Friday, March 09, 2012

Changes at Virtual School

Today is the last day for our Coordinator/Acting Principal's tenure at MNPS Virtual School. Our staff is now comprised of a full-time Specialist (moi), a full-time Senior Secretary, a 10-month Registrar, and a 10-month Counselor. A Principal's position has been posted to replace our lost colleague, whom we will all miss. Until then, it's "just us chilrens here" (sic).

MNPS Virtual School on the 3rd floor of Cohn Adult Learning Center

We're serving 49 Full-Time students this semester. We serve 152 "Hybrid" students, those taking one or more online classes with us and our Adjunct Faculty of 18 teachers while attending their bricks-and-mortar schools for a school day. These numbers represent exponential service growth by a factor of 3 over the Fall semester and we believe will continue to grow exponentially as we look to the future in school year 2012-13. Most of them are High-Schoolers, but we have pockets of Middle Schoolers taking Algebra I at their schools with our teacher and our curriculum and one Full-Time "beta" Middle Schooler. There's a lot of juggling going on.

Yesterday, we held an "Open House" for interested parties and several folks showed up, surprisingly none who did so because they were investigating the options for their own children. They were each from professional fields who came because they just wanted to see what it was all about. I found myself starting from the basics of our work and explaining in detail how things worked, to the point of actually demonstrating the courseware on the LED projector. This got me thinking.

We need some marketing. Despite some prominent--and more or less accurate--news coverage a while back (see the News page at our school's website), the overwhelmingly prevalent response when we mention what we do is a perplexed expression accompanied by something on the order of "Wait. You're a real school?" It doesn't matter what the demographic of the audience is: No one really knows what we do but us. Well, us and the students, parents, and in-school representatives, mostly Counselors, whom we serve.

This has to change. I'm wondering what other virtual schools are doing to help bridge the gap between the traditional understanding of what school is and the understanding of the revisions our work brings to the definition of "school." I'm planning to reach out in several ways to my Professional Learning Communities/Networks over the next week or so with that question. We could use your help. If you have some knowledge of ways this "understanding gap" is being bridged, please share; or if you think you know someone who knows something about this set of issues, please pass this post along. Thanks, and have a great weekend!!!

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