A School Like No Other: A Message from Dr. McGee

Dr. Jeff McGee

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I am happy to write this letter to the Editor of the Jabberwock. In it I will attempt to weave together a point of view as it pertains to our unique community, the status of our Honor Council, and on the status of our school as an institution.

The institutional arc of our school is at an important juncture.”

Our school is a special place. Just this week as we have welcomed accepted students on their shadow day, I have shared with them that our school is a place where being different is being alike. I believe that the diverse and divergent thinkers who populate the ranks of our student body, faculty, and support staff supply strength to our community. You may agree that regardless how unique our future students are, they can find someone here to whom they can relate. The diversity of interests and various affinities for ways of thinking, understanding, and being are hallmarks of our community. I think you’ll agree that there is unity in our diversity.

One way our unity expresses itself is through the interconnectedness of our community. It is indeed essential for each student to have a connection with a faculty and/or staff member to whom he or she can express commendations, recommendations, and/or concerns. I also believe that it is important for connections to exist between and among our faculty, staff, leadership, parent community, and administrative teams for the same reasons. We should know others well. Without such a network of reciprocal support our community can be jeopardized.

The Council exists for our students, so it makes sense that student views are substantially included in the process of review. ”

An important pillar in our community is our Honor Council. The Council is populated by excellent students who are committed to supporting our community. Recently, the sitting members of our Honor Council were thrust into an unfortunate circumstance over which they had no control. As a result it became evident that while the philosophy and basic premise behind the Council are excellent, there are legal hurdles we must mitigate for the protection and safety of all.

Our Board, Superintendents, and administrative team all support keeping our Honor Council; thus, a committee has been established to review its procedures with input from the Regional School Board’s legal counsel. Counting the alumni representative, three of ten members of the committee will be current or former students. The Council exists for our students, so it makes sense that student views are substantially included in the process of review. The solution may not require a complete overhaul so let’s keep our fingers crossed that a tune-up is all that is necessary.

Our Board, Superintendents, and administrative team all support keeping our Honor Council.”

Considering tune-ups, the institutional arc of our school is at an important juncture. Like a wild flower, our school grew from the seed of an idea into the reality of an exemplary institution. Along the way, countless students, teachers, parents, volunteers, education and state leaders, and others joined hearts and hands to create a school like no other. From our start at TJ in 1991 we are now almost 25 years of age. Like other great civilizations, in our early years we relied on institutional knowledge in lieu of writing things down. You may agree that it can be difficult to be on the same page when a page is hard to find.

Thus in 2011, we began an effort to strengthen our infrastructure through the creation of our own policies (Virginia School Board Association) and through the development of our school’s first (organic) strategic plan in 2015. This keeps us up to pace with modern operational and legal requirements as well as provides opportunities for us to unify and organize our school to meet the needs of students. While policy development and update is typically a proactive process, sometimes new problems and issues dictate the need for retooling. I should also acknowledge that the development of such operational and organizational parameters brings limits to certain forms of autonomy and often requires new or different procedures. In any context, change is difficult and particularly so in a successful organization like MLWGS. Yet for our interests and for the sake of posterity, a strong infrastructure supports our school community by letting everyone know how we operate and by ensuring that our positions are justified.

Please be reminded that you can find the policies that our Board has approved as well as our strategic plan here: http://mlwgs.com/welcome-to-mlwgs/regional-school-board/constitution-by-laws-and-policies/

I appreciate the invitation of the Jabberwock to write this piece. I hope that it provides some additional information and insight that is helpful to our students and community. Also, please join me in thanking Dr. Spencer and the Jabberwock editors and writers for their handling/reporting of these current events. They are indeed articulate, informed, and fair. Onward!

Dr. Jeff McGee
Director of MLWGS

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