So, emailed at around 10:30 on Friday morning to attend a live television interview at the Martin Professional Development Center at 1:15 that afternoon, I concluded what I was working on, which was one of 23 class-specific "Performance Concerns" online reportage forms, geared to improve student support for all of our nearly 700 student course seats this semester (more on that later), I ran home in my little red Smart Car to get out of my Friday Casual Day jeans and into slacks, shirt, tie, and blazer. I let the puppy out of his kennel for a bit while I wolfed down a quick reheated gourmet burger from the fridge and a big glass of water and put the puppy back into his kennel, then ran back into town to be at Martin Center early.
There was a Microsoft event in progress in the big main meeting room so I hung out in Dr. Kecia Ray's office going over the bulleted list I had constructed from emails sent by both my Principal and my Executive Principal. Good there. I knew what to talk about. At around 1:30 our Associate Superintendent for High Schools and I were seated on the same stage the Microsoft people had just vacated, and I was introduced to the WSMV News reporter, Cara Kumari, and fitted with a lavaliere mic. Camera pointed, interview ensued. You can see the interview here when it's ready, both me and Jay Steele, our talented and dynamic ASHS (see above), which may be interlaced, depending on the editing style of the news room.
Now, to what's been raging through my brain. I know I meant to highlight "our small but mighty team" at the School but the incisive Ms. Kumari's lead question, basically "How did you come to this line of work?" threw me a bit. I'm looking forward to hearing whether or not my response sounded like "I built it," which in part I did but I'm not remotely suggesting that any of it was anything short of a team effort. I believe I said "That's what we are doing." I hope so, because the level of service and support our team of only five provide is nothing short of amazing. Then add the 23 adjunct teachers--a number that, like the number of students we will serve, will continue to grow--then you begin to see the scope and its potential to serve our 82,000+ student school district and the state beyond.
I think I responded to the question "What makes MNPS Virtual School different from a commercial service, the one now under investigation by the State of Tennessee for poor performance at a premium cost to taxpayers?" (I paraphrase) pretty well. I explained that, essentially, "We are a Public School, and we are not constrained by the necessity to earn a profit. Sure, we must function economically, but our decisions are not made with that constraint. Every decision we make is with what is best for the student in mind." I did also get to share a bit about Discussion Based Assessments, one of my interview goals. What's up with my hair? At one point Dr. Ray came in the back door and made a "tame that hair" gesture from the door. I laugh now.
Here is what I had planned to contribute to the interview, shared here to expunge from my self-flagellating brain the need to share it. Maybe I'll sleep better tonight!
- We have added new face to face meetings, Orienations, Midmester Review, and Final Exam Review, which we will hold at our beautiful new Student Center at Cohn, formerly the Cohn Adult Learning Center. We will also stream these sessions and make them available in recorded form for review and for those not able to attend.
- We have an intense focus on Student Support, hence the aforementioned Performance Concerns project, so that students who are failing to work at pace can receive both counseling and encouragement, or intervention if necessary, from their in-school Counselors or from our very capable Counselor, Ms. Adrienne McNew.
- We provide online tutoring 24/7 primarily for our Math Students, via a wonderful service called Grade Results, and at no cost to our students who need it.
- We are firing up weekly Enhanced Math Workshops for students who need in-person, one-on-one help
- Attendance is Performance. I had worked out in my drive to Martin Center a whole explanation of how we are held to the same standards as any school, and that we have recently created detailed policies concerning how lack of performance in online coursework equates to failure to attend school and that these have been approved by our school board. If you think about that, in a brick and mortar school a student can come every day, sit in the back not working, and be marked present. That cannot happen in our school because we do not require our students to occupy a seat. The only indication we have that a student is "here" is by a detailed access to login records and the work he or she submits. That, to me, is value added. I had also hoped to highlight the benefits of everything being digitally available and of course the option for students to redo work toward mastery.
- I am so proud of my team I could weep now just thinking about them. They are the hardest working other 4 people I know.