A year ago, we were enjoying a polar vortex and as an administrator, I was watching my professional development days with my staff clicking away as we continued to have a series of “cold days” that we would have to make up later.
Professional development time with staff is precious. At West, we struggle to find time for teachers to meet during the day due to our crowded building. If you are ever at West during the lunch period, you know that many kids sit on the floor of the hallways to eat lunch. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When a slightly larger group of kids are projected as 9th graders -- say 30 more, as may happen this fall -- that means I have to find another classroom. Simply put, there aren’t any. Virtually every classroom at West is used every period of the day. In the science and PE departments, we’re already running zero period classes before school in order to accommodate all students who request a class.
Not only does this put pressure on class size (which means as the principal I have to make VERY difficult decisions about which classes I cut in half with any precious additional allocation) but it means that as an entire school, we do not have the capacity to provide common planning time for our teachers.
Common planning allows teachers time during the day to come together to solve the common problems they are facing. Lesson planning, assessment design, addressing the needs of individual kids, or aligning grading practices are some of the kinds of common challenges teachers need to talk with their colleagues to address. We can’t do that at West because of our overcrowding and the pressure this puts on classrooms. If all classrooms have to be used, then where are teachers meeting? Where are other classes being held?
I say this all as the high school capital referendum looms with the promise of eleven more classrooms. You know we need more parking if you’ve ever tried to park at school; you know we need better sports facilities if you’ve ever attended a game or practice. You know that we need to bring our classrooms into the 21st century if you’ve ever attended parent/teacher conversations and sat in some of our student desks.
I also say this as the person most charged with improving outcomes for all kids. My experience, training, education and the research I have read points to the power of collaboration among the adults who are closest to the challenge: in schools, this is the amazing educators in our classrooms.
I am also troubled that the proposed upgrades don’t go far enough, but that’s for another time.
Did you know that Ani Dickerson, West senior and AVID student, is our Dane County Boy and Girls Club Youth of the Year? That’s three years in a row a West AVID student has earned this recognition (Terjuan Short, 2018; Savannah Montgomery, 2019).
Our Mid-Winter dance is Saturday, February 15th; West will have it’s Mid-Winter AUD on Friday, February 14th; that’s also the day of Singing Valentines (for $5, you can have a valentine sung to your sweetheart -- it’s amazing!). Friday, February 29th is Mid-Winter Break -- no school, just a day to interrupt the grind that is the stretch between the start of second semester and Spring Break. This is what old-time educators call “the month of Farch” (February and March run together -- ugh.).
Thank you for your continued support of our work. We are grateful you chose to send your child to West.
Karen Boran, Ed. D.