Part of the Virtual Culture and Climate Series – Spring 2020
Featuring ideas contributed by the Jostens Renaissance educator community and shared in a Facebook Live presentation on April 27, 2020.
Thanks for joining us for another Monday Motivation episode. Previous topics have included:
While we’re still trying to get everyone through this spring, administrators are also planning for next year. Three administrators are joining us for a panel discussion and sharing what’s on their mind and how they’re preparing for next year in an uncertain environment.
- Tim Schlosser, Superintendent, Franklin-Simpson Schools in Franklin, KY
- Mark Brown, Assistant Principal at Newburg High School in Oregon
- Nikki Miller, Principal, Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, DE
How are you doing Freshman Orientation?
Nikki: We had already done it in the winter, so fortunately we’re done. Our 5th graders are doing a webinar style gathering, and we’re encouraging everyone to take a look at a video that’s a highlight reel for our school.
Tim: We were just getting ready to have it when school got cancelled. We’re building it as we go along. We sent 8th graders an email through Apptegy with all the classes freshmen can take, and now our counselors are calling all 200 freshmen individually, answering questions. We’re doing video tours of all our buildings. We’ll continue to adapt.
Mark: We were just about to start with 8th graders when we closed. Now are doing it online so they get forecasting sheets and course catalogs in their hands. We’ll create videos for electives. 9th graders have a core already decided but need a better explanation of electives. We usually have mini rally and club fair for 8th graders, so we’re thinking of taking two days at the beginning of the year. The first day they would go back to their middle school to see their teachers, sign yearbooks, and get some closure. Then we’d bring them over to the high school and have a day just for them to get oriented.
How are you handling class scheduling?
Nikki: We were right in the middle of it. Our counselors set up Zoom meetings with classes as needed, and now counselors are making individual calls.
Tim: We’re doing it through student emails and Apptegy, reaching out individually to make sure kids got what they need. District registration is the last week of July and they start school the 2nd week of August, so we have two weeks to work out problems. We’re trying to do it virtually now, then just make corrections.
Mark: Our amazing counselor crew finished forecasting the week before we started. Now they’re just going back and making corrections as needed.
How are you getting signatures for elective enrollments?
Nikki: It’s a requirement, so it was mailed out to incoming freshmen. We’re asking for it by mail or a photo with signature sent to the counselor, and then following up if we don’t get it.
Tim: We’re getting them however we can get them. The vestibule in our high school has a drop box open 24 hours, so parents can pick up work and drop off scholarship applications.
Mark: We’re getting signatures however we can get them. We’re doing a lot of communicating with parents and students so it’s on their radar.
Shout out to school counselors for stepping up to the plate!
[Renaissance Resource Suggestion: Download this “We Love Our School Counselor Because…” Selfie Sign, ask your students to write a note of thanks, and have them send them to their counselor or submit them to be compiled in a video.]
How are you recruiting for sports and extracurriculars?
Nikki: We’re not allowed to recruit except from our own middle school. Our athletic director connects coaches, and they’re still in the mourning period, especially for our seniors.
Tim: We have a smaller district so all our coaches know each other. They’ve been keeping in contact with our players, having Zoom team meetings and talking a lot. The head basketball coach is doing a drive through crew event, handing out lunches to those who come here. He calls players daily, he has about 18 kids. He jokes that he knows what time they all get up in the morning. They’re staying connected, they all want to be playing, and want to be as ready as possible.
Mark: We’re waiting on the state association, because summer is when they get exposure. We’re building an interest inventory for 8th graders listing all sports and clubs so we can give coaches a list of kids who want to know about their sport. We’re making up for club fair that way. They also created a boys basketball Google Classroom, posting daily workouts and a daily thought or challenge, with articles or posts about our core values as a program, and invited 8th graders to join too.
What’s your contingency plan for summer sports?
Mark: We’re hopeful that even if we can’t compete, we can at least do open gyms and workouts. Will continue to build through Google Classroom. I’m used to using summer to try new things (so it doesn’t affect my official record). I think this will help my players become better students, because they’ll have to learn on their own through films and reading. We’re looking at it as a great opportunity.
How are you handling teacher recruitment for fall?
Nikki: We’re moving forward and have hired for a few positions. We’re a little concerned about CTE classes with unique certification. We use Twitter to post positions, because people do want to move here.
