Friday, June 15, 2012

Congratulations to Parker High School!

Compassion/Social Justice + Collaboration +
Ownership + Transparency = 

Parker received a silver medal for being 1,891 out of 21,776 schools in the nation, and nineteenth in the state of Wisconsin. We are proud of the work that teachers, staff and administrators are doing at PHS and want to recognize their efforts, successes and acknowledge what Parker is doing right.
Schools were ranked based on student performance on state achievement tests, college preparatory exams and the scores of minority and economically disadvantaged students.
When asked what sets Parker High School apart, social studies teacher Steve Strieker responded, “From an academic standpoint I don’t think we do anything completely different than what a lot of other schools are doing with academics. Despite changes in society, students still need to learn how to read, write, comprehend, analyze and do math. I think we have people who are well qualified in their disciplines, but I don’t think that sets us apart. I really think it is the connections, the culture.  The culture sets us apart.” Other staff and administrators seem to agree—Parker is defined by the culture established by administrators, staff and teachers.
Culture of Compassion and Social Justice
Teachers at Parker actively pursue connecting with students. Teachers spend time in the halls building relationships with students. It is not solely about standing in the halls, teachers have an awareness and presence. Teachers are taking time to engage students and learn about them—who they are, what their needs are, what motivates them. Our students deserve a good education and opportunities to grow, and the teachers at Parker seek to provide opportunities for every child to reach their potential. “I see it when I’m walking through after school—Ms. Baur tutoring a student she doesn’t teach. Mr. Strieker checking in on a student who has been off for a couple of days. I see it when Ms. Stratton (secretary) goes out of her way to help a student who is just struggling and having a bad day…That’s always been going on, but I see more. I feel very proud to work here at Parker because of the relationships I see being built,” Assistant Principal Dan Keyser shared.
This culture of compassion extends beyond meeting classroom needs. Parker teachers’ care for students evidences itself through efforts of educator such as Deri Walhert, who started the Parker Closet. This initiative provides basic necessities for students in financial need. Walhert, through engaging in conversations with students, recognized a need, and then sought a way to create a solution. Teachers desire to see their students succeed and actively seek out ways to provide opportunities for students to do that.
“It’s demonstrating day in and day out that you’re there for kids. It’s the conversations in the hallway, willingness to give an extension because a kid has to work. It’s making phone calls home when things go well. It’s buying kids lunch when they can’t afford it. We have a lot of people who are very good at this, and some who are helping develop a deeper understanding of student needs,” Principal Chris Laue commented on the culture and relationships at Parker.
Culture of Collaboration
Now, more than ever, teachers are communicating well not only in their departments, but also interdepartmentally and across the schools. According to math teacher, Joe Dye, “It isn’t uncommon to see three teachers getting together from both high schools taking about pacing schedules or writing curriculum-based assessments. The bar is raised equally between each school creating consistency.”
There is support across departments as well. Teachers are feeling connected to the staff as a whole and deeper relationships are being built, which enable teachers to more effectively work together to help students achieve. Many teachers feel confident that if they were having an issue, they could find someone—in any department—to talk to and support them. Parker is establishing a staff that functions like a family.
Many teachers who have been at Parker feel the need to mentor the younger teachers, helping them develop similar attitudes of collaboration, social justice and transparency. They want to help all teachers feel connected to the school.
Teachers also acknowledge that their success is related to parent involvement. Many Parker parents are actively involved in their students’ lives, which manifests itself very obviously in the co-curricular lives of Parker students. Parents are involved; not only in athletics, but also with the experiences students have in musicals, through the band program, DECA and many other organizations. Teachers see parents engaging with their students’ education.
Culture of Ownership
As students feel more connected to and take pride in their school, there is a tendency towards greater academic achievement. Many students spend the majority of their time in the school building. If they do not feel safe or connected, then their ability to focus on their work is drastically reduced.
Through outreach programs like Brothers Reaching Out (BRO), Sisters Empowering Sisters (SES), Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and the anti-bullying club, students are able to develop a strong connection to the school, as well as a sense of ownership. Students hold a sense of pride in the building.
Students are also given the opportunity to help each other grow. Parker has a strong VIC tutoring program that allows teachers and students to help one another. They are also beginning a math mentorship program. Math teachers are inviting some of their students to serve as peer mentors with students in algebra 1 classes. Students are helping other students prepare to be successful, which continues to develop students’ pride in Parker, feelings of connectedness and desire to succeed.
Culture of Transparency
Through Administrators rounding on staff and staff rounding on students, a culture of transparency has been created at Parker. Teachers are able to engage in open and honest dialogue. “I’ll say that about the administration and the school culture. I’ll say that despite my loud voice, they don’t squelch or silence you. Our administration has never tried to silence me. That’s part of social justice—open, honest dialogue,” Steve Strieker state.


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