How Parents Can Get On The Bus To Transformation

Published 2:28 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

(Editor's note: The Herald welcomes Craig Reed, Principal of Prince Edward County High School, to its pages. This marks the debut of On The Wings Of Eagles, a column by Mr. Reed that will appear periodically, addressing public education in Prince Edward County, particularly as it applies to Prince Edward County High School, a school in transformation. We are proud to have his words on these pages).

In his book, Good To Great, Jim Collins begins with a profound statement: “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” In this book, Collins surveys several companies and describes why some companies are marginal and why others become phenomenal. Over the years, Good To Great has become a key text in a study of efficiency for a variety of organizations. In short, Collins outlines the qualities of not only a successful organization, but one that builds the capacity to sustain that success over long periods of time. Among other things, Collins lists having the right people involved, confronting brutal facts (but never losing faith), and building a culture of discipline as qualities that insure that an organization exceeds marginal outcomes.

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During the 2010-11 school year, Prince Edward County High School, like so many other organizations, was forced to begin the journey from good to great. As a school in transformation, Prince Edward County High School received federal and state sanctions that required our school to look at our most recent results and recognize that changes would have to be made to yield high academic achievement for all of our students. That transformation also included a culture of discipline for our students in regards to behavior and academics as well as a culture of discipline for our faculty and staff in regards to practices that would insure that our school met and exceeded federal and state-mandated goals. As a result, our school saw improvements in a number of areas and continues on the path to becoming a first class institution.

While that transformation can be directly related to changes in practice, it can also be attached to a critical factor that Collins describes, having the right people involved. Contrary to what many may believe, organizations that were extraordinary did not outline where they wanted to be first; rather, they got the best people involved first. Collins describes this as having the right people on the bus. These “right people” were individuals who were committed to the overall success of the organization. For Prince Edward County High School, having the right people includes having strong, skilled, and reflective teachers who are committed to the success of our learners. Moreover, we are fortunate to have a dedicated School Board. Finally, our school division is privileged to have a visionary Superintendent, Dr. K. David Smith that continues to support the transformation of our high school. But there is another group of “right people” that must be on our bus as we continue toward transformation: our parents and community members.

When looking at successful schools, the partnership between teachers, parents, and community members is critical in yielding high achievement for students and sustaining that success. As a school in transformation, our parents and our community members must be on the bus in regards to transforming our schools. How can our parents and community members get on the bus? There are several ways.

First, parents can take an active role in their child's education. Our parents can share in the partnership of emphasizing the importance of an education and graduating on time. That means keeping in contact with teachers and making sure that the importance of education is being emphasized at home. It also means working closely with our faculty and staff to address areas of need. One of the practices that helped yield student success last year was looking at student achievement data in such a close manner that we were looking at individual students. Once we began to look at individual students, we could help them become successful. In many cases, having parents as a part of that discussion was critical in making the difference. Moreover, our parents should share in emphasizing the importance of attendance and being in school.

Second, our parents and community members can support our students by attending extra -curricular activities and after school events. Besides having a flourishing athletic program, Prince Edward County High School has a number of events that showcase our students' talents.

Most importantly, our parents can get on the bus by being involved with our thriving Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Our PTA is a parent-driven entity that works to support our students in our school. As PECHS continues to transform into a first class institution, all of us should be thinking about systems that will sustain and maintain the constant success of our students. The Prince Edward County High school PTA is one of those systems. Furthermore, there is a substantial amount of literature that lists the benefits of joining the PTA. For instance, the children of PTA parents typically perform better at school, have fewer behavioral problems, and go to better colleges. These are just a few of the benefits of becoming involved the PTA. Getting involved with the PTA allows parents to stay informed about all of the great things that are happening at our school.

Most recently, PECHS has been fortunate to have two parents that have assumed leadership roles in the PTA. Pamela Hurak has been elected our President, while Guillermo Gray has become our Treasurer. Both of these individuals are committed to not only building a PTA at our school but supporting and sustaining the success of our students. But in order to make this organization grow, we need more parental involvement. As such, I am requesting that our parents “get on the bus” to drive our school toward transformation and make our school a first class institution. Our next PTA meeting will be held on April 17, 2012, at 7:00 PM at Prince Edward County High School. Parents and community members are invited to become a part of this critical organization. In addition, the students of parents who attend this meeting will receive free admission to a spring athletic event and a free ice cream from Coach James Scott. If you look at any successful

school, you will find a PTA that works with faculty and staff to support student achievement and improve the overall culture. For that reason, all of our parents should be involved in this critical factor of our school's and community's success.

Pick up a copy of Good To Great. In the third sentence of the first chapter, after identifying that good as the enemy of great, Collins immediately says that we don't have great schools because we have good schools. That's not the case for Prince Edward County High School. We have a great school and we have the opportunity to become the best high school in the state. We have a great school and we have the opportunity to become the best high school in the state. We already have some great people on the bus: we have great students, great teachers, a great School Board, and a great Superintendent. Now, we need you. I invite you to get on the bus as we continue to transform our high school and our community. Come to our PTA meeting on April 17th and become one of the “right people” on our bus to greatness.