Staff turnover is high. Student retention is lower than expected. As a school administrator, what would you do? If you were Alan Veach, principal of Bloomington New Tech High School, you send out a clarion call to your network counterparts across Indiana to ask for help. As a result, what started as an isolated school issue birthed the nation’s first New Technology High school culture exchange program.
Successful New Techs empower students and teachers using trust, respect, and responsibility as the hallmarks of school culture. Believing culture might be contributing to Bloomington’s turnover challenges, Veach asked if his students could visit other Indiana New Techs to gather ideas for improvement. The overwhelming response of open doors across the state prompted Veach to pair several New Techs together to examine student and school culture.
The student/school culture exchange allows directors and students to visit and host schools to share ideas and information unique to their programs. The on-site visits provide firsthand experience with other schools and foster communication to aid students in building positive school cultures. Using the hands-on approach imperative to New Tech, students work together to analyze school differences and identify possible improvements.
“The goal of this experience is to get another school’s student perspective on school culture and to create some next steps as a result of the visit,” Veach said.
Bloomington New Tech and North Daviess 21st Century Jr./Sr. High School, both located in the southern portion of the state, launched the program. Students exchanged feedback, which provided valuable information to enhance each school’s learning environments.
CELL and the New Tech Network jointly funded expenses schools incurred for the exchanges.
“Once again, this is a result of the Indiana Network of New Tech High Schools. These schools came together to help each other and all want to continually improve. We are happy to provide the financial support to make that happen,” Trish Wlodarczyk, CELL fellow for high school networks, said.
Other schools, both new and established, will participate in the exchange throughout the coming months.
“My kids are so excited about the opportunity to open our doors to the Bloomington kids,” Mike Reed, principal of Columbus Signature Academy-New Tech, said. “They have the entire day planned including a workshop on starting a CFG [Critical Friends Group] class at Bloomington.”
Participating schools will present their experiences and next steps to a national audience at the New Tech Network’s annual conference this summer. Based on the program’s success, other schools may engage in exchanges next year.