When Shaping a School Culture, Expect Difficulties and Delays


The title of today’s post sounds more ominous than I intend it to sound. Two full months into my school year has brought with them ups and downs but due to the unique position I find myself in this year, the downs seem a little lower and ups seem a bit higher. Here is what I will promise from today’s post–I will only spend a short paragraph about the difficulties and delays. Most of today’s post will concentrate on what my school has been up to help continue to shape the school culture in a way that better prepares students for life after high school. On a quick side note, I find out soon if I passed my comprehensive exams or not. When I find out, I’ll be posting my reflection on the whole process.

As my title suggests, I have certainly run into some difficulties and delays in the progress of moving my school from the feel of a traditional high school to a career academy school. What is a career academy school? In a nutshell, the school concentrates on finding as many opportunities as possible for students to experience the world outside of the cacoon of high school Typically, these opportunities include using more problem-based and project-based learning instructional techniques, job shadowing, internships, and an increased presence of the professional community in the school. The biggest challenge facing my school is the genuine use of PBL in all of our academies. To a large degree, this is out of my control. Scheduling is profoundly important to making PBL work in the academy model. Students need to be able to share at least two of the same core subject teachers to ensure the deliverables (assignments due during a project) are well-crafted and integrated into the classroom and project. We simply cannot pull this off yet with the number of students we have and the number of teachers we have. The results can be frustrating. To top off those instructional frustrations, we have also started our first year of A/B block scheduling, which our students are struggling to adjust to (8 classes at once is hard for anyone). Maybe needless to say, we are facing difficulties and certainly some delays in moving our school forward; however, we are moving in an exciting and innovative direction!

Alright, now that I made my admission that not everything is peaches and cream this year, I do want to brag about what we are getting right.

First, lets check out some of professionals and experiences we have brought to campus:


A local film crew uses the school as their set. A handful of Multimedia Communication & Fine Arts Academy students go to shadow the shoot.


A GBI agent speaks to Forensic Science students in the Life & Health Sciences Academy about crime scene investigation.


A local construction companies’ director of operations speaks to Global Business & Leadership Academy students to help launch a recent project where students will either help an existing business or sharpen their entrepreneurial skills.


A NBC Sports TV producer works Multimedia Communications & Fine Arts Academy to develop web content and a national anti-bullying campaign.


The Mazda Petit le Mans Racing Team spoke about the various levels of STEM involvement in their work and sport with CDAT (Center for Design and Technology) Academy students.






The experiences above are part of what is reshaping our culture. I want to see our students connect with professionals as often as possible. On any given week on our campus, students get to experience a professional speaker or experience.

Another part of what is happening on our campus that sets us apart is the high level of student recognition and championing authentic work we do. Check out these moments:


Students present their idea to repurpose left over ceramic tiles from a local business to a panel of professionals and city officials.


A group of sophomores present an idea for a wellness fair booth to the president of a local marketing firm.


Winners of a 48 hour business challenge are recognized on stage by academy teachers and a local business owner.




Our students have opportunities almost weekly to present in front of adults, professionals, or city officials. While not all students take advantage of the opportunities, we are constantly providing them those opportunities to develop the soft skills employers are desperate to have from future employees.

Finally, we are celebrating student professionalism and working with our other cluster schools to improve our students’ experiences.


Fourth graders from one of the cluster’s elementary schools comes to visit our CDAT, our STEM academy, with a focus of getting young girls excited about STEM.


Our Essentials to Healthcare students dress up once a week in their scrubs to experience the reality of their attire for their future jobs will feel like/


A club specifically works to develop leadership and professionalism in young men on our campus.

I think the pictures all speak for themselves. The issue is that all the good you see above is not easily quantifiable, which means students, parents, and teachers alike do not always see the benefits of all the extra time we are putting into developing these opportunities. I take solace in knowing I have seen these types of opportunities change lives. And that is enough. While there are days that are tough and frustrating, there are days where the experiences our students have access to make all those frustrations worth the time and effort.

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