Jeff Litel, principal •
Park View Middle School • Yucaipa, California
Park View Middle School
Despite huge budget cuts, one middle school principal is happy that his staff has spent the last 4 years working together on a system of supports within the school day.
In these ridiculous economic times, schools everywhere are in critical danger of not being able to offer students much needed intervention and support when they are struggling to master basic standards. At Park View Middle school in the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District, Principal Jeff Litel is proud, and quite relieved, that his staff has been working through the strategies of the Professional Learning Community process to develop and offer 100% of the students on campus the extra time and support they need everyday in CORE academic areas. "Because of the budget mess, we have spent our summer talking about everything we can no longer offer our students, and it has been a painful process. But, because of our work as a Professional Learning Community, we have a strong safety net of support for our students in all four CORE academic areas that is unaffected by budget cuts. All of our students will still get the help they need, and those who are being academically successful get to choose from a list of enrichment classes." Five years ago Park View got the distinct honor of being named a Program Improvement (PI) school. It was the first and only school in the district to achieve such an honor. The staff was mortified! They decided then that if they were going to be successful they had to 1) make all of their kids successful; and 2) build a systematic approach to making sure their kids are learning the things they need them to learn; and 3) make it sustainable for the staff and produce necessary results for the students and the entire learning community. They worked to develop a proactive approach where the staff takes control of the things they can control and releases the things they can't. This led to the study and implementation of Professional Learning Community strategies and practices that fit the needs of Park View students and staff. "Our goals in the development of this program were not economic, but rather to make sure that any student who needs extra time and support in the CORE areas has access to it everyday. I would like everyone to think that I was brilliant enough to see the budget mess coming but this is not the case. However, I sure am pleased that because of our work together, we will still have an effective program of support for our kids and it is unaffected by these devastating budget cuts." Last year the Park View FLEX program was implemented. It creates a 48 minute period everyday, directed by teachers, where students who need intervention based on formative assessment results are directed to the help they need. Students whose assessment results show they don't need extra time and support to meet standards are rewarded with a choice of enrichments that range from intramural sports, to dance, to drama productions. The program is based on a two-week rotation so students can have a chance to earn the choice of a different enrichment after nine days of assigned intervention is they find success in the assigned intervention class. All of it happens within the contract day and has not increased teacher student contact time and thus does not cost any money. "With the exception of minimal costs for supplies, this program doesn't cost us any money! It is not affected by the cuts, in fact, it replaced the interventions for which we were spending almost $250,000 yearly in Title I funds that we no longer have at Park View. And, as an aside, preliminary data shows that it is a far more effective program." The "No child Left Behind" law and the (PI) program have placed stringent requirements on schools with the stated goal of insuring that 100% of students are proficient in English Language Arts and mathematics by 2014. Schools that don't make a plan, work together and take control of the school day to help students make progress are going to be subject to all kinds of external sanctions. The process of changing the culture of a school to meet the public demands of proficiency takes time. It requires a top to bottom review of structures and policies and a focus on a new mission.
At Park View, the staff has focused on the new mission of making all students successful. They have pledged to themselves and to their students to do whatever it takes to learn together as educators what they need to know and do to make students successful. Five years ago, when faced with the challenge of moving out of the Program Improvement process, Park View Middle School staff worked together, adopted PLC concepts and strategies and created a program for success. As school begins this fall, PVMS students and staff will certainly be affected by budget cuts. But, the basic mission of learning, and offering extra time and support to students who are struggling will be in place. "I am extremely proud of our work here, we continue to have things we can do better, but we sure have already done some great things for our kids. The PLC system at PVMS makes me confident we will be able to work together in a systematic way to meet the needs of our students." Educators or others who have questions about the Park View Middle School FLEX system, please contact either Principal Jeff Litel at firstname.lastname@example.org or Assistant Principal Joe Malatesta at email@example.com.