SRHS 3 Pillar Plan: A Vision for Success at SRHS

The 2012-2013 year marks my twelfth year in public education, with seven of those years spent in administration at Sanborn Regional High School. Every September I have a tradition of starting the new school year by reflecting on the previous one and trying to determine what I can do differently to improve. Over the last few years we have been engaged in a major “redesign” effort that will, if all goes according to plan, make our school one of the premiere high schools in New Hampshire. Last year is going to be a tough one to beat as our school was recognized at local, state, and national levels for our redesign efforts.

At the end of the school year as I talked with various students, teachers, parents, and community members, it become apparent to me that people seemed to have a very different definition of what our school needed to focus on in order to achieve our vision of being one of NH’s “best” schools. I concluded that the best way for me to improve as a principal was to work with my staff to develop an easy-to-follow plan that will help me effectively communicate where we are and where we want to be.

This blueprint for success was completed over the summer and is now being unveiled to the entire school community. I refer to it as our school’s “three pillar” plan. You probably have seen it posted in several places around the school. I believe that in order for us to be the “best” school in NH, we need to focus all of our efforts into being “the best” at each of the three pillars.

Pillar #1 - Learning Communities: Our learning communities work interdependently to achieve successful student performance for which we are collectively responsible and mutually accountable.

The term “learning community” describes a group of teachers and administrators who are united in their commitment to student learning. They share a vision, work and learn collaboratively, visit and review other classrooms, and participate in decision-making. In the 2011-2012 year, the first of what I hope will be several highly functioning learning communities was implemented school-wide with the establishment of the Freshman Learning Community (FLC). With only one year of student achievement data, the FLC appears to be having a significant impact on student learning, engagement, and positive school climate for all. This year, Sanborn plans to implement other highly functioning learning communities including a sophomore team model that will be focused on a project-based learning experience that connects the subjects of Biology, Civics, and Language Arts with a community organization and/or business and a college or university.

Pillar #2 - Student Engagement: Our students are engaged in learning tasks and performance assessments that measure mastery of competency.

A “competency” is the ability of a student to apply content knowledge and skills in and/or across the content area(s). At SRHS, all courses use a competency-based grading system. By this, it is meant that assignments are linked back to the competencies that they are designed to assess and student performance is reported in a way that tracks student mastery of the competencies that have been identified for each course. This shift in focus allows Sanborn to use report cards and transcripts to more accurately report what students know and are able to do. As we embark on the 2012-2013 school year, now more than ever colleges and the job market are calling for students who have successfully completed rigorous high school programs that require students to demonstrate their knowledge of competencies through performance and inquiry-based tasks and projects - the very same type of assessments that Sanborn has made mandatory for all courses and programs.

Pillar #3 - Climate & Culture: We foster a school culture for all stakeholders that promotes respect, responsibility, ambition, and pride.

In the 2011-2012 school year, the school community engaged in a culture survey to identify the ways in which it could improve the climate and culture at Sanborn. A group of parents, students, teachers, and administrators analyzed the data and developed the following recommendations for our school community to address in the 2012-2013 year:

·        We need to increase the types and frequency of communication with all stakeholders about various school issues.
·        We need to review and revise the procedures and policies that are tied to the student code of conduct in the handbook in an effort to reduce instances of student misbehavior.
·        We need to look at the ways in which our school personalizes instruction to meet the needs of all learners. This includes a look at how our Freshman and Sophomore teams approach intervention and enrichment, how we use the advisory period, and how we can better use our schedule for juniors and seniors for this same purpose.
·        Efforts should be made to give students opportunities to learn and connect with the community more often.

As we embark on the new school year, I challenge all of you to think of the ways that you can contribute to our school’s vision of becoming one of the premier high schools in New Hampshire. It is going to take all of us, working collectively, to achieve this vision.

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