Wow, that was quite a year, thought Truman High School principal Trina Meadows. As she breathed a sigh of relief and stretched out at her desk, she listened to the quiet that meant the end of another school year. The last group of teachers, the science team, had just checked out for the end-of-the-year room inspection, and now the school year had officially come to a close.
It was a pretty successful year, all things considered. Graduation went well, with many hugs and mercifully few pranks. Only 35 of the 650 seniors did not make it through the year, a remarkable improvement over the 25% of seniors who did not make it to graduation when Meadows came to the school as principal three years earlier. Not only were the graduation rates going up, but ACT scores and college placement rates were starting to look promising. The gains were not evenly shared across the student community-the special education students continued to struggle to make progress-but there seemed to be a shared sense of progress being made in the school and the teachers were coming together as a staff, committed to improving learning for all students.
Also, it looked as if most of the staff would come back in the fall. Of course, the usual number of last-minute replacements would need to be made, but the new hiring and retention processes Meadows and the district leadership team had developed seemed to be making a difference. Meadows and her team had met with each of the parents whose children were involved in summer school beginning in two weeks, and she thought she could finally catch her breath.
As she relaxed into her chair, she was drawn to a copy of the school's strategic plan posted next to her window. She leaned forward and opened the top folder on the pile to the list of initiatives that had guided Truman's leadership agenda this past year. It was an impressive list, thought Meadows; she and her staff had accomplished good work. In addition to educating 2,200 students, her team had designed and implemented a new data system that would document teacher practices toward their professional learning goals, a new discipline program, a personalized learning initiative for students to develop study and time management skills, a transportation plan to involve all families in school activities, and a new hands-on science curriculum that got students and teachers out into the community. Many students, teachers, and community members cared deeply about these initiatives, and Meadows was proud of the ways her team channeled their desire to improve teaching, learning, and support into meaningful programs for students.
Meadows's thoughts turned to the new restorative justice program. Truman's teachers worked with the guidance staff to develop a program for students to make amends instead of submitting to the traditional disciplinary program. Truman guidance staff reported that the zero-tolerance discipline policies that Meadows and her staff had inherited had the unintended consequence of overpunishing the school's Spanish-speaking students. The department chairs and the guidance team suggested restorative justice as a path for students to learn about their obligations to the community and to make good on the harm their behavior had caused. At first, a few parents spoke in the press about their fears of declining behavioral standards in the school, but Meadows explained how the new program was beginning to work by inviting students to address the consequences of their actions. Meadows was proud of the efforts that students, staff, and teachers had made over the year to transform the school climate. What is our next step ? wondered Meadows. How can we build on the promising start of the restorative justice initiative?
As she reviewed the other initiatives on the list, she reflected on the new teacher evaluation system. The district data team was excited about using t