Wednesday, July 27, 2005


In 1988, I saw REM in Atlanta, on home turf. The Indigo Girls opened. It was the Green tour, with Greenpeace in the lobby, and Michael Stipe - fresh from testifying against the Savannah River Site's restarting production of tritium, a critical component of nuclear warheads - sat in a folding chair on stage for the first encore and sang an eerie falsetto...

And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

Now that was a memorable summertime. (a bit scary, but memorable)

Summer at Henry seems just as lazy. But don't be fooled by the grass & weeds growing through the cracks in the upper schoolyard...the Thursday evening farmers' market on the Carpenter Lane sidewalk...the relative quite only occasionally broken by kids on bikes or skateboards.

Last Thursday, the Site Selection Committee (Principal, 2 Teachers, and me) met in a thankfully air conditioned regional office to interview candidates for an open teaching position. Three candidates, hand-picked from an extensive list of teachers in the district who were (a) qualified, and (b) interested in the site selection process, came in to convince us they were Henry material. After going through the interview process described in a previous post, we settled on our top choice. By the end of the day, the teacher had accepted our offer, and will begin working with Henry in a few weeks. This round of interviews came after a LOT of communication between the principal, the district site selection guru, me, the teachers, the principal, the guru, me, the teachers, me, the principal, Rocky, ugh!

Last Wednesday, I met at The High Point Cafe with Graduate School of Education students from the University of Pennsylvania, who will be student teachers at Henry next winter/spring. OK, I was there by default - the Home & School co-Presidents, and their Veeps, were unavailable, so I was the stand-in. "Playing the role of someone who knows..." Over the summer and fall semesters, the grad students are involved in a project to learn/understand the interconnections between the neighborhood and the school. They had tons-o prepared questions, I rambled, we jolted caffeine, and then we toured the immediate area around the school. Staff at Weavers Way explained the market program they do with Henry students, teaching students about wholesale vs. retail, pricing, accounting, inventory, and loss recovery (an area where the co-op has particular expertise, but that's another story). The really cool thing about the Penn students is that they came to the Henry group playdate last weekend, to meet parents and ask more questions.

Tuesday, a parent involved with Jenks School called to invite us to a meeting with the Regional Superintendent and a representative from Houston School. The meeting is about a coordinated effort to raise awareness and interest in the three schools.

Today, I had a conversation with the Executive Director of West Mt. Airy Neighbors, about the Mt. Airy Schools Committee, a joint project of WMAN and East Mt. Airy Neighbors, to provide a helping hand to Mt. Airy Schools. MASC's long-time president is stepping down, and the group is looking at reforming and refocusing.

Throughout the summer, a near neighbor of the school - a former top-gun in City administration and now a wonk at Penn, has been quietly working on a plan to focus neighborhood/community resources on Henry. With major foundation funding very likely, the wonk will begin a project with a number of community organizations in the fall to bring a higher level of marketing and community awareness to Henry. The goals of that project, loosely, are to help turn Henry back into a neighborhood school, to promote Henry as a reason to move into the neighborhood, and to continue to provide input and support Henry's overall success.

A parent of a rising 4th grader is preparing to organize something - a group, a meeting, a series of meetings, who knows - for parents facing the

BIG QUESTION: Stay at Henry, or apply to Masterman?

Upper school teachers' anecdotal report is that students who stay at Henry through 8th grade basically get into any high school school they want. Henry parents who have moved to Masterman report they are thrilled with the academics, but feel disconnected with the school community. What if more Henry students stayed at Henry? Would the already-strong results (see "Numbers," below) be a more accurate reflection of Henry's excellence if most or all of Henry's 5th graders remained at Henry? Stay tuned for more on this effort.

Finally, but most importantly, many new families are preparing to start Kindergarten at Henry, in September. Some of these families have met with others in our home over the past year to actively explore their options and decisions. Some will join because Henry's their neighborhood school and they see no need to go elsewhere. Other families will come to Henry because their own neighborhood schools are failing.

With August only a thermometer's click away, the work of Henry continues. Mid-month, the Principal and Teachers will return, begin setting up classrooms, start planning new initiatives, register new students, and work with parents and the community to get ready for another great year.

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