Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Few Early Notes on Personnel For Next Year

Recently, faculty and parents have asked me questions about our job postings on the HA website. There are still a number of moving pieces, but here is what I can tell you, as of today. 

Athletic Director & Director of Buildings and Grounds

Jim Robbins will be changing roles.  Next year, Jim will be the Director of Buildings and Grounds and will continue to help manage Upper School discipline.

It has become obvious to me that our regular maintenance and upkeep has been lacking in several areas. This is not due to any lack of effort on the part of our maintenance staff’s, but rather, it is due to the fact that no one has actually been in charge of our facilities. We need someone to serve as a liaison to our contractors, solicit competitive bids, prioritize maintenance requests, procure materials and supplies, trouble-shoot and budget for future repairs, organize volunteers, and communicate with the faculty and staff. This will become especially important as we open our new Student Activities Center, make some long overdue repairs, and work to build a performing arts facility. Jim’s outstanding efforts managing our athletic facilities this year convinced me that he is the perfect person to take on a broader role with our campus.

Of course, with Coach Robbins serving Director of Buildings and Ground we now have an opening for Athletic Director. We are looking for someone with experience in athletic administration, who has strong technology skills, and who has independent school experience. We have formed a search committee consisting of Upper School teachers, administrators, and coaches, and we hope to have filled the position in the next few weeks.

Director of Admissions and Marketing

Another change for next year is that Leanne Todd has agreed to be our Director of Admissions and Marketing. If you know Leanne at all, you know that there is not a better ambassador for our school. She is highly organized, and her background as a parent and a teacher at HA makes her the ideal person to sell HA to prospective families. Shelly Phillipps will be moving into the classroom full-time, as our World and Classical Language program expands into the middle grades.

Learning Specialist

Thanks to the generosity of one of our grandparents, we have started a search for a learning specialist. The goal is to hire someone on who can help our students with dyslexia and other learning issues. As you probably know, having a learning difference has nothing to do with aptitude, intelligence, or ability to complete a college degree. You might also be aware that some of the world’s most talented and brilliant artists, scientists, and innovators had dyslexia.  A brief list of famous people with dyslexia includes Alexander Graham Bell, Pierre Curie, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Ford, and Woodrow Wilson.

Students with learning differences need a different approach to learning. What bright students with learning differences do NOT need is a “dumbed down” curriculum or lower expectations. Currently, there are a number of students at HA who are hard-working, bright students who are struggling because we do not provide the support they need to reach their full academic potential. In fact, in many cases, students and parents have hidden their learning issues from the school because of a fear that they would be asked to leave HA.

By adding the position of Learning Specialist, we hope to augment what is being done by Patti Flowers in the H.A.L.L. (Houston Academy Learning Lab) to help our students achieve to their highest potential. This is consistent with the practices of a great number of quality independent schools throughout the country.

I should also note that Pamela Sewell has agreed to come on board for next year to work with any Upper School student who may need tutoring or extra academic assistance. Many students in the Lower School who have benefited from the HALL have found the lack of assistance in the Upper School quite difficult. In fact, I thought it was strange that we offered learning assistance to children through grade 6, but then did not provide that same assistance in the middle grades – a time when our children are going through some of the most dramatic biological and chemical changes.

Pamela has already worked with a number of our students, and as a substitute and parent, she is very familiar with our culture and our student body. Pamela will continue as a substitute at HA, and she will also be handling our attendance records.

Upper School Chorus and Drama Teacher

While HA has an outstanding visual arts program and an outstanding vocal and instrumental music program, our curriculum lacks is the dramatic arts. Despite the best efforts of Mrs. Arens, our drama numbers have been low, and it has been quite some time since we have had any sort of musical or production that involved students from across the Upper School.

I firmly believe that one cannot have a truly fine independent school without a thriving fine and performing arts program. Frankly, we are not where we need to be in this regard. Part of our struggle is due to the lack of an adequate performing arts facility. Regardless, we must have school-wide performances in both the Lower and Upper Schools. Shelley Keeley is working on expanding the lower school offerings for next year. In the Upper School, we are hiring a full-time teacher to continue our outstanding chorale music program and to direct the production of musical and dramatic performances. 

Lower School Positions

We will spend more time later in the year celebrating the careers of a number of faculty members who are retiring or who are leaving us, but for now, we do have a number of openings in the Lower School.  Mrs. Boothe has formed a search team, including members of the Lower School Academic Council, to hire the best available teachers for the following positions: 3P Teacher, 5K Teacher's Assistant, Kindergarten Teacher, (possible) 3rd Grade Teacher, and Lower School Physical Education Teacher.

We are conducting national searches for all of our openings, and we have been inundated with applications. You may read our job descriptions, which are posted on the employment section of the HA website at: http://www.houstonacademy.com/about-us/jobs/index.aspx  . Please encourage any qualified applicants to apply.  Houston Academy is a great place to work!