So, with change in mind, what would you like to see in the SPB in the future? As always, I appreciate and value insight and feedback from interested readers. Okay, onward to this week's post...
In the early spring, it became clear to me as a principal that the time had come for our school to take a step back and examine some of the core, foundational elements of our school--climate, culture, operational policies and practices, our vision as well as our fundamental mission, often articulated as school-wide goals, which should be (I think) very clear, measurable objectives toward the attainment of said vision. I also think it is important that these things be developed distributively and collectively rather than in a vacuum.
Our departmental leadership team began this work by examining our current vision as a school. While Sentinel does not have a vision statement per se, there does exist the following "statement of purpose," which I came across in the opening pages of the Faculty Handbook.
The faculty of Sentinel High School recognizes that our beliefs are the driving force behind the education offered to students at Sentinel. We also recognize that beliefs, which are shared by the faculty, have the most dynamic impact on our school. As a faculty we share the following philosophy:
First, we recognize that we share the responsibility for advancing the school’s mission with parents and community at large, that these groups have a powerful impact on the school’s success.
Secondly, we believe that students’ social, emotional, and intellectual needs are unique to the individual and that the individual is affected by the time spent in school. Consequently, we believe that the school must be a safe and physically comfortable environment in order for students to develop essential skills and knowledge, to learn problem solving, and to apply their learning. We also believe that an atmosphere of positive relationships and mutual respect throughout the school community enhances the learning environment.
Finally, we believe in keeping abreast of the latest educational research, including in-house studies of such things as the following:
- The impact of out-of-school jobs on student achievement.
- The effect of co-curricular activities on academic success and student self-confidence.
- The effect of evolving school efforts to reduce dropouts, absenteeism, and failure rates.
- The effect of parental and community involvement in promoting academic success, improving the school climate, and promoting safety in the schools.
I was not the principal of Sentinel High School when this was created, so cannot speak to the thinking that girds it nor the process by which it was created. It reads to me as a sort of hybrid vision and mission mashed together. If charged with developing a strategic and systemic plan for executing this purpose, I would be dubious about the task as there is simply a lot here that's going in a variety of different directions.
Our current school wide goals are as follows:
- Implement professional learning communities.
- Improve assessment design and application.
- Implement Google Apps for Education, operationally in phase one and pedagogically in phase two.
- Implement MBI tier one.
Without a sound vision and mission, any organization is in jeopardy of becoming like Lewis Carroll's Alice who must ask the Cat, "Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?" adding, "I don't much care where..so long as I get SOMEWHERE." Of course, as the cat famously responds, "then it doesn't matter which way you go."
I believe there is an important need to create a new vision for Sentinel High School and with it a mission for achieving that vision comprised of clear, measurable goals. I also believe the process of creating a vision and mission will be a tremendously beneficial process for our school to go through collectively in order for each person, if not necessarily to agree entirely, to feel a sense of ownership of our direction as a school.
A great vision for any organization must be clear, relevant, directional, and inspirational. It must be future-focused, attainable yet challenging. I also strongly believe a school's vision must be value-based, undeniably rooted in the school's core beliefs about the "why" of the work we do as educators. When an effective and shared vision is in place in a school, it becomes relatively easy to make decisions. The question of whether or not to take a certain action is instinctively answered by whether or not the action furthers our vision as a school. A sound vision then functions as an unambiguous map by which to chart a course through the often turbulent waters of school improvement and evolution.
Here are five vision statements from well-known service-oriented organizations:
Special Olympics: To transform communities by inspiring people throughout the world to open their minds, accept and include people with intellectual disabilities and thereby anyone who is perceived as different.
Oxfam: A just world without poverty.
National Public Radio: NPR, with its network of independent member stations, is America’s pre-eminent news institution.
Smithsonian: Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world.
Teach for America: One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
Sentinel's department team leaders have developed the following draft of a proposed vision statement for Sentinel High School:
It is our vision at Sentinel High School to provide our students with a balanced, comprehensive high school experience and to adhere to the highest standards of excellence in all we do. Through a broad range of learning opportunities, including academic classes, career and technical education, and fine arts, we strive to support career and college readiness, develop life skills, foster creativity and cultural appreciation, and provide the knowledge and skills necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Any vision will only be as great as the mission designed for its attainment. What are the measurable objectives for achieving our vision? This is the question that sharpens the focus for a school and inspires individual's daily efforts.
How do you measure the success of a school? Consider any of the following:
- Graduation rate
- Dropout rate
- Attendance rate
- Grade distribution and pass rate
- ACT scores
- Enrollment in Advanced Placement courses
- Behavior data
What do you think? What is the right vision for Sentinel High School and why? What are the objectives and goals we must pursue toward the realization of that vision?
I hope to hear from you!
I hope you find the ideas and resources in this post valuable and interesting. Disagreement and dialogue are welcomed. Let's talk. Let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you. My door and mind are always open.
See you at Sentinel and GO SPARTANS!