Principals and assistant principals from the Lake Highlands Learning Community (LHLC), including every feeder elementary, junior high and high school in LH, gathered Friday night to watch football at Wildcat Stadium. They got their money’s worth. LHHS was up 28-6 at the half, and won the game 28-26 when Haltom’s last-second field goal attempt went wide at the buzzer.
Before kickoff, the principals stopped on the front steps of LHHS to chat and pose for a photo.
“At the start of the year, we wanted one word to describe our learning community,” Dr. Darwin Spiller, RISD’s Executive Director of LHLC told me. “We couldn’t settle on one, so we landed on ‘committed’ and ‘invested.’ We are committed to doing whatever it takes to be there for the parents and the kids. We’re invested to get the kids to high school so they can go out into the world.”
LHLC principals brainstorm together in monthly meetings with Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone.
“We talk about the trends, we talk about what’s going on in our LC, we learn from each other and we borrow strategies, because, again, the ultimate strategy is to get our kids to high school and their graduation.”
The group has formed a sunshine committee, which organizes social gatherings.
“We had our first social at [White Rock Elementary principal] Becky Stevens’ home, and our next event is scheduled to be at [Forest Meadow Junior High AP] Joe Parisi’s house. It’s an opportunity for us to just deplug and have fun. We play games, we bring food and we build a network so teachers and parents know we’re here for their kids.”
I asked Spiller how the team might benefit from meeting outside school walls.
“Because we’re humans,” Spiller replied without a beat. “Social time is needed because we have to take care of ourselves. We want our mental health and stability to be strong – that’s important. We do the work, but during social time we put work aside and engage as individuals.”
When they get back to education, the LHLC gets serious about aligning the teams at various schools to achieve student success.
“Our babies start at pre-K at our elementaries, and as they transition, we are aligning our supports for them. We’re having conversations earlier to get them ready for more rigorous courses.”
Collaboration between campuses – even “competing” ones – was stressed by Kerri Jones and Carrie Breedlove last April when they discussed leading FMJH and LHJH. Jones is now principal at LHHS.
“Our kids are all going to LHHS one day, so we need our teachers to collaborate for them,” said Breedlove. “We want that to be a seamless transition.”
“On the athletic field we’re competitors, but sportsmanship is important and we take care of each other,” added Jones. “We’re not competing academically. We share ideas and resources.”
Communicating that unity to parents is critical, Spiller indicated.
“We’re using a common language, and our parents see us as a united front. We want our parents to get to know all the parents in our learning community. We’re all one group. If they can’t get to one, we want them to be able to reach out to another.”
You can view the LHLC organizational chart below.