February 1, 2018

More than ten years ago I attended a training by ISM, a consultant group for independent education, which focused on school schedules. It was intensive training, helping educators at every level explore their school's values and how student learning is supported by daily schedules. The facilitator made a statement that has resonated with me throughout the years - how schools spend time is a reflection of their values.
As a new Head of School, one of the many important activities I've engaged in this year is learning about the day-to-day flow of the schedule, from the perspective of students, teachers, and parents alike. That learning has necessitated a lot of listening and asking questions about our history and where we need to go. Engaging the community on this topic is extremely valuable, and those conversations will continue throughout the the spring.
The faculty have been engaged in schedule conversations throughout the year and are exploring how we might adapt it to create deeper learning opportunities for students. There is also a strong desire throughout the faculty to collaborate more, be more innovative, and take advantage of the deep talent and engagement of teachers and students. Our teachers also desire a schedule that is flexible, supports differentiated instruction, includes student voices, and fosters deep learning.
Last Friday, the Team Leaders (Betsy Rhodes, Margaret Daniel, Gessi Wright, and Jasper Oliver), along with Toinette Staley and me, met to discuss to the first concrete steps to begin designing a new daily and weekly schedule that will allow us to meet the important learning goals in which we believe. While the initial work seemed to create more questions than answers, the collaboration and vigorous discussion is very exciting. This deep dive into scheduling will help us design a program that meets our mission and honors the learning needs of every James River student, now and into the future.
It is essential to include parents as we discuss how to keep James River at the forefront of excellent education. I invite you to attend one of three scheduled parent meetings to discuss, "What do great schools look like?"
The parent meetings are set as follows: K-4 Parent Coffee on March 16 at 8:20am, Grades 5-8 Parent Coffee on April 13 at 8:20am, and an evening meeting on April 19 at 7pm that is open to parents of students in any grade, K-8.