By ATHENA FOSLER-BRAZIL
Superintendent Barb Dill-Varga recently proposed an outline for the vision she has for the future of CHS, a vision involving some significant changes, beginning with the reassignment of Principal Rick Lopez, who will not be returning as principal next school year. There are two issues I take with the way this vision has been presented to the school community, the first being lack of clarity and specificity articulated to staff and students.
Her outline involves directing attention from getting students into college to preparing them for life after high school and helping them foster a vision for the direction they want to go with their life.
This sounds like a good idea, and as a junior myself, I agree that there is a heavy focus on getting into college here at CHS. But to me, this idea sounds like just that: an idea. What I want to hear is a plan.
It is easy to say that Carmel needs to prepare students for more than just college acceptance, and while this may be true, the logistics of shifting school culture will involve more than simply hiring a new principal.
In an article that ran in the March issue of the Carmel Sandpiper, Dill-Varga mentions Teacher and Student Advisory Councils to collaborate on a vision with a variety of perspectives. The prospect of bringing the school together to improve campus life and culture sounds great, but what exactly will these councils be doing? And what specificities of this vision are we working toward?
The vision, while sounding pleasant, also appears exceedingly vague, and in a small community of involved students and teachers, communication is key. The changes proposed, which will evidently require a new principal to oversee, will likely require major shifts on the part of the staff, and I can’t help but wonder what it will take to encourage an entire campus of teachers to what soundslike an alternative teaching philosophy. How is the district going to manage the faculty at CHS and guide them through this transition?
In order to achieve what Dill-Varga aims to implement, teachers at CHS are going to have to adapt to drastically different curriculums that involve curriculum integration, service learning in the community and dual-enrollment classes aligned with Monterey Peninsula College classes. Each aspect of Dill-Varga’s vision will require changes on behalf of the teachers, changes that will not simply happen without training, communication and reevaluation of curriculum.
The second qualm I have with the way this news has been handled is the timing. Carmel High is a close community, and 2018 was a difficult year for the staff and students at CHS. After losing beloved English teacher Whitney Grummon and lifelong Carmel Valley resident and CHS junior Annabelle Vandenbroucke, Carmel needed stability and time to connect. Instead, the 2018-19 school year brought with it the news of Lopez’s reassignment, a drastic shift and shocking news to many at the high school. Lopez is well-liked on campus, and after 10 years as principal, students, teachers and administrators know they can rely on him for stability and guidance. This was not the time to take him away from Carmel High.
Though alternative leadership may be needed in order to carry out the vision Dill-Varga has for CHS, the timing of this move was wrong, and Carmel is still healing from the losses suffered last year.