Department of Education specialist shadows Westlake principal
Sees school in ‘crisis mode,’ teacher evaluation process, technology integration
Charles County resident Joy Medley got a firsthand look at how busy a principal’s day can be, information she intends to take back to work with her as an education program specialist with the U.S. Department of Education.
Medley took part in the Department of Education’s Prin- cipal Shadowing Week, being paired up with Westlake High School Principal Michael Meiser Thursday.
Medley joined Meiser at 7 a.m. — earlier than she usually starts her work day — although Meiser’s day had already begun.
“My ordinary day starts at 8:30 [a.m.], so that was really different for me,” Medley said.
Unexpectedly, Medley had the opportunity to see Meiser and the school function in “crisis mode,” as the school dealt with the death of one of its students, Reuel Hicks, who was shot to
death the night before.
“It was good to see the way the staff continued on with their daily operations given such a really big disruption to student operations,” Medley said.
Medley also had the opportunity to sit in on discussions between Meiser and teachers regarding teacher evaluations.
“We get to see teachers developing their Student Learning Outcomes and the process that it takes, so that’s been great,” Medley said.
Shadowing Meiser also allowed Medley to see the ways in which technology is being integrated into the curriculum, Medley said.
“I was able to go to some of the computer labs, and to meet with a teacher who is integrating technology into some of her classes, which was really cool,” Medley said.
Medley said she would have never guessed that Meiser was in his first year as principal of West- lake.
“He is so familiar with everything going on with students and staff at the school. I never would have guessed he hadn’t been principal here for a significant period of time,” Medley said.
Medley also had an opportunity to sit in on a departmental chair meeting at the end of the day.
Medley said the experi- ence gave her the oppor- tunity to see Department of Education programs actually being implement- ed at the school level.
Asked what she’d learned from the experi- ence, Medley said, “The life of a principal is not the life that I want.”
Medley said that the experience will be useful when she returns to her job with the Department of Education.
“The information that I’ve received here, I’ll be sharing it with my indi- vidual team as well as our staff, and this will help us look at some areas of professional development and technical support assistance that we can consider that we can begin to determine how it can affect students in terms of our work,” Medley said.
Having a “grounds-eye” view of the teacher evaluation process is really useful, Medley said.
“We can really look at how it gets down into the classroom, because we’re so ‘up here,’ so to be able to share that with our staff will be great,” Medley said.
Meiser said it is useful to have a second, neutral set of eyes to help ensure the rigorousness of the teacher evaluation process.
“Sometimes you lose the forest for the trees because you’re in the middle of it, so having someone else come in who can look at it is refreshing,” Meiser said.
Meiser said he also welcomed the opportunity to show off his school and its students to someone from the outside.
“She also got behindthe-scenes information on how things work at the ground level, not just in policy, but in reality, and how people are affected by it,” Meiser said. “This is all real TV right here.”
Medley said she was glad to have the opportunity to forge connections between her office and the school system.
“I think it helps bridge that gap between the federal government, the Department of Ed, and the schools, to see we have an investment, beyond the programs we fund, we actually care about what’s going on in the classroom and we’re not just people who tell others how to do things,” Medley said.
Westlake High School Principal Michael Meiser speaks with Joy Medley, education program specialist for the U.S. Department of Education, as she shadows Meiser on his way to a department chair meeting Thursday afternoon.