We are only one week away from the first day of school, and I’m already excited. Few things compare to the joy I feel when I am engaging with my students, pushing them to become greater than they ever thought they could be, and watching them grow into successful students, athletes, and individuals.
As the school year kicks off, I wanted to set some goals and explain the rationale and purpose behind each. Being able to envision where you want to go allows your students and school community to have the ability to join you from the very beginning. I hope you see something in here that piques your interest so that you, too, may be able to partner with us (or create something similar in your school community!).
- Support the creation of a Cross Keys Parent Council. Many of the school clusters have created parent councils (separate from the school councils that every school in the state of Georgia is required to have) that, according to the Parent Councils United website (www.pcudekalb.org), does the following:
“Each council chooses topics of interest for their school community. Open meetings make it possible for parents, residents, and school staff to exchange information, concerns, and possibilities. Councils advocate for larger changes in the school system than parents and staff at one school can accomplish.”
PCU describes itself as “the executive board members from Dunwoody-Chamblee Parent Council, Emory LaVista Parent Council, South DeKalb Parent Council, and Tucker Parent Council. It also includes representatives from the Cross Keys Cluster and the Charter Schools Parent Council. Parent Councils are individual grass roots organizations. They have no membership rolls, no dues, and no headquarters.”
For years, PCU has wanted the Cross Keys Cluster to have their own parent council; however, for a myriad of reasons, this has not been accomplished. This year, I would like to work towards creating a Cross Keys Parent Council so that parents, students, school staff, and community members can formalize their involvement within the county school system. Please email me if you are an interested parent in the CK Cluster who would like to be a part of this effort.
- Create a community garden at Cross Keys High School. Since the community and my students at CKHS worked all summer on installing small gardens all along the BuHi corridor, we would like to see more people enjoy the same benefits that we experienced. Cross Keys Principal, Mr. Jason Heard, has already approved the creation of this project. However, as an already quite involved teacher and parent, I will not be able to pull this off alone.
I would like to see the garden created by the students and families within the CK cluster so that students and parents could learn from the gardening experience, receive produce from the garden, and engage in community activities that can only continue to strengthen our neighborhood.
Ideally, environmental science classes, biology classes, nutrition classes, and elementary/middle school science classes could use the gardening experience to augment their science curriculum. Peachtree Charter Middle School already has their own community garden, and this has been a boon to the Dunwoody community since the installation of the garden. If this is something that interests you, please let me know. I already have partnerships in the works with the Peachtree Creek Greenway (a non-profit group working to see the creation of a 12-mile greenway along Peachtree Creek from the Atlanta Beltline to Doraville), Water, Color, & Stone, Inc. (a local landscape designer), and with King of Crops (the farm for King of Pops).
- Steal The Museum Schools’s Gallery Walk Idea. Every quarter, The Museum School of Avondale Estates hosts a “museum night” during which students exhibit the work they have completed throughout the period. The school invites parents and guests to tour the school, much like you would at a museum, while students proudly show off their hard work and achievements.
This year, Cross Keys High School is going to host similar museum nights each quarter. Students’ families, school district personnel, and community guests will be welcomed into the school so that students can exhibit their work. This will not only give students additional motivation to complete their work, but it will also give them the opportunity to realize the joy that only hard work and effort can bring.
More information will be available once we create a schedule for these nights during the 2016-2017 school year, so be sure to keep an eye out!
- Host a panel of civic and community leaders at Cross Keys High School. As a part of The BuHi Project (a project-based, community development initiative which was a cornerstone of my students’ curriculum last year), we will hopefully be hosting a panel discussion at CKHS this fall. My hope is that city council members, mayors, city planners, and community leaders would gather for an evening of interaction that focuses on the most important issues facing our community: gentrification, affordable housing, economic development, pedestrian improvements, public transportation, trash, community policing, safety, and education.
I envision the format as one where upperclassmen serve as the moderators for a panel of community leaders. Questions will be posed by members of the audience and student moderators will select specific questions for the community panel.
After 45 minutes to an hour, these student moderators will then switch with the community panelists. At this point, city and community leaders will serve as the moderators, posing questions to the students serving on the panel. Translators would also be available.
The goal of this panel would be to not only teach the basics and the importance of civic involvement, but to also allow students and their families to be able to voice their concerns in a safe, academic environment. As a result of the panel, city and community leaders will be able to more clearly understand the community that lives along the BuHi corridor. If you would be interested in serving on this panel, either as a student or as a city official or community leader, please contact me.
- Create a pop-up Freshman Academy. The point of any “pop-up” shop or podcast or what-have-you is to test out an idea in order to assess its viability and success. It also serves as a point of inspiration for others who might not normally consider such an idea. A pop-up Freshman Academy would follow this same model.
In Spring 2017, CKHS would like to host a pop-up Freshman Academy in order to show the community and the school district the benefits of creating an academy. Real students and real teachers would engage in abbreviated classes that would demonstrate the ideas embedded in a Freshman Academy:
1. Intimate collaboration among teachers
2. Cross-curricular instruction
3. Project-based learning strategies
4. In-depth student advisement
Guests will be able to provide feedback and gain insights so that the next iteration of the Cross Keys Freshman Academy will be even better than the first. This will also serve as an opportunity for prospective families to Cross Keys to understand more about “The CK Way” and the benefits that our school may bring to their student. More information will be available once the school year begins.
Perhaps only one or two of these goals will come to fruition, but in order to set out on a journey, you have to at least plan where you’d like to go. The path may wind and turn, and it may lead to somewhere utterly different than where you originally thought you would end up. But planning an itinerary and setting a vision is an important first step.
I always like to involve the community whenever possible, so if you would like to participate in the planning or execution of any of these ideas, shoot me an email: email@example.com. As always, I look forward to collaborating with you!