Businesses know the importance of company culture; it increases employee engagement and performance and is a top priority for job seekers. Can schools learn from the business world and see …
Businesses know the importance of company culture; it increases employee engagement and performance and is a top priority for job seekers. Can schools learn from the business world and see similar positive results in their students?
The Highland Community School District aims to find out. Superintendent Ken Crawford and School Counselor Peggy Schwab are leading the way this fall as they kick off a new three-part system that includes the revision of the district’s mission statement, logo, and culture.
“We’re trying to rebrand our school and make sure that we have consistent communication to the community, to the students, and have everybody kind of buy in/be a part of all of the building. The [school] board has been a part of it, the booster club has been a part of it, the students have been a part of it, the staff has been a part of it. So, we’re just trying to get everybody on the same page,” Crawford explains.
The district’s revised mission statement now reads: “Highland Community School District supports all learners in pursuing continuous learning in a culturally responsive, academic environment.”
Out of this mission statement stems a commitment to SPIRIT, a set of core values and expectations for students. SPIRIT stands for Service, Personal Responsibility, Integrity, Respect, Impact, and Tenacity.
“Think about the things that are a concern for teenagers now,” Schwab urges. “School shootings, bullying, technology, career readiness. “Husky SPIRIT”, “Huskies Have SPIRIT”, is our commitment to the school board’s mission statement and how we’re going to implement that. It’s our foundation for making sure we’re covering all those bases in preparation, prevention, and probably protection, I would say, because it’s providing them a safe place to learn to be better adults and the most capable adults they can be. I keep saying they’re the pride of our community, so let’s really show that.”
The elements of SPIRIT have been broken down into sets of specific expectations for students in the classroom, halls, lunchroom, and restrooms. For example, “Service” is defined as “Doing things without reward. Action for the benefit of others.” In the classroom, students are expected to demonstrate service by offering to help and picking up after themselves.
The school district has had multiple Husky logos in use but will go forward with just one official logo to stay consistent, promote a positive culture, and create more togetherness.
“This is something new that we’re all going to rally around, as well as here are the standards and the ideas that we want to have for SPIRIT. What does it mean to be a Husky? This is what it means to be a Husky. Here is our logo. Here is our mission. So, we’re going to try to tie that together. That’s our goal,” explains Crawford.
Crawford and Schwab have a vision for a truly excellent high school, where every single student receives the support they need to become their best selves, both in terms of academic achievement and moral character. They have looked at their Conditions of Learning reports, sought the input of students and staff, identified areas that can be strengthened and improved, and are now taking action to actualize the school’s – and thus the students’ -- great potential.
“I just want to see the kids more active in things. I want them to have more pride in what they’re doing. I want the adults to see that and know that their kids are having a great experience,” says Crawford. “I mean, high school is hard, junior high is super hard. At the end of the day, they come out of there with some sort of pride about the school. That’s my overarching [goal]. I just want kids to be more active, more involved.”
From fine arts, drama, music, sports, and student council to the only aerospace program in the state, Highland offers significant opportunities for involvement. Highland’s caring staff works to make sure that every student who wants to participate can do so.
“I don’t want these to be the best years of anybody’s life, but I want to teach these kids to make the best of every year of their lives,” Schwab says.
“And don’t we want our kids to want their kids to come here?” she asks. “I want them to have an idea of what high school is supposed to be and what education is supposed to be and feel like and expect nothing less for their own kids.”