Tim: Moving forward also – we posted them early. A regional co-op is having their first virtual job fair (the in-person one was supposed to be today) – each district has a length of time, and applicants can look through them. We have unique CTE opportunities too, and are trying to network also.
Mark: We missed it, it was a week after we closed. We have hired some positions, and were actually about to expand and got an influx of money which hasn’t happened forever, but that was depended on business taxes so we’re projecting it won’t come in as we hoped. We had posted some new positions that we put on hold. Doing virtual hiring through zoom interviews.
Tim: My big concern is a year from now. The state just passed a budget – usually they do it every 2 years, but passed a 1-year one. Not sure about revenue. We’re estimating how much they can bring in, give us $4000 per student, it was supposed to go up to more this year. Will have an effect locally, but won’t really know until September what that will look like. We have a good contingency to get us through to the summer. Those are the things that keep me up at night. Kentucky Derby week just kicked off, but got moved to September. It’s about a monthlong process. We don’t think about those things but they do affect our tax dollars.
Tara: Darrin Peppard has talked about funding coming from tourism dollars in CO, and how he’s concerned about long-term domino effect of that. Steve Bollar makes a point that how districts spend their budget tells everyone where their values lie. From a teacher’s perspective, we fundraise for programs, but even now, being able to take kids somewhere could change because local businesses tend to fund those efforts.
Will this pandemic experience change what you look for when hiring teachers?
Nikki: No, I was already looking for someone flexible and relationship focused. I’m seeing some current staff really impressing me. We’re giving actual grades and our high school is 1:1 in terms of everyone getting equipment, so that helps.
Tim: No, I do believe people stepping up are being seen. It’s still all about relationships with kids. The teacher is what moves the needle. Now more than ever, we’re going to have a new appreciation for education. We don’t just teach reading and math. It’s been taken for granted, but this experience shows us what else we do. Our teachers have created virtual rallies and game nights, explored how to do it differently. Some teachers have written messages on driveways, dropped off slushies for meeting goals. It makes us appreciate teachers, and new teachers see that as an example.
Mark: I try to get a read for who they are in the room when I’m interviewing. So that’s interesting through Zoom. But I’m getting really good interview questions. How has this forced you to change? What’s something creative you’ve done? It’s a really good way to get their attitude. I’m looking for commitment to doing the best for my kids, and I can get a sense of attitude and big heart and commitment to kids having best experience possible.
You’re all big believers in relationships. What do you see changing when everyone gets back to school?
Nikki: Appreciation for the connections. There are so many students reaching out and saying they’re never going to complain again! Sometimes things happen and remind us it’s the small things that matter.
Tim: I saw students at the grocery store and they said, “I miss school so much, didn’t know how much I would!” Being able to see kids and interact will feel even stronger.
Mark: Every day next school year will be like High Five Friday, with an appreciation of what school is. We all take it for granted. People realized that we hold them to high standards because we love them. I think we’ll be stronger as a staffulty – we rallied around each other and improved collaboration, and I’m excited to see that cohesion continue when we’re together.
What’s your professional learning going to be like?
Nikki: A party! We’ll plan fun stuff. It needs to be celebrating being together.
Tim: It’s exciting for everyone to get back together. Right now I’m trying to get through the end of the school year, but will work on that in the summer. We worked together on getting ready and will need to celebrate!
Mark: It will be a party like no other. I’m salivating at the opportunity! We’re planning a welcome back staff video for students, and this will be amazing. So much excitement from educators and students. So much national energy and excitement, we need to harness that and use it to catapult into the year.
What do you do for your first week back?
Tim: We have class for about 30 minutes, then a 2-hour assembly by classes, where they put their handprint in the painted number display they use at graduation. A Stanford study said most who drop out decide that in first 5 days of high school. We say the first day should be the best because they’re most attentive. They sign a class banner, learn to shake hands, and get C2G bracelets. We make a big deal for freshmen – they say they’re not nervous but they are. We ease that anxiety by having fun activities, and ease them into high school so they feel comfortable.
Schools are still figuring things out and realizing how interconnected everything is. Teaching is not just about the physical schoolhouse, and changes will continue to happen. It’s important to have these conversations because none of us has this playbook, and we can’t foresee all the challenges coming. We’ll continue to pivot, and our network of professionals will help us get through it.
Graduation Friday – this Friday at 12:00 EST, we’ll continue looking at what different schools are doing, and ways to recognize and honor class of 2020.