Jim Boles Photo
Mr.  Jim  Boles
Upper School
Phone Icon (423)209-5812      Email Icon Email

Archives

State of the School Address - Mid Year Report 2013-2014

Image for State of the School Address - Mid Year Report 2013-2014

State of the School Address 2013-2014

Greetings to the CSAS Community! I hope this message finds you well and rested for a very important second semester. The intentions of this communication are to give you an update in a variety of categories that are going on in the school and even some ideas of vision for the future of CSAS. This is primarily coming from an upper school perspective but will touch on some k-12 families too. Without further ado, let's jump into our most important piece of the State of Our School...the students.

 

Students: It’s tough for me to speak about how students are feeling about school because I think they need to be the ones to answer that question. But I will give you my perspective. I try to gauge the pulse of the student body through discussions, meetings with the SGA groups, behavior in the hallways and cafeteria, sportsmanship at athletic events, etc...

 

"What Make You Tick?"

I'm not sure if your student shared with you how we began the first day of school, but it turned out to be a special one. After a brief reminder of rules and policies, we focused on "What makes you tick?" Everyone has something that drives him or her everyday. There is some sort of passion deep within you that motivates you...and if not, we want to help you find it. Several students from MS to HS came on stage and shared what makes them tick. Students shared guitar playing, story writing, piano playing, ballet dancing, drawing, and song writing. These young people took huge risks in sharing what makes them tick. And to the student body's credit, these individuals were rewarded with roars of applause! It was a special morning and I think a great way to kick off the school year. We will be beginning the second semester in similar fashion and I can't wait to see more of what makes our students tick. You see, this is the culture and atmosphere we want to create…a place where differences in interests can be appreciated and not bashed on Twitter and Facebook. We want there to be celebration of differences, be it in our interests or our thoughts; we might just learn from one another.

 

Student Voice

There has also been much effort to allow for student voice so far this year and we hope to create even more opportunities for that as we move into the 2nd semester. While administration does meet with groups such as HSSGA, The Paideia Society, and MSSGA regularly, there is an effort to put together a diverse group of student leaders who can give some insight on CSAS for the future.

 

Academics

As always, our students are pushed to be the best they can be in so many areas. With the Common Core Standards that are being implemented in the state of Tennessee-and in dozens of states-, students are being asked to read more difficult works, they are being asked to make decisions about those passages they have read and write strong responses based with evidence to support their work. In addition, even though CSAS has been doing this for years, students are being asked to listen to one another and speak with each other about big ideas more than ever before. So what’s the effect? Some students who have cruised in the past are now being asked to "up" their game. In a world that weighs so heavy on GPA's, ACT scores, and the need for scholarships, these new expectations are tough to endure. While I will talk about this even more a little later in the parent category, we are trying to instill grit in our students to persevere through their work -even when it is really hard.

 

Parents: As they have always been for CSAS, parents play an intricate part in the success of our school. Parents put more hours into our school than any other in the system. We really don't know what we would do without our parents. However, as educators it is important to us that our parents truly understand the philosophy of the school so students can understand it. We hope the philosophy is part of your regular conversation with your students. If you are a parent who has never read the Paideia Proposal, I encourage you to do so. Feel free to check out a copy either through our Admissions office or me.

 

We also plan to have an education evening for students and parents regarding GRIT. There has been much study on this topic recently and we see a real need to instill grit into our students. We want to share that information with parents so you can also be working on this from home.

 

Our Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) has been incredibly supportive not only financially, but in programming as well. They have supported a very successful Haunted High School put on by our HSSGA, as well as a Grandparent Night and Creative Discovery Museum Night in the building. Look for some new ways that they will be raising funds to spend on your students

 

The next topic is a necessary one, and there is not easy way to address it. One place I would really like parents to improve is with following directions. Too many of our parents feel like the rules don't apply to them. This is never more evident than in our parking lot areas. Be it, the bus and teacher drive, the back parking lot, or our student lot, these rules and safety precautions just aren't being followed. Much thought and time has gone into creating procedures that are safe for our students. When the adults don't follow these, it puts everyone at risk. It also provides a poor example for students; we see students who also feel they do not have to follow rules.

 

Teachers: One of the goals that I have had for the teachers over the past couple of years is to become better communicators with the students and parents. I believe this year we have improved leaps and bounds, but there is still much room for improvement. What we hear from parents is that PowerSchool is helpful but it’s always after the fact. Parents say, "We just wish we knew ahead of time and we'd make sure the assignments were done." We have so many teachers trying new things to inform you of current work, upcoming work, etc.... Some are using their own websites; some teams have their own websites, while others have email lists. Still others use Remind 101 that I can speak to personal experience as an incredible communication tool. The expectation is also that teachers will update their PowerSchool grades a minimum of once a week. While we've made improvements overall, I know we are not there yet. If this isn't happening for you, always contact the teacher first. Of course, then let an administrator know if there isn't improvement. We want to communicate with you as best as possible. Despite some of our flaws, I can say to you without a doubt that we have the most dedicated faculty around. The number of hours they spend beyond the classroom tutoring, grading, coaching, sponsoring clubs, etc. wears me out just thinking about it. There are so many teachers willing to spend hours writing recommendations for colleges or scholarships or to spend a week away from their families to take students out of town. They are truly here for your students and are dedicated to them wholeheartedly. Others are continuing their education and receiving higher degrees, so they can be even more qualified. For example, we recently had a teacher become Nationally Board Certified, which is a huge achievement. Still, we have another working as a state trainer for the Common Core work going on across the state. We are truly blessed with our teachers at CSAS.

