday! This week was National School Bus Safety Week. I had brunch with all the bus drivers and crews over at the Vehicle Maintenance Facility on Tuesday. Principals, assistant principals, and even a few Board members were there. I love spending time with bus drivers, and I’m proud to say that I have a bus driver license and would substitute as a route driver and drive activity runs when I was teacher and assistant principal. Honestly, nothing made me more nervous in those days than when I would get behind the wheel with a bus load of students: What a responsibility! We are very fortunate to have our super drivers. They are celebrating 8.5 million safe miles! At the brunch, Kim Wood and Marquell Woodson made me aware of the Transportation Department’s Cancer Walk on November 3 at Albemarle High School. For more information, please contact Kim or Marquell at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday was a big day at Woodbrook Elementary School, as the school officially celebrated the grand opening of their additions and renovations. School staff, parents, School Board members, and members of the Local Government and Schools facilities staff were on hand to celebrate. I am tremendously proud of Lisa Molinaro and all of the educators and support staff at Woodbrook for handling a construction project last year that touched every edifice of your building and that required a lot of good decision-making to finish the construction and to start teaching and learning in new spaces this year. Woodbrook just about doubled in size, and I still felt a sense of personalized learning and belonging among the students when I visited. As the school’s motto states, “Woodbrook is more than a school.”
Woodbrook, as many of you know, was not alone in undergoing renovation and expansion work last summer. For a visual summary of all the projects completed by our top-notch Building Services Department, please view the Building Services Summer 2018 Update, presented by Joe Letteri to the School Board in August.
Depending on the scale and location of each project, students, teachers, support staff, and families have varying degrees of ease of adaptation to facilities changes across the division. When it comes to recent classroom changes—particularly those involving our science labs—we are learning that the more we can do at the beginning of the change process to involve teachers and students in understanding why such changes are being planned, the better off we will be. In fact, to get the most out of a renovation, it makes the best sense to invite all stakeholders, to the extent possible, to identify what problems we are attempting to solve and/or what learning outcomes we are seeking, and then work on plans for change.
Facility changes across our 2.3 million square feet of schools are being used with varying degrees of effectiveness, depending—I daresay—on the process used to involve teachers in planning them. So—and I’m sorry this check-in is getting a bit lengthy—I think I need to say three things here:
1. While many people are involved in decision-making for facilities changes, it is my responsibility to be as inclusive as feasible. I apologize for situations in which staff are using spaces they were not prepared to use because they were not invited to be part of the process. I apologize if you feel like you do not have a voice. Moving forward, I will do better. The key question I am asking now is, “How are we going to invite input from teachers, students and families?” The caveat here is that input is not a “vote;” I want us all to be open to the ideas of others.
2. I hope and expect that administrators and teachers will continue to be flexible, energetic and optimistic. Your students depend on you, and they will only experience the 2018-19 school year once. Sometimes being flexible means abandoning large-scale changes to your pedagogy and returning to what you know is tried and true in promoting student learning.
Teachers: Please let your principal know what you need to make your classroom work. If, for example, you are working in a larger classroom with another teacher or two, and you think you need something like flexible partitions or perhaps more time with your colleagues to make new plans, please ask, and we will get you the resources you need.
3. I encourage all teachers to consider how changes in the learning environment can initially impact student learning and achievement. I think we would all agree that students should not be penalized with poor grades as their teachers learn a new instructional model, try a new lesson plan that may not be optimal, or use a new assessment. Use assessment results to target areas of improvement, both for learning and instruction, and give your students as well as yourself more chances to improve.
Thank you for your understanding of my need to write a longer-than-usual check-in this week. Again, I am sorry that there are teachers who have felt left out of the planning for changes to classrooms they use. I ask for all of us to pause and be flexible and to make course corrections, even if it means going backward temporarily before going forward again. I trust you to do good things for students; you always come up with great ideas to help them learn! You can do it! I ask for all of us to always err on the side of the student. Finally, I want you to feel as comfortable as possible teaching and working here in ACPS, and I will do my best to invite input from you. As I’ve said, I’m not perfect, and I’ll do better next time.
One Final Note: Chris Gilman, Coordinator of Research and Program Evaluation, is responsible for surveys in ACPS. I insist that no alterations or additions in content or administration of any division- or school-wide survey take place without contacting Chris. The ACPS survey platform is K-12 Insight; further, only surveys approved by Chris, using the procedure found on our Survey Requests web page should be administered in Albemarle County Public Schools. If you have a question about surveys, please email Chris at email@example.com.
Just checking in,
Matthew S. Haas, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Your mission and my mission every day is to establish a community of learners and learning, through relationships, relevance and rigor, one student at a time.