Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Dean of Students Ian Smith greeted the school on opening day:

Welcome back everybody. It's good to see all of you and I'm really looking forward to a good year.

I took the time this summer to reflect on how we operate as a school, and I thought about initiatives that would benefit both the students and adults that share the building. I considered information for my opening remarks that I think is both good and necessary for you to hear.

I'd like to begin by mentioning the opportunities we have here to one, promote learning and two, encourage respect. I believe that these two efforts are the cornerstone of this high school and neither can be accomplished fully unless they are practiced every day. To work hard and treat people in a civil and decent manner are reasonable expectations to have for all those who come to this building everyday to work together and learn together. It is not unreasonable for the staff to expect this from you or for you to expect it from the staff.

Now this doesn't mean you can't have fun, you can't laugh, or enjoy each other's company - but first and foremost, this is where we learn, where we teach and where we work and we have expectations for how you spend your time in this building, structured or unstructured, and we expect you to meet those expectations. The vast majority of you do and it's important for you to know that we appreciate that. Beyond treating people well there are a few other things that are important for you to know. For years as part of our attendance policy we have had a rule in our handbook stating that if you accumulate 5 cuts in a class, you are withdrawn failing from that class. We looked at the language last year and again this summer and the policy can't be more clearly written. With attendance being the underpinning of all that we try and do here it would make sense that the staff and students on council, with the support of the school board, have placed a premium on being in the classroom and there are serious consequences if you willfully choose not to attend. As a student, I would want to know this. If we didn't remind you of this 5-Cut Policy we would be doing you a disservice.

Another issue that I spent a good deal of time on last year and would like to talk about with you is our Academic Integrity Policy. If you violate our Academic Integrity Policy in either your 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grade year, if you cheat, and it's determined that the events surrounding your case are actionable (meaning that we can move forward in good conscience), than your name is forwarded to your guidance counselor. When it comes time to apply to schools in your senior year, your guidance counselor then has the moral and ethical responsibility to reveal to colleges and universities you've applied to that you have violated this policy.

There are other consequences (for example schedule-up, notification of parents, a zero on the assignment etc.) but the penalty that most concerns students and parents is the reality that this offense becomes part of your permanent record, regardless of the year in which the offense took place. If you are suspended out of school, again, regardless of whether it is your 9th or 12th grade year, this becomes part of your permanent record and we, and you, are obligated to report this information along to the schools you applied to. The practice of notifying schools of your behavior and associated consequences extends even after you have been admitted to the school of your choice, money has been sent and formal plans have been made. As a student, I would want to know this, be reminded of it in this setting so you can perhaps reference this information while you are in the midst of making a poor decision.

Finally, I want to talk about insubordination, the behavior of not following the reasonable instructions of an adult. Our handbook clearly references this behavior as being a suspendible offense. Our expectation is that any time a student and an adult in the building have an interaction, the exchange will be appropriate and instructions will be followed. This is important to me because how we treat other is reflective of the kind of school we are, what our values are and whether or not this is the kind of place that people want to be.

I've talked about things today that I think you ought to know and that I think you need to hear. Please know that this staff is committed to working with you, helping you with things that concern you, making every effort to accommodate you if need be, but please know that our expectations are high. We will monitor the effort you make, the work that you do and the behavior you exhibit, not only in the classroom, but in the atrium, the cafeteria, the turf field or anywhere else that students gather.

As I try to guide your behavior, and make you are aware of longstanding rules and expectations, I also want you to know that I would choose to spend all of my time in a more preferable way if the choice was entirely mine. I want to attend your classes, hear you laugh in Ms. Stevenson's room and exchange witty remarks with Mr. Hackman, make pancakes for you in Common Ground if I get the chance, go to your games, hear you sing -- and be impressed, amazed and proud of the things you say, the work you produce and the music you make. Thank you for your time. Please take the time to come by and visit me in my office if you can. I would enjoy talking to you. It's truly good to have you back and have a great first day.