Saturday, August 23, 2003

So, did you miss me?

I had a little scare yesterday, when a bunch of tiny flies fell from my light fixture while I was taking care of business on my computer. Needless to say, I fled, sealed my room up, called an exterminator, and used my wife's computer for the rest of what I was doing. All this means is that I never got around to doing anything on this blog yesterday. So sorry. I'm going to make up for it now, of course.

So I've been telling everyone that I've been taking a workshop, but I never did mention what it was about, did I? Well, now that it's nearly over, I can tell you more about it. MJHS recently received a grant from the Gates Foundation -- yes, that's the same Gates family that runs Microsoft, so Bill is using his money for something other than ruling cyberspace -- to shrink the school. Well, that's not quite it, but it's a good very short summary. Here's the deal: MJHS is a very large school, with nearly a thousand students in only two grades. (This is not a phenomenon limited to just this school; Marysville-Pilchuck High School is one of the largest in the state.) As a result, the staff felt that they couldn't serve all their students, as it was too easy for them to hide or fall through the cracks. The Gates grant will help restructure the school so that instead of every staff memeber keeping an eye on one thousand students, there would be four academies within the school, and each staff member would therefore have only about 250 students to keep track of, and thus could get to know the students better and act as more of a mentor than someone they see for an hour a day.

Of course, it's not quite that easy -- hence, this workshop. It gave the staff the chance to find out more about the grant, but more importantly it gave them the opportunity to cement for themselves why they were doing it, and what it involved. In other words, it's all well and good to say, "We want to break the school up into four smaller schools," but then what? What does that mean for the students? For the staff? For the parents? For the community? And how does it get done?

I believe this is the first year of the grant, and I gather it goes for three years. It sounds like MJHS is already doing some things right, and the staff is generally buying into the concept, but of course there are also concerns and questions -- and it's not going to happen all at once, it will take some time to truly get to where everyone wants to go. But it was certainly valuable to me, as at least I have a pretty good idea of what I've gotten myself in for.

Well, this coming week should be full and exciting. Monday is the orientation for new teachers to the district, and I'm also taking a workshop on the district's e-mail program that evening (I think I'll do just fine there). Tuesday is the final day of the workshop, and as far as I can tell, Wednesday is a free day, and Thursday and Friday are the first official work days in the building. Then the week after that (provided the district and union can agree on a contract) is everything that I've been working for for so long...the first week of school...with students, even...

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