The 2014 Bammy Awards includes an impressive collection of innovative and passionate educators who are true “difference makers” in both the lives of students and on the profession as a whole. To receive a nomination is humbling to say the least and I can quickly think of many others who are equally deserving of being named a Bammy finalist for secondary principal of the year. In thinking about the awards and my nomination, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a “finalist” and, more specifically, what needs to happen at the school and district level in order to make that happen. What I know above all is that it’s anything but an individual recognition and is much more about the work that is happening at both the school and district level.
I wrote a post awhile back on schools that move from “good to great” and I think that DFHS moves closer to “great” each day. Of course, the question of whether complete “greatness” is even attainable is one that can be debated for hours on end and, I suppose, the minute we believe that we are “great” is also the moment that we become, well, not so “great.” Despite that, there is lots going on at DFHS that is special and it can easily be deemed “great” by any objective observer who walks the halls of our school.
So what makes DFHS such a special place? While I can easily compile a list of over a hundred different things, here’s five that quickly come to mind…
1) A Clear Vision: We are fortunate to have a central administration (@yolebrady & @dfdcidberry) and board of education (@tracybaron2) that articulates a clear vision that is rooted in 21st century learning and success beyond high school regardless of the path that our students choose to pursue. In doing so, building principals are not micromanaged from above and are instead empowered to lead based on the respective needs of the individuals and groups that they work with each day. This vision guides all of our work at the high school as well as the programs and learning experiences that we provide for both students and teachers.
2) A Supportive Community: Part of what makes our school unique and “special” is that we receive a tremendous amount of support from community organizations who are committed to supporting all of our students. In addition to our wonderful PTSA, we receive many contributions from groups such as the DF Foundation, SPRING, and Trailguides. In addition, our small size provides a level of closeness and support among our student body that can’t be found in most other places. Whether it’s on the field or the stage, our students cheer one another on and push each other to be the best that they be. It’s truly an amazing thing to see.
3) An Active Parent Community: It’s no secret that there is a positive correlation between positive parent engagement and student success. At DFHS, our parent community works closely with our teachers and counselors to support the educational experiences of our students. Our back to school nights are always well attended and we always have packed houses for our parent workshops, academic symposiums, musical concerts, and sporting events. Too often, parents at the high school level tend to “step back” and leave students to fend for themselves once they reach high school. While a certain degree of this is healthy, parents need to remain connected and invested in what are in many ways the most critical years for students. That is definitely the case at DFHS.
4) A Belief That Everyone Can: While the curriculum in all classes at DFHS is guided by the IB learning standards, the IB has not solely instilled our belief that all students can. The belief that we must provide “something for everyone” is intrinsic in all of us and pervades our school community through both a robust selection of co-curricular options as well as programs that are designed to ensure that all students reach their maximum potential. This includes the wonderful work that is done by our special education department (@erinvred), our IB Coordinator and ELL teacher (@meghalberg), our IB Extended Essay/CAS coordinator (@steinleslie), our science research coordinator (@dobbsscires), our guidance department (@careim2), our film, visual arts, and music teachers (@andrewfischbeck, @sbuschi, @gjdefalco), our teacher leader team, and of course the entire DFHS faculty and staff. The belief that “it takes a village” has never been more alive and well than it is at DFHS.
5) Out of the Box Thinking: One thing about DFHS is that we’re not stuck in a fixed mindset. We’re not only on the cutting edge of technology with our use of social media and our 1:1 Chromebook initiative, but we also continue to find new ways to expand our IB Diploma Program by adding new course offerings and through focused “pre IB” experiences for students in grades 9-10 as we prepare for authorization to the IB Middle Years Program (MYP). In addition, we have increased our academic electives and have a number of students who are taking advantage of our new online blended course offerings (@scottpatrillo). We also developed a high school mobile app, we use Twitter for ongoing professional development, and we continue to find new ways to share what we learn in both grade level and content specific teams. There’s lots happening at every corner and it’s both led by teachers and is, more importantly, designed to further the learning experiences of all students.
With that said, I’m honored to head down to DC to represent the faculty, staff, and school community of DFHS. It is an honor to serve as the principal of the school and to have the opportunity to walk through those doors each day. I’m looking forward to the many years of great work that we still have ahead.