Lessons from Crestway High School and Ocean View High School

Today I visited two of my high schools: Crestway and Ocean View High Schools.

Crestway High School

Vernon Safers with his deputy principals, Cheryl Jacobs (left) and Janet Daniels(centre).

Crestway High School is one of our Robin Hood schools. Everybody is welcome here. The school has improved their Grade 12 results in 2014, surfacing from an implosion they suffered the previous year. The school principal, Vernon Safers, and his two deputy principals, Janet Daniels and Cheryl Jacobs are happy with their performance, but they are still guarded.

"This pleasing performance of our Grade 12s is the result of very hard work," said Vernon. We are learning from our mistakes. We started early with our support programmes. The tutors from the district helped. We extended the day for our Matrics and we made the telematics programme available for the students throughout. We are still drilling into weaknesses in our system here. We want to expand the model to our grade elevens. We are ready to strengthen our turnaround. Teachers must do self-reflection and be honest about their limitations. Then we can provide more meaningful support".

Ocean View High School

Keith discussing the programme for the first day of school with his staff.

Later in the day, I visited Ocean View School. For the past five years Ocean View High school has been improving their results. There is a definite shift towards qualitative subject passes as well.

Keith Klein, the principal, dived straight into a discussion of his Grade 12 learners.

"We dropped slightly in terms of our overall performance, but we are happy with our progress. We are strengthening our practices which translate into an increase in quality subject passes. I asked the staff yesterday morning: Are we moving? And if we are, where are we moving to? I asked teachers by name to respond to the question and I just listened. I would say about 98% of the teachers are excited about the possibilities for the school. I also listened to the other 2% because they highlight those blind spots we sometimes ignore."

I love this talk with the heads. There is no mention of the social issues that are very real threats. The focus has shifted to what happens IN the classroom. Teachers are the gold and good classroom teaching form the bedrock of learner achievement, I remind both passionate staffs when I addressed them.

I have committed to dyeing my hair green the day Ocean View High School achieves a 100% pass rate at Grade 12. Maurice, one of the Grade 12 educators objected, saying I should shave off all my hair! We laughed because I chickened out on this bet.

If Crestway achieves a 100% pass rate, I would have to go for a crop of sunshine yellow.

This absurd bet may cause your eyes to roll, thinking I have lost my marbles. But, given all the challenges inside and outside the classroom at these schools, I believe a green and yellow head is small gesture to articulate my deep admiration for those who WANT to and WILL make a difference in the lives of our children and their communities.

Watch this space!


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