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School Leaders Share Opportunities and Challenges Heading into the 2022-23 School Year

In the lead up to the 2022-23 school year, Elevate 215 engaged with and gathered an informal questionnaire from school leaders from different sectors and grade configurations across the city, to get their unique views on both the opportunities that excite them and the challenges their schools face heading into this school year. Here is what we heard. 

 

KEY OPPORTUNITIES

Creating a Caring, Student-Focused School Culture: In identifying opportunities, a majority of school leaders shared descriptions of the programs they were going to implement in order to ensure students are engaged and are “seen, heard and loved,” including: new music program offerings; family academic nights and student celebrations; science projects and field trips; and, restorative practices and a focus on play to support climate and culture. 

“[I’m most excited about] our music program offerings, making sure all students and staff know they are seen, heard and loved.”

  • Lauren Essery, Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP)

“I’m excited to introduce restorative practices and Playworks to support climate and culture. I  am also excited to introduce our new Intellectual planning process during our professional learning communities.”

  • William Lawrence, John Marshall Elementary Schools

“We are ​​laser focused on teacher joy and student agency. These two inputs should drive the outputs for student success…”  

  • Aliya Catanch Bradley, Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary

Helping Students Catch Up on Lost Instructional Time: Other respondents pointed to the opportunities for educators to “solidify instruction,” and the implementation of new professional learning processes and academic frameworks to help accelerate learning.

“I can’t think of a time in my fifteen plus years in education that students need good schools that love and care about them and hold them to high expectations… This has been massively challenging and overwhelming, but I entered into this vocation to make an impact and that opportunity is even greater now than it was prior to March of 2020.”

  • Andrew Brady, West Catholic Preparatory High School

“A few areas of opportunity we are excited about include increased tutoring and intervention support for students, as well as robust enrichment for students including Computer Science, Dance, Physical Education, Art; and Increased parent engagement including academic nights & student celebration.”

  • Eugene Haith, Mastery Prep Elementary

“The exciting opportunity we are most looking forward to this year is solidifying instruction throughout the school…”

  • LaShaya Duval Shepherd, Belmont Charter School

 

REMAINING CHALLENGES AND AREAS FOR SUPPORT

Struggling to Find and Retain Quality Educators: Nearly all the school leaders mentioned staffing issues—finding and keeping quality educators—as one of the primary challenges they face for the school year. Some leaders mentioned their struggles to find educators in specific subject areas, such as math and special education. 

“Over the past two years, our teacher retention has been great; however, we struggle with recruiting new Math Teachers, and it’s our greatest challenge.”

  • Niya Blackwell, Esq., Ad Prima Charter School 

“The challenges our school faces heading into the new school year include staffing, and building cleanliness due to shortages…”

  • Kwand Lang, Gilbert Spruance Elementary Schools

“Our biggest challenge has been filling my last vacancy which is a Special Education Teacher.”

  • Cheshonna Miles,  KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School

Finding Capacity to Provide Students with Social and Emotional Supports, and Other Wrap Around Services: After staffing issues, there was a wide range of challenges raised, including: student learning loss after COVID; increased anxiety and depression in students and educators; gun violence in the neighborhood; and, student enrollment declines. 

We also provided an informal list of areas where schools would welcome community or philanthropic help. A majority of school leaders shared they would welcome more support in a few key areas, with “Social emotional supports” for students the most commonly identified; “youth development and afterschool programs”; and “parent and family engagement” as the second most identified.

“Gun Violence, High Quality teachers, funding, and enrollment are all areas where we face challenges heading into the new school year. We are excited about opportunities for student internships, new culture initiatives at our campus, and parent college trips.”

  • Shavonne McMillan, Vaux Big Picture High School

“We are looking forward to Hopefully getting back to a full after school program of exciting opportunities for kids, with full implementation of districts reading and math frameworks”

  • Kwand Lang, Gilbert Spruance Elementary School