Assistant Principal at West High School
K12 EDD WITH ADMINISTRATIVE LICENSURE
Robert’s time in the ELP program prepared him for the challenges brought on by Covid by teaching him to see the unseen. When Covid hit, many students at West High began working jobs to help support their families. It can be hard to get a 15- or 16-year-old to return to school once they start working and making money. Getting students back on track required creativity and seeing the unseen by leveraging Covid as an opportunity. Robert and his school did just that be rolling out a new project called C-Day, or Dynamic Wednesdays.
For 17 Wednesdays, students chose to attend C1, C2, or C3, with everyone participating by grade level. C1 was an Advisory Period where students engaged in social and emotional learning, shared family stories, shared their culture, learned to fill out scholarship and college applications, and even visited college campuses. They also learned about other opportunities on campus like sports, choir, and academic clubs. C2 and C3 were flex, exploratory periods where students chose what they wanted to do. They could get help on tough topics like an algebra problem, take part in a science lab or be part of the choir for a short period, and even hear guest speakers from certain professions talk about their careers.
Robert and his school used Covid as a multilayered opportunity to broaden student learning and address certain inequalities. First, they used Dynamic Wednesdays to enrich twenty-first-century learning, which requires teaching students social skills, emotional skills, and how to be volunteers and good citizens. Offering students a choice on how to use their Dynamic Wednesdays gave them autonomy, a sense of independence, and increased participation. Second, Robert and the school addressed some inequalities by allowing every kid the chance to try all the school offerings; thus, even if a student was struggling in certain classes they were not required to spend all their time in C2 or C3 with academic interventions. The program did, however, help students with failing grades by giving them the time, space, and structure to take on extra credit projects, retake tests, or do other assignments for a passing grade. In this way, C2 and C3 provided an excellent opportunity for academic intervention, helping more students be graduation ready.
In addition to Dynamic Wednesdays, the principal of West High recently assigned a group of teachers, school counselors, and assistant principals to follow a cohort of about 600 students by grade. This means for all 4 years of a student’s schooling, they will have the same homeroom teacher, and their homeroom teacher will be the one that hands them their diploma upon graduation. This approach creates a small school within a big school. Robert is over the class of 2024 and is already seeing how this continuity of support and connectedness is benefiting the kids.
Robert was able to see Covid and the changes it wrought as an opportunity due to his training in the ELP program. But that training has also been essential in the more expected responsibilities of Assistant Principal by teaching him organizational theory, policy, and law. His very hands-on internship provided him with some of the critical skills necessary to launch Dynamic Wednesdays. During his program, there was also lots of support from faculty and graduates, who helped him with strategic planning. Dr. Shari Fraser even offered resume-boosting classes, and he was able to interview with leadership in local districts. The program provided the appropriate learning, as well as networks and exposure to other educational professionals. Robert appreciated the unique relationship with districts that the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy enjoys and saw how these relationships allowed students to enjoy outstanding internships and connected them with established networks. Robert secured a job the same month he graduated! In fact, all the students in his cohort had jobs by summer except for two, and one of those students was getting interviews despite not having defended yet!