Category Archives: Head of School

Vision—From Good to Great

Last week I spoke with the Greenwood Faculty and Staff about the Vision for Greenwood’s future—where we are headed, and why. For an already established, successful organization that does things well, it is easy to become complacent or to fall into a routine of only doing what worked before. However, we know that no one individual, group, classroom, or grade level is ever the same from year to year, and innovation and flexibility are always necessary to enable sustainable success.

The brief interpretation of what I’m trying to say is best captured by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great…Why Some Companies Make the Leap, and Others Don’t when he stated, “managing your problems can only make you good, whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great.”

Greenwood is very good at what we do—but we will not give into the temptation to remain at “good.” This year we have embarked on a journey that is focused on a broader vision for Greenwood’s future:

Greenwood School will continue to be the best educational environment for average to above average middle and high school students with learning differences by providing a dynamic, safe, holistic, community-oriented program of rich and practical academics, responsible character reinforcement and modeling, and opportunity-focused goal setting.

Greenwood School will be positioned to export our research-based and empirically tested outcomes and processes as the recognized experts in educating Exceptional Students.

So what are those opportunities that we must build in pursuit of this vision of becoming great? There are several general areas in which we will focus first in order to lay the foundation to build upon:

  • Faculty and Staff Expertise: Our Professional Development Program that I’ve written about in previous postings is generating innovative and collaborative improvements in our academic programs, thanks to the commitment of our faculty and staff to connect with current research and to integrate it into their daily practice.
  • Optimization of Current Assets: Exciting plans for ecologically responsible, safety-conscious, and educationally focused use of the full ten acres of our wetlands property are moving forward from just being an idea to becoming a well-defined plan of action.
  • Community Connections: Exporting the expertise of Greenwood includes faculty pursuing advanced degrees; students and faculty co-presenting scientific research at the Florida Council of Independent Schools Annual Convention in November; ten students who were selected for and participated in various leadership conferences and advocacy forums over the summer at Harvard, Yale, UCLA, and the State Legislature in Tallahassee; and Staff leadership in the local nonprofit community as well as state and national professional organizations.

 

There are roles for everyone to contribute to Greenwood School’s pursuit to take a good program and make it GREAT—stay tuned here each week, and please continue to provide feedback!

VR

Dr. Anthony D. Mortimer

Safety—What’s behind the “Be Safe” pillar of The Eagle Way

In nearly every classroom and/or hallway at Greenwood, a laminated poster titled “The EAGLE WAY” is displayed as a reminder to students, faculty, and staff to uphold the four pillars of what makes us successful as a Team: Be Respectful; Be Responsible; Be Your Best; and, Be Safe.

Safety is on everyone’s mind rather often, particularly with the tragic events that have occurred in the downtown Jacksonville area over the past several weekends. This week, students may be mentioning things at home about drills that we are conducting this week at school—so I thought I would take a moment to describe what “Be Safe” means here at Greenwood School.

When it comes to individuals’ perceptions of their own safety and the safety of the group in which they are participating, it is readily apparent that a variety of factors vary in importance to each individual (this was actually the premise of my dissertation work last year as well)—predominantly, our student demographic, their families, and our faculty and staff tend to be more focused on the daily school climate and interpersonal interactions as more important to their ability to feel safe—in other schools, as you’ve perhaps seen in recent news from the public school district offices, physical security measures take priority. At Greenwood, we take the same approach to safety as we take with academic and extra-curricular programs by balancing all safety factors as carefully as possible to maximize each individual’s opportunities to be successful.

In last year’s Parent Survey, 100% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed on all four safety-related rating items that the Greenwood campus is a physically and emotionally safe environment; the alumni and faculty groups overwhelmingly agreed. This is a metric that I am proud of, but not willing to rest upon; anything that we are good at doing can always improve to great!

Because of the relationship-based philosophy of education that is the basis for Greenwood’s existence, the physical characteristics of our campus location, the resources that are available to us, and the emphasis upon training for faculty and staff, I am confident in telling everyone that we enjoy a highly positive, supportive, and physically secure school environments, and I am dedicated to consistently sustaining and improving that fact.

Greenwood faculty and staff are well-trained in crisis response, including First Aid/CPR/AED (we have three times as many certified staff than the law requires). This week we will be conducting our first fire drill of the school year, walking through procedures to ensure everyone understands—particularly students and staff who are new to us. We will also walk through the procedures for sheltering in place for destructive weather (even though we are typically not in school when such weather is approaching). Finally, we will discuss with students our security lockdown procedures, which will include opportunities for students to ask any questions they may have. During the weather drill and the security drill, we  will also test the School’s emergency communications system—so parents and guardians will be receiving an email and text message about the event (it will be prefaced by the words “DRILL ONLY”) so that all will be aware of the process that would occur in the event of a real emergency.

As always, if you have any questions about policies and procedures, please don’t hesitate to ask me to clarify or explain—thank you all for partnering together to make “The EAGLE WAY” successful!

 

Dr. Anthony D. Mortimer

Head of School

 

The following list is a sampling of the references and research that influenced and contributed to the various safety policies and procedures (including student discipline processes) at Greenwood:

Abkowitz, M. D. (2008). Operational risk management: A case study approach to effective planning and response.

Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

 

Atwater, J. (2014). Florida fire prevention code (5th ed.). Vista, CA: BNi Publications.

 

Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In W. Damon & R. M.

Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, vol. 1: Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., p. 793-828). New York, NY: John Wiley.

 

Campbell, R. (2017). Structure fires in educational properties. Quincy, MA: National Fire Prevention Association.

 

Center for Education & Employment Law. (2016). Keeping your school safe & secure: A practical guide (10th ed.).

