#RethinkSchool: OESE’s Midwest Back to School Tour

My name is Frank Brogan and I am an educator with over 40 years in public service. During my time in public service, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a classroom teacher, principal, superintendent of schools, Florida Commissioner of Education and then Lieutenant Governor of Florida. In my current role as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, I embarked on a week-long, Back to School tour. I visited 9 schools in five days spanning Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. Each school was unique but simultaneously showcased innovation. It was important that the Back to School tour my colleagues at the U.S. Department of Education and I completed not only celebrated millions of children going back to school but also celebrated innovative schools in the 48 contiguous states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S Virgin Islands.

I kicked off my Back to School tour in Michigan at Clintondale High School. As an educator myself, it was great to be back in the classroom, especially at a high school as innovative as Clintondale. I had the opportunity to meet with Principal Cargill and tour the unique school featuring a flipped classroom model. Students at Clintondale watch their lessons at home and then come to school to complete their “homework.” Clintondale’s faculty are experts in their field; instead of traditional lectures, class time is spent developing critical analysis skills. Following the tour, I observed how class time is utilized and met with Clintondale’s extraordinary students!

During day two I covered the beautiful states of Illinois and Wisconsin. I started at Chicago West Side Christian School (CWSCS). CWSCS has benefited greatly from the Illinois tax credit scholarship program which provides opportunities for children from low-income households to receive a high-quality education. This PK-8 school serves approximately 170 students and promotes a rigorous academic atmosphere where students engage in exploration, research, hands-on activities, creative thinking and problem-solving. Although there are many aspects of CWSCS to highlight, I greatly enjoyed learning about the CWSCS’s travel exposure. For the past 20 years, CWSCS has incorporated a travel experience into their curriculum that provides students the opportunity to travel to Maryland, DC, Virginia, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The students plan the trip, learn how to fundraise and coordinate activities. Aside from travel exposure, students at CWSCS plan and execute a Middle School Diversity Conference. In the past, 180 students from four other schools have attended. Thank you, Principals Mary Post and Jeralyn Harris, for sharing your innovative travel experiences with me!

Next, I traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to visit Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School. I was kindly greeted by Regional Superintendent, Jennifer Smith and the administration of Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School. We discussed the anti-bullying model used within the Milwaukee Public School District. Thank you Milwaukee Public Schools for showing me RWRCP’s International Baccalaureate program and phenomenal art program. Next stop, Indiana!

On Wednesday, I visited Purdue Polytechnic High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. Purdue Polytechnic is an innovative high school in partnership with Purdue University. Students at Purdue Polytechnic learn in nontraditional classrooms. Some students sit on sofas, in an open room, or at a table while talking with their teachers. Purdue students have the freedom to schedule and plan their week without a transition bell prompting their movements. Instead, students head to their next “appointment” at their own pace. Thank you to Principal Scott Bess for taking the time to show me all the innovative things you’re doing at Purdue Polytechnic High School. I enjoyed speaking with students in the open room setting and learning about their experiences at Purdue Polytechnic.

For the second half of the Back to School tour, I returned to where my own educational journey began, All Saints School in Cincinnati, Ohio. All Saints is a K-8 Private Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. It was great to see how things have changed. I took a tour of my old elementary school and met with Kevan Hartman, Principal of All Saints. Principal Hartman and I walked the halls, toured the building, and spoke with current students. Next, I visited my alma mater, Archbishop Moeller High School. Moeller is a Catholic all-boys school with the mission of forming students into remarkable men. All students must complete required community service projects each year. Moeller also showcased a program where young men can earn up to a year of college credits by taking college courses at regional and local universities. Both All Saints and Archbishop Moeller, where I attended on financial aid, helped me overcome challenges and obtain a college degree. I am proud to see these schools still paving educational pathways for students like myself, today. I had a wonderful school visit with Principal of Archbishop Moeller, Carl Kremer.

I also had the opportunity to visit Summit Elementary School in Cincinnati; the school where I taught while pursuing my degree.Principal Michele Sulfsted and  Tess Elshoff, President of Ohio’s State Board of Education, joined me and re-familiarized me with Summit Elementary.

My final stop on the Back to School tour was at the College of Education at University of Cincinnati. As a proud alumnus and first generation college student, it is always rewarding to visit the university that contributed so much to my career in education. This university prepared me to teach and provided me the opportunities to student teach in two Ohio elementary schools. When I arrived on campus, I met with Dean Lawrence Johnson. We spoke about the innovative programs that create a seamless link between the university and local high schools. We then walked to Hughes School, a high school that allows students to earn college credit in information technology courses and complete paid co-ops while still in high school. Students gain paid work experience for college credit during their summer, which transfers to college credit at the University of Cincinnati while helping students pay for their first year of college. At Hughes School, I had the opportunity to meet with UC’s students in the College of Education and observe a class. Thank you to the University of Cincinnati!

I am so honored to have had the opportunity to tour 9 extraordinary schools in five days. Each school I visited is innovating and changing to meet the needs of the students in their charge. Students are the beneficiaries and the status quo has once again been put on notice that necessary change for children is pivotal to their future. I am happy to see schools organizing around students instead of students organizing around systems. I was certainly impressed!

 

Frank Brogan is Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.