Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year complete with our first year of juniors and a new building!
We are excited to give our students the kind of environment they really deserve, a place that shows them physically what a professional learning environment looks like. The most common response from parents as they have walked through the halls? "I want to go to Bonsall High School."
As a new school, we face the typical questions about whether or not as a small and new school we can provide the kind of socialization and activities of a larger, more veteran school. I believe these questions come from a place of concern and care about our children: can our students become thriving, successful adults if they experience a non-typical high school? Even movies we watch remind us that high school is supposed to be a certain way: Rallies, football games, and being a part of a large crowd all feel like cornerstones of the high school experience.
As a principal I care deeply about the future of our students and the social aspect of learning. But as an educator passionate about small school environments, I think about those movies too. Movies that depict the anonymity and disengagement of students in large high school environments inspire me to personalize the learning, to ensure that every last student gets a chance to pursue their own passions and interest to actually enjoy the classroom. A few years ago, I remember reading an article entitled Anybody? Anybody? What Ferris Bueller Got Right. The article highlighted something that Superintendent Justin Cunningham recently shared with the BUSD staff coming back to school: Student engagement and interest in school sharply declines as students get older.
For me, engagement is about more than attending activities. It is about having the opportunity to participate meaningfully in creating a path for your own future. Here are a few numbers at Bonsall High School:
-Last year We had over 30 business partners come from the community to work with students in hands-on projects. This means that every student had multiple opportunities to work with someone from the community who is an expert in their field. This number will only grow--which reduces the amount of time a teacher might be lecturing with outdated information and increases the amount of time that current, real-world expertise is in the classroom.
-BHS students spent over 1000 hours providing community service last year. For a small army, this is a mighty contribution. Students spent time at the Fallbrook Food Pantry, working with our local Education Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce, and numerous other community organizations. Most young people are unaware of careers in community service and exposure can help with motivation and more altruistic opportunities for students drawn to that kind of work.
-BHS students were in a video spot for a new technology created by HP. Students had over 40 hours access to developers who asked their input, videographers and interviewers who showed them high quality production tools and techniques, and international experts learning together with our students how to implement bleeding edge technology.
-BHS students trained a group of educators from across the United States and provided a simulation experience to help adults learn about the work of Ecolife, a non-profit helping with indoor air quality in Uganda. The students' workshop was featured in Education Week, the premier educational news source in the United States.
BHS offers dances, we participate in CIF sports, and we will continue to grow our student activities to provide a healthy balance of fun for young people. But our hope is that our students come to school for learning and enjoy socialization on the side--instead of coming to school only for the student activities. My hope for this year is the same hope as Executive Director from Gallup Brandon Busteed quoted in the article mentioned above:
If we were doing right by our students and our future, these numbers would be the absolute opposite. For each year a student progresses in school, they should be more engaged, not less. ... The drop in student engagement for each year students are in school is our monumental, collective national failure. Imagine what our economy would look like today if nearly eight in 10 of our high school graduates were engaged -- just as they were in elementary school.
Bonsall High School is about redefining engagement, not just for all students, but for each student. My commitment to you for the 2016-2017 school year is that your student will gain more confidence in their pathway towards the future, that the opportunity to access meaningful and challenging work will be rich, and that your student will be distinguished in their preparation for college and career because of our core belief that engagement truly matters.
Have a great first day and I look forward to getting to know our new students as quickly as possible.