Much Like That Stone Upon Which No Moss Will Grow [Part II]
Once a 7-8 middle school, we are expanding to include the sixth grade. This means that 2/3 of our students will be entirely new to our school -- the incoming seventh graders who last year were at their elementaries, and the incoming sixth graders, the first sixth graders we've had on campus since 2002-2003. This is big. As educators, we need to re-entrench on the expectations and consistency of enforcement that originally provided a foundation for building a culture of achievement. We've revisited the dress code and basic policies, had the conversation about the importance of universal enforcement three times. Obviously, catching the sixth graders early, and instilling the behavior to match the expectations will be critical. We also need to re-message -- a verb I did not know until last summer. We are not underdogs; we are trailblazers. We are not reactionary; we are leaders. We did not reach our incoming 8th graders as fully as we could have and there is the potential for a dearth of leadership there. There is, I believe, the hope that when they see themselves as the oldest kids, the only kids who were on campus last year, many will step up. If not, we need to provide the stools.
With the increase in the number of students comes the necessity of adding 1/3 new staff. We had 100% retention, which is huge, but we lose a lot of the benefits of that accomplishment because of all the new hires. It will be incumbent upon existing staff to reach out to new colleagues, both professionally and socially. It will be critical that the new and relatively new TFAers invest in becoming part of a school culture -- y'know, where the ability to truly build a movement occurs -- while simultaneously working to reject the Teach For Awhile albatross. The potential for the emergence of factions is greater than ever; so is the importance of cohesion and the further development of the Family.
I am confident. Our potential for further growth was limited by the exclusion of sixth graders. That limitation, as well as the factors that made the initial sixth grade exodus necessary, have been removed. Funding sources to replace the departing High Priority School Grant have been found and tapped. The planning conversations are beginning. Our site's Summer Academy for 200 of our lowest performing 7th and 8th graders has been scheduled, planned, and confirmed. After tireless P.E./POY lobbying and countless sprained ankles, the main field is being replaced, and we'll have home games when the soccer team makes its run to be back-to-back sectional champions. I'll lobby the union to create tiered timelines for retirement announcements, facilitating easier recruitment of new teachers, and greater retention of the current. Soon, CST data will become available, and we'll see just what last year's controlled panic has wrought.