 

Administration: While our administrative team is not new to the job of administration we each are in new positions for us. While we are nowhere near where we'd like to be as a team, we each have our different talents. We are still learning our strengths and weaknesses and learning how we can best serve our students, teachers, and parents. I can assure you this much; the administrative team is not going to fail from lack of effort. We will do whatever we can to be student-oriented and make good decisions for our school. Others may not always agree with us, but please understand we are working in the school's best interest. If there are ever problems, please come to us with those concerns. Too many times in the past, the school itself has been jumped in the problem solving process and concerns were taking to Central Office without our even knowing there was an issue. Please come to us first. We want to hear from you and try to solve the issue.

 

Community: Both Mrs. Coffelt and I have really been working hard to reach out to the community for support. Of course financial support is always appreciated but community businesses can offer many other things as well. With businesses such as Erlanger, Siskin, McDonalds, UTC, Blue Cross- BlueShield, Unum, and many more across the downtown area, mentors could be provided for students, tutors, supplies, volunteers…the list could go on and on. So much more could be utilized in our community that we haven’t even tapped into.

 

Finances: Finances at the school are not good. I think being a successful, established Magnet School sometimes perpetuates the assumption that we have everything we need. Thanks to frugal budgeting from previous principals the school had built up some capital for our K-12 community. I convinced Ms. Jordan and Mrs. Coffelt to use a portion of that money to replace two of our three floors of metal lockers; this work has made a difference -functionally and aesthetically-for the school. However, it will take another approximate $20-24,000 to complete the job and finish the second floor.

 

Despite the need for repairs and the desire for a more attractive campus, money is tight. For example, our mandatory trips are barely making the cut each year due to the rise in costs, the tough times economically for all of us, and people’s willingness to pay. Less the 50% of our families have paid their school fees and this is money that goes directly back to supporting your student's education. Times have been tough over the past several years, but we need all of our families to do whatever they can to help support the school financially.

 

Our PTSA has an excellent plan coming up in the months of January and February to raise money for the school and certain projects. The idea is to donate according to your student's graduation year. For example, I have one child graduating this year in 2014 and my boys (God willing) in 2017 and 2024. So I might make donations of $20.14, $20.17, and $20.24 for a grand total of $60.55, which is a whole lot more than they would have made had I sold magazines or wrapping paper...and a lot less stressful. Those increments could just as easily been $2014 or $2.14. I think it’s a great idea. The goal will be to get 100% participation. It doesn't matter what amount you give, -just that you give. We'll keep trying to get creative because in an old school like ours where there are lots of needs-from technology to auditorium seats. I think the message I want to leave here is to do what you can within your budget, but do make your student's school a priority.

Future Work: The last topic I would like to address is what I call Future Work. The Upper School faculty has had much discussion regarding what CSAS and Paideia will look like from 2014 and beyond. The Lower School is also having these conversations and we look forward to opportunities to work together for our future. One of the ideas has emerged that makes complete sense. It is something that our school does better than any other school in the area regardless of whether it is a public or private school. We get students into college and we keep them there. We plan on using this data to create a stamp on the school…that “College Starts Here”! And it does! That is the message for our students from Kindergarten all the way through school until they graduate in 12th grade. And not only do they get into colleges and universities, data shows that they stay there better than any school. I’m extremely excited about this “stamp” the school will be using for promotion. Look to hear and see it much more often in the near future.

 

The next idea that has emerged and that is developing is progress toward Global or International thinking. We want our students to think globally and there are some things that we are already doing well to promote such thinking such as offering k-12 foreign language to our students, being involved in exchange programs, Model UN, CISV clubs and more. But having a global focus can be so much more that the ideas are endless. Great minds are already coming together to discuss how to pursue this and we look forward to parents and students being a part of that brainstorm.

 

To close this State of the School Address, I hope you can see some honest reflection in where we currently stand. There is much good taking place, but there is much work to be done. We want to continue to raise our scores not only for school recognition, but to be sure that we are ensuring that our students are college ready. If there is one thing I have learned in the first five months as principal of the upper school is that it takes each of us to make it all successful. Students, parents, teachers, administration, and the community have to running on all cylinders to be on top. I look forward to helping conduct that work. There is much to be done. Won’t you roll up your sleeves with me? Let’s get busy in 2014

 

Jim Boles

Principal CSAS 6-12