In a recent article, principal of DeWitt Clinton High School Santiago Taveras, plans to save the Bronx New York public school from closing. Under the Mayor Michael Bloomberg administration, the school was scheduled for closing to be replaced by smaller schools. Even though Taveras was responsible for many of the New York School closings, Mayor de Blasio has structured a plan to save 150 of the many large comprehensive New York public schools that are failing.
Mayor de Blasio has opted to transform failing schools by providing an extra hour of instructional time each day, providing teachers with additional professional training, offering summer school, and turning the troubled schools into Community Schools, which will address many of the challenges that students face outside the classroom by offering mental health services and food for students who do not get enough to eat at home. Mayor de Blasio intends to spend $150 million dollars over the next two years to ensure the success of the initiative.
The principal for the New York public school is excited about the mayors new educational initiative. Taveras said, “I spent time phasing out schools at the D.O.E., which is fine; I don’t regret any of that,” Mr. Taveras said of his time at the central office of the Education Department. “When I heard de Blasio say he wasn’t going to close schools, I thought, That’s interesting. What are we going to do instead? I want to be a part of that.”
According to the article, After Closing Schools, a Principal Fights to Save a Bronx High School, Mr. Taveras has implemented several changes in the Bronx New York public school which include meeting and greeting students everyday, visiting teachers classrooms, removing posters that indicate that firearms are prohibited, replacing security dividers, walking the halls and picking up trash, reduction in student fights, and dividing the school into small learning communities. Mr. Taveras has taken steps that are consistent with reframing organizations outlined by Bowman and Deal.
One such frame is the Symbolic frame. Included in the Symbolic Frame are rituals and ceremonies. In the context of school, rituals provide structure and meaning into the daily life of school. Rituals are simple day-to-day operations. The meeting and greeting of students everyday, visiting teachers, and walking halls while picking up hallway trash provide meaning for school life. Mr. Tavaras is conveying the importance of students, teachers, and cleanliness in the school.
Mr. Taveras began holding pep rallies. Pep rallies are consistent with ceremonies. There is a similar connection between rituals and ceremonies with the exception that ceremonies are grander, more elaborate, and held less frequent. Student pep rallies are grader and are held less often when compared to rituals.
Some of the primary symbols that Mr. Taveras removed that reveal the importance of safety were removing posters that indicate that firearms are prohibited and replacing security dividers. Even though the security measures were reinstalled due to the history of school security, it represents the symbolic importance of security at the New York public school.
Dividing the New York public school into small learning communities is consistent with the structural frame. Small learning communities provide vertical coordination for enhanced control and planning of staff, students, and resources.
The New York public school principal indicated the importance of human capitol when stating that “the crucial element to improving the school will be getting all of the adults to work together, rowing in the same direction”. This statement is consistent with the Human Resource Frame. One primary assumption for the Human resource Frame is that people need each other for ideas. This shift of thinking in the New York public school will provide the necessary ideas, energy, and talent needed to turn the entire school into a high performing school.
Mr. Taveras has time and structure to his advantage. He only needs to pilot the following process to turn the Bronx New York public school around.
- Choose one small learning program to pilot a team building process. This works better because you are training staff members to assist with leading the entire staff in the future. When other staff members witness the success that the chosen small learning program is implementing they will not present any challenges for future initiatives.
- Have staff members in the small learning community to create a shared vision that focuses on student achievement. Focusing on students achievement provides that emphasis for all staff members in the small learning community. A shared vision will provide unity amongst the staff as well the energy needed to accomplish the small learning community goals.
- Have the small learning community to develop three goals that are consistent with the shared vision. Because high school teachers are normally compartmentalized they will normally what to focus on content specific goals. If this allowed the teachers will not work as a team. Instead have them work on academic achievement that is consistent with every content area. For example, writing across the curriculum is not content specific. Math can be taught in each content area. Note taking skills will benefit each content area too.
- For each goal develop 10 objectives. The 10 objectives will serve a benchmarks for accomplishing the three goals.
- Develop an assessment for each objective. That way there is no disagreement as to whether the objective was accomplished.
- Assign at least three teachers to accomplish each objective. This way you force teamwork and communication amongst all teachers. Make sure that the tasks are delved out evenly amongst the teachers.
- Develop a timeline for each objective. Since you want to finish all goals by the end of the year, use May as the culminating month.
- Celebrate the small learning community accomplishments. Determine a specific date to bring together your entire staff to show case the teachers accomplishments.
- Turn key the process for the other small learning communities.
Using the described process will ensure that the New York public school begins the turnaround that is necessary for high student achievement.