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DoDEA European Principals Conference in Stuttgart

By Samuel Funk, Stuttgart HS Student
STUTTGART | January 27, 2017

DoDEA Europe principals and administrators with DoDEA Director Tom Brady at Stuttgart High School in November 2016.
DoDEA Europe principals and administrators with DoDEA Director Tom Brady at Stuttgart High School in November 2016. | Photo: Shana Blankenship

October 31st through November 4th, Stuttgart High School was home to over 90 principals from several regions in Europe including Germany, Italy, England, Spain, Belgium, and The Netherlands. The conference's primary goal was the implementation of new College and Career Ready standards addressing Literacy and Math. The meeting included Mr. Thomas M. Brady and Dr. Linda Curtis, the top two administrators in all of DoDEA. Their purpose in the meeting, according to Mr. Robinson, former Stuttgart High School Principal, was "to show support for the Central Office in D.C. administrators in Europe. Mr. Brady did the same thing when he went to Japan. He was here to tell us the direction we were going, and how we are going to get there and if any questions or concerns needed clarification he was there to give first-hand information and directly answer the questions or concerns."

Mr. Robinson also stated that holding the meeting at Stuttgart High School was different from business as usual but was an excellent opportunity to show off the school and students. He was jubilant about the "positive comments from visiting high school administrators that work in Wiesbaden, Ramstein, and Vilseck.”  Robinson said, “When the other principals walked through the school and saw our kids having lunch in the hallways and getting along and keeping things clean and being very courteous and kind, they kept asking me, ‘How did you get this sort of culture in this school?’ They are very impressed with our students and with what was going on in the building during the conference." He gladly went on about how proud of the student body he was: "I can’t say enough about our Stuttgart students. They are stellar, and the culture here should be one of DODEA’s models, and we are setting the standard for high schools and how they should be." Principal Robinson could not be more excited for the future of our school and how we will lead the way to a better and brighter future.

Mr. Carlisle the new Stuttgart High School Principal also attended the meeting as the Ansbach Principal and learned a great deal there stating that, “The Principal's Conference is a critical time for principals to come together and be reminded and educated about the role we play in schools.” He went on saying that the administrators,  “Were given briefings on security issues, issues relating to  Discrimination and Harassment, Cyber Threats, and a host of other things related to running schools. Most importantly, we discussed the educational directions our system is moving towards and how that will impact students, teachers and instructional practices in the school.” Principal Carlisle highlighted the new shifts in education stating how “There are some significant instructional shifts involved with both of these initiatives, so it will take a lot of collaboration among staff to make the transition smooth.” Mr. Carlisle has the utmost confidence in his new student's abilities, jokingly telling students “Keep your eyes open for the new acronyms, CCRSM and CCRSL!” 

Many topics were addressed including literacy and math standards. Principal Rodriguez from Stuttgart Elementary School had a lot to say from a different perspective apart from High School Principal, Mr. Robinson. Mrs. Rodriguez discussed a challenge she'd found with the program changes over the past year since the Elementary school had already been going through the changes the year before.  She concluded that "Changing the mindset of how we teach the new math curriculum, as an example, demands that students learn with hands-on experiential strategies before learning algorithms.  This is a change for teachers and parents." The solution she found was for "the schools to reach out to the families and share approaches to our teaching so that these same strategies are reinforced at home.  We reach out via school and classroom newsletters and parent math nights focusing on how to work with children on these new teaching strategies." The program is evolving thanks to efforts of both teachers and parents and continues to show improvement and will become more efficient in the coming years.

Dr. Liz Dunham, the District Superintendent for Europe East, was in attendance at the meeting and was ecstatic to be interviewed about the changing College and Career Readiness Standards. When asked what was the biggest problem with the evolution of curriculum in math and literacy, she didn't see it as a problem at all, "I prefer to view our transition as an opportunity rather than a problem, but the change does not come without challenges.  We are fortunate that our system is adopting the College and Career Ready Standards after our colleagues in the States so that we can benefit from their experiences and make this as smooth an implementation as possible." She is confident in DoDEA's ability to meet the challenges of the coming curricular changes.

I was also curious as to how it would affect students, and whether or not we as students should be concerned with the changes and how it would affect our learning. Dr. Dunham eased my concerns talking about how "Students will benefit greatly from our adoption of the College and Career Ready Standards.  These standards reflect the deep thinking and learning that will help each student be ready to succeed in college or an immediate career." I believe that some students will find the new standards will require them to work harder, but the work will be worth it because of the opportunities they will have when they master the standards." The opportunities are well worth the risk and will help students in the coming years to be better and more prepared for their futures whether at a college or in a career.

Dr. Dunham was an active supporter of the new standards using evidence from her experience after high school she demonstrated the standards saying how "In the real world; problems require us to integrate information and skills from all of the subjects that we have studied.  It's not multiple choice!  Our schools are splendid now, but I believe they will be even better when students are all expected to use the 21st Century skills of critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration on a regular basis as part of their school experience."

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