A Head of School's Guide on How to Call a Snow Day

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Step 1: 5:00 am - Wake up

Step 2: 5:03 am - Drink a Starbucks doubleshot

Step 3: 5:04 am - Start checking the “Philadelphia School Closings” websites

Step 4: 5:10 am - Cross reference districts that have closed or delayed with sending districts.

Step 5: 5:15 am - Start group text with several other school Heads

  1. Me - “Are you closing?”

  2. Head 2 - “I am thinking about it, you”

  3. Head 3 - “I think we are, but I haven’t made the call yet”

  4. Head 4 - “Hey, just joining in, did you see that Cheltenham just closed?”

  5. Me - “Philly is still on a delay!”

  6. Head 4 - “Philly never closes.”

  7. Head 3 - “I just made the call, we are closed!”

  8. Head 2 - “Me too!”

  9. Me - “Ugh, I am going to call now.”

  10. Me - “Stay safe!”

  11. Head 2 - “You too.”

  12. Head 3 - “Be careful”

  13. Head 4 - “Stay warm”

The biggest factor that goes into making the decision to close school is student and staff safety and how many of our sending districts have delayed or closed. There is a law in PA that requires school districts to transport their students to private school, if that private school is within 10 miles of the home district (if that district transports provides transportation to its own students). So I sit with a list of students from each district, with the largest number always coming from Philadelphia. So if Philadelphia delays or closes, so will we. But if two of the sending districts with a larger amount of Crefeld kids delay or close, we could easily lose 20% of our student population because those sending districts will not transport our kids, even if we stay open.

I hope this clears things up.

Stay safe. George

Difficult Conversations with Teenagers

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Earlier this year, one of Crefeld’s teachers, Sara Narva, wrote an article about having difficult conversations with your young person. I will share the article and it’s link here. Kudos to Sara for sharing this piece.

Before we talk about how to have difficult conversations, we need to appreciate you. Yes, YOU. You are a parent, doing one of the hardest jobs on the planet. Parenting is an enormous job that requires a wide range of skills in which most of us receive no formal training.

Similarly, children also have a very difficult job. They are young people in a society that disparages and dismisses them in many ways. They are bombarded with misinformation and glorification of risky behavior, and simultaneously expected to make healthy and safe choices. They are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world. 

You and your young person love each other in a world where it is difficult to make time to connect. You are always doing your best (even when you wish you could do better) and they are always doing their best (even when you wish they could do better). 

Having difficult conversations is… difficult. Whether it’s talking about sex, dating, alcohol use, bullying, or even just how they are doing, it can feel challenging to talk to your teen. Here are a few ideas to help get you started, or to get back on track. To read the entire article, please click here.

The Coalition of Essential Schools

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a conference to celebrate the work of Ted Sizer. Ted, along with his wife Nancy, and a few others like Deborah Meier and Dennis Littky, started the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES). This school reform movement began in the mid-80s and Crefeld became the 55th Essential School in the country in 1988. The 10 Common Principles of CES have guided The Crefeld School for 30 years. Deborah Meier was the opening keynote and she was as insightful and provocative as always. Here are two quotes from her speech that I want you to think about:

“When children are not heard, they have two options. They can believe that they do not deserve to be heard, or they can make you hear them.”

“Children spend 12 years in a school system that is thoroughly disrespectful to democracy.”

The conference ended by a moving address by Nancy Sizer, who spoke about the impact of her husband’s legacy. I was honored to be present.

The 10 Common Principles of The Coalition of Essential Schools:

  1. Learning to use one’s mind well

  2. Less is more: depth over coverage

  3. Goals apply to all students

  4. Personalization

  5. Student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach

  6. Demonstration of mastery

  7. A tone of decency and trust

  8. Commitment to the entire school

  9. Resources dedicated to teaching and learning

  10. Democracy and equity

If you ever want to stop by my office to talk about CES, the 10 Common Principles, or progressive education, my door is always open.

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We're in Philly Magazine!

Philly Magazine just published an article titled: 19 Philly-Area Schools Rethinking Education in Big Ways and Small. Well, Crefeld is one of the 19 schools in the piece. Here’s what they wrote about us.

The Crefeld School

Location: Chestnut Hill | The Twist: Having altruism as a core value

We know the world could use some TLC. And at Crefeld — a private, progressive secondary school — community service isn’t just ingrained in the school’s ethos; it’s carved into the calendar. Every Wednesday at 1 p.m., every student dedicates the afternoon to making a difference. Some go into the Wissahickon to rebuild trails; others make stuffed animals for children in foster care; some play music for residents of a mental health facility. “There can be a sense of ‘I am just one person. I can’t change anything,’” says Crefeld head of school George Zeleznik. “Giving back lets kids know that they are powerful agents of change — they can help.” Grades: 7–12.

Read more at https://www.phillymag.com/news/2018/10/06/alternative-schools-philadelphia/#QfIkHpyIZAqg0b8l.99

Team Building

What do you worry about when you are starting a new job, going to a new school, or even just going back to school after a summer break? Are you excited, perhaps even a little nervous? These are the feelings that we all experience: teachers too. So, this year, Crefeld addressed the transition back to Crefeld for a new school year head on. Using both inside and outside resources, we spent several days in intentional team building activities so we could become stronger as a community, get to know one another a little better, and help lessen those first days jitters.

It started on the first inservice day when the faculty and staff reported back to work. We put aside student scheduling and setting up classrooms for the day and after a quick, get to know you exercise in the theater, we headed to Plymouth Meeting Mall, divided into three teams, and spent the morning rotating through three different “escape rooms.” Then we headed to lunch. This was a perfect way to have all the new and returning faculty and staff to become better acquainted with each other.

Then, on the Tuesday before the first day of school, we hosted a new family orientation on campus. New students had an opportunity to meet each other, meet their teachers, and get to know their way around the campus. While the students were having some fun, the parents were in “Crefeld 101” with me.

Each academic team (7/8, 9/10, 11/12), working with elective teachers, spent the first three days of school doing fun, team building exercises. Some students participated in a scavenger hunt at the Philadelphia Art Museum, others hiked in the Pine Barrens, another group worked on campus with an art therapist, and some built Adirondack chairs. The goal of this initiative is to build a stronger school culture. We celebrated our first week of school with the traditional whole school BBQ on Friday.

With our first day jitters out of the way, we are ready for the challenge of the new school year!

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