Finding our Focus – South Hills High School - Where We Began (Part 1)

When I was first hired, the mission was clear:  restore the foremost school in the district back to its premiere reputation and status. Simple, right? It was only the school that the superintendent graduated from, along with his principal wife, and three kids. Both of the assistant superintendent’s daughters went to school here, the director of personnel, and more district administrators’ kids than one could count. My new high school was home to Super Bowl Champions, Broadway stars, Olympians, Major League Baseball MVPs, CEOs, and Ivy Leaguers, to name a few.

Somehow, the focus and culture lost its way and as a result, the school and its strategic plan followed suit. I excitedly jumped head-first into my challenge and met with every employee to find out what had happened. It was simple. Teachers and employees felt they lost the basic Maslowian needs of social belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, leading to a breakdown in communication, trust, transparency, inclusiveness, and honesty. It all led to the belief that culture triumphs strategy.

Now what? Where do I go from here? I looked to my administration team which was composed of a first-year dean, a first-year assistant principal, and a second-year assistant principal. With my new team, we made a pact to establish a culture of collective efficacy and build the internal capacity of our instructional leaders from the inside out, thus impacting the overall culture of our site.

It was going to be a challenge, to say the least, to establish a new standard of work involving collaboration, high expectations, and a consistent professional development program. First steps involved taking a look at realigning the resources that we could control from our site:  structures, time, resources, and people.

I inherited a regular six-period day. However, it came with an unnecessary number of alternative schedules, consisting of everything from:

• an alternating every other week, three period even and odd block;
• to an extended lunch and break schedule, and;
• even a schedule with a built-in optional “tutorial” period that book-ended lunch.

Teachers had no time to meet together, unless they planned to make time before or after school. No consistent faculty meetings took place, with no consistent room to meet in, the school plan had not been updated in years, department coordinators were put in place to handle business items, and no instructional data-driven decision making was happening to drive instruction within the departments. 

Up Next: Getting Started (Part 2)

Bryan RobertsComment