Malvern, PA: Center for Education & Employment Law.

 

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). (2010, July 02). Operational risk management. OPNAV instruction 3500.39C.

Washington, DC: Department of the Navy.

 

Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI). (2013). Safe schools: A best practices guide.

Washington, DC: Association for Learning Environments.

 

Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Title I, Part D, 34 C. F. R., s. 200 (2016).

 

Florida School Choice. (n.d.). Detailed requirements for private schools. Retrieved from

https://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/Information/Private_Schools/detailed_requirements.asp

 

Gregg, R. (2013). The duty and culture of care. Independent School, 72(3), 72-76.

 

Hammons, C. (2008). Fifty educational markets: A playbook of state laws and regulations governing private

schools. Indianapolis, IN: Friedman Foundation.

 

Heinrichs, R. R. (2003). A whole-school approach to bullying: Special considerations for children with

exceptionalities. Intervention in School & Clinic, 38(4), 195-204.

 

Hernandez, D. D., Floden, L., & Bosworth, K. (2010). How safe is a school? An exploratory study comparing

measures and perceptions of safety. Journal of School Violence, 9(4), 357-374. doi:10.1080/15388220.2010.508133

 

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975, 20 U. S. C., ss. 1400-1401 (2015).

 

Kueny, M. M., & Zirkel, P. P. (2012). An analysis of school anti-bullying laws in the United States. Middle School

Journal, 43(4), 22-31. doi:10.1080/00940771.2015.11461817

 

Mortimer, A. D. (2018). Priorities for school safety: The alignment between federal and state school safety

legislation and safety needs as perceived by education stakeholders in Florida private schools for exceptional students (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7334-5614

 

Nassar-McMillan, C., Karvonen, M., Oerez, T. & Abrams, L. (2009). Identity development and school climate: The

role of the school counselor. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education, and Development, 48(2), 195-214. doi:10.1002/j.2161-1939.2009.tb00078.x

 

National School Climate Center. (2016). The 12 dimensions of school climate measured. Retrieved from

http://www,schoolclimate.org/programs/documents/dimensions_chart_pagebars.pdf

 

Occupational Safety and Health Standards, 29 C. F. R., ss. 1900-1910 (1996).

 

Ortiz, H. R., Dorris, D., & Schindler, K. (2011). Educational facilities vulnerability hazard assessment checklist.

Washington, DC: American Clearinghouse on Educational Facilities.

 

Perumean-Chanely, S. E., & Sutton, L. M. (2013). Students and perceived school safety: The impact of school

security measures. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(4), 570-588. doi:10.1007/s12103-012-9182-2

 

Sulkowski, M. L., & Lazarus, P. J. (2017). Creating safe and supported schools and fostering students’ mental health.

New York, NY: Routledge.

 

United States Department of Defense, Defense Security Service. (2013). Anti-terrorism officer, level II (Certification

course GS109.16). Washington, DC: Defense Security Service.

 

United States Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. (1995). Guidance concerning state

and local responsibilities under the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/offices/OSDFS/gfsaguidance.html

 

United States Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Safe and Healthy

Students (2013). Guide for developing high-quality school emergency operations plans, Washington, DC: Federal Emergency Management Administration.

 

United States Marine Corps Institute. (2002). Operational risk management. Washington, DC: Headquarters,

United States Marine Corps.

August 28- Accountability and Responsibility, the Greenwood Way

Accountability and Responsibility, the Greenwood Way

2018 is an important year for Greenwood School—every five years, we are evaluated by the Florida Council of Independent Schools on our performance and compliance with standards in 18 different categories, and a successful evaluation results in renewal of the School’s accreditation status. Our staff has been quite busy the past couple months preparing for our evaluation by gathering paperwork, analyzing student data, ensuring that program descriptions accurately describe the activities at Greenwood, and detailing what we have done over the past five years to accomplish previous strategic goals; but that work has actually been rather enjoyable.

During the process of self-reflection and evaluation of our progress as a School, we’ve been reminded of the great privilege we have to be involved in the education and growth of the amazing young people at Greenwood; we have also been reminded that with that privilege comes responsibility to guide them with our very best! Accountability and Responsibility matter—these are character principles we strive to help our students to master as matters of habit.

Part of that endeavor is our own commitment to being accountable to our stakeholders—FCIS, our families, our partner organizations and generous donors, our students, and our colleagues each day here at Greenwood—and demonstrating both personal and professional responsibility in our daily practice. What does that accountability look like? There are several things that you, a stakeholder in the educational programs of Greenwood School, can rely upon from us:

  • Transparency: We not only welcome questions, but we are enthusiastic about explaining why we do things the way we do, and we need your consistent feedback to help us convert the accountability we offer into improvement whenever we have the opportunity.
  • Diligence: We will consistently seek to improve our level of knowledge, instructional skills, and program efficiency by connecting faculty and staff to current research and training that we can apply in our educational programs.
  • Professional Responsibility: Mistakes happen—the Greenwood difference is that if we make a mistake, we take the responsibility to correct it, learn from it, and to prevent future occurrences, just as we teach our students to do.
  • Partnership: Everything we do at Greenwood is in direct support of our mission statement, and every action is taken in the best interests of our students. We care about far more than just academic performance—so the lines of communication are always open to deepen our understanding of what each student’s strengths and needs may be.

In the near future, as we make final preparations for our accreditation review in October, I’ll be communicating to you the Vision for Greenwood’s future—we are grateful for the opportunity to partner with our families and students and excited to share with you the direction that we are going to be heading together!

                                                            Dr. Anthony D. Mortimer

                                                Head of School

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