Friday, August 12, 2011

The Contrast

Today was the last official day of registration for 2011-2012 Jefferson High students. Since today was designated for Seniors and Juniors I thought it would be a great time to come out and ask parents and students if they have seen a difference since the new administration has been established halfway through the previous school year.

I began by meeting Ms. Whited (Jefferson VP) at the front door as I walked in. She was greeting the parents, assisting with handing out forms and directing them through the process. I asked her how everything was going and she said that it is going much better than other years she has been involved in the process. “Last year there it wasn’t nearly as organized. Parents and students didn’t know where to go and we had a line going out the door into the heat.” She then handed me a simple but explanatory checklist that each student/parent was handed as they came in the door. They were then directed to follow the checkpoints (separate tables for each step on the checklist) going down the main hallway. The checkpoints covered everything from Immunizations to Schedules/Transfers to Lunch Applications to ID cards. There seemed to be no confused faces as I walked past each table. I witnessed no frustration on the faces of students or parents, and best of all, the staff were all smiles, as usual.

As I walked into the cafeteria, which held various organizations tables (i.e. Yearbook committee, Textbook returns, school t-shirts) I saw the PTSA table. I decided to go over and ask them their opinion of the operations at Jefferson High School and how things have changed in the past year. I sat with Jefferson PTSA officers Jose and Sylvia Villanueva and began to ask them questions regarding membership numbers, participation, support from admin as well as their board trustee. They informed me that the previous year they had over 125 paying PTSA members at Jefferson High. I asked them what the key is to developing an active and effective PTSA and their response was something that I had known all along. The PTSA’s teacher’s participation lies with the school administration and the PTSA’s community participation lies with the board trustee. They then began to praise the efforts and support of Principal Cockrell as well as Board Trustee Ed Garza and informed me that without them, the PTSA wouldn’t be nearly as productive. The PTSA at Jefferson has been very active in the past few years due to the support of Ed Garza, but it has improved even more with the additional leadership and support of Ms. Cockrell. Mr. and Mrs. Villanueva also had many kind words for Dr. Duron, SAISD Superintendent. It is rare to hear kind words for Dr. Duron since he has been villainized by many in recent years for proposed school closures. Mr. and Mrs. Villanueva thoughts on the issue pretty much revolved around the fact that it was the Board Trustees' responsibility to oversee the Superintendent and make whatever changes were needed. Fortunately Jefferson High has a stellar Board Trustee that fights for the best in his schools and as a result, Dr. Duron is able to well execute his duties over the Jefferson area schools. But I digress; the effectiveness of the school according to Mr. and Mrs. Villanueva has plenty to do with the community and parental participation, both of which are largely affected by the effectiveness of the PTSA.

After signing up and becoming a paying member of the Jefferson PTSA I walked outside to finally speak to parents and students as they left the building. I stopped several individuals and asked them how the registration process went. Without hesitation they responded with comparisons to previous years and informed me that this year was a drastic improvement from the chaos of registration periods in the past. I also asked the students if they noticed any change within the past year and they all responded with positive feedback. Much of their feedback revolved around the increased behavior of the students at Jefferson. Less fights, less distractions and less stress.

I was at the school for nearly three hours and out of all the individuals I questioned, not once did I get a negative response. Toward the end of my visit I was walking with Ms. Cockrell and I asked her, “Why don’t more people hate you? With this kind of effective leadership, there’s an expectation that students, parents and staff must get chills when you come around.” She simply responded with a smile and a wink as she put her hand on the shoulder of a staff member and said, “How’s everything going honey?